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The Simple Pleasures of a Silent Hunt

There’s no greater joy for hunters than that first day in the field, when they escape the rigors of modern life and return to their roots. At one Michigan company where I worked, the first day of deer season was a holiday. As it should be.
 
Now, thanks to an expanded crossbow season that includes much or all of the weeks allotted to archery and firearm hunting, that special day can come a bit sooner for many of us.
 
But the advantages of crossbow hunting go well beyond a longer hunting season. Rob Bluthardt, a Michigan hunter who has been harvesting bucks since he was a kid with both firearms and conventional bows, has been shooting with a crossbow for several years. “The main reason I love crossbow hunting is you get the challenge of bow hunting but the reliability and accuracy of hunting with a rifle,” says Rob.
 
Hunters haven’t always held crossbows in high regard. Bow hunters thought them to be a cheat, and complained that the archery season was no longer theirs alone. Firearm shooters considered crossbows inefficient. But most have come around. Many bow hunters have seen that a crossbow enables accurate shooting while preserving the silence and challenges that distinguish archery season. And firearm shooters now recognize that today’s crossbows are accurate weapons that can both extend the season and fill the freezer.
 
Upside, Downside
 
Crossbows offer advantages over conventional bows. A crossbow can be armed in advance, so you’re ready to shoot when opportunity presents itself. Pre-arming also enables shooting from a relaxed position, allowing accuracy at close range. A safety device helps prevent accidental discharge.
 
The downside is limited range. While a firearm can bring down a distant deer, crossbows are restricted to about 40 yards. That means no yapping in the deer stand, and factors like wind direction become critical. Plus you get only one shot. Second shots are usually not part of the program. But accuracy and stealth are skills every hunter should develop, so hunting with a crossbow can make us better.
 
The Modern Crossbow
 
While state regulations that encourage crossbow hunting are new, the weapon is an ancient one that was used by Chinese and Mediterranean civilizations prior to the first century. Early crossbows were conventional bows fitted with a trigger device. Today’s recurve crossbows are similar in concept. They’re quiet and light, but power and range are limited.
 
The majority of current crossbows are of a compound design. The draw is shorter than that of a conventional bow or recurve crossbow, so a cam system is used to enable plenty of draw weight and optimize delivery velocity.
 
Cocking devices are available for most crossbows. The mechanism pulls the string into a loaded position and can enable those with strength limitations to join the hunt. However, many able hunters employ a cocking device, as it makes loading more precise.
 
The Barnett Ghost 410, which is available at Dunham’s, is a great example of a modern compound crossbow. With a draw weight of 185 lbs., it can generate 149 ft. lbs. of energy and deliver a 22-inch arrow at a velocity of 410 feet per second. Yet it weighs only 7.2 lbs. That minimal weight is the result of a design that employs advanced carbon construction.
 
Dunham’s also offers less expensive crossbows. For example, the best-selling Barnett Wildcat C5 is a reasonably priced weapon with a draw weight of 150 lbs. That’s sufficient to deliver a 20-inch arrow at a speed of 310 feet-per-second. The SA Sports Ambush Crossbow is very affordable and is a good entry-level weapon. The Titan Extreme by Ten Point is a medium-priced alternative. With 180 lbs. of draw weight it can deliver an arrow at 333 feet- per-second. A built-in crank cocker reduces the cocking tension to a mere 5 lbs. Dunham’s sales consultants are well educated in crossbow technology and can help you choose a bow that’s right for you.
 
Getting to the Point
 
Crossbows fire arrows, called “bolts,”are similar to those used in conventional bows but shorter and heavier. Extra heft means they hit the target with plenty of force. The best bolts are made of carbon fiber and can retain more velocity downfield than less expensive aluminum bolts.
 
At the business end of the bolt is the penetrating broadhead. Available in various configurations and weights, it must be matched to the game to achieve a quick, humane kill. A lighter broadhead can achieve greater speed but won’t hit with as much force as a heavier one.
 
Fixed-blade broadheads require some preparation before going out in the field. Because broadheads differ in flight characteristics, scope adjustment and bow tuning should be worked out on the target range. Retractable blade broadheads, which expand only on impact, fly true and are a good solution for hunters who can’t put in time on the range. The blades of all broadheads should be sharpened every time the arrow is fired to ensure maximum effectiveness.
 
Deer season is upon us. See you in the field.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Priceless Peace of Mind

When it comes to gun safety, there is no such thing as overly cautious. And a modern, secure gun safe is the most certain way to protect your home and loved ones. While you may have confidence in your ability to maintain control over weapons without locking them up, many disaster examples say otherwise. A quality gun safe can protect your weapons while keeping them out of the hands of curious children – or hardcore criminals who could turn your weapons on you and your family.
 
To many, the words “gun safe” suggest a hulking box that takes up a lot of real estate. And while there are safes large enough to contain a substantial collection of long guns, small safes meant to protect a single handgun are also available. The small safes do a good job of keeping weapons and children separated, but since they can easily be carted off and opened later, they don’t offer much in terms of protecting your gun investment or keeping your weapon out of the hands of criminals.
 
From models that can fit in a desk drawer to those that can fill a room, safes are now available in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Most have shelves and racks that can be positioned in a variety of ways to accommodate a range of equipment. In choosing one that’s right for your weapons, consider the length of your long guns, the number of guns that will be stored, and space requirements for ammunition and accessories. You might also want to devote part of your safe to documents or valuable storage, so don’t scrimp when it comes to size. And if you’re a firearm enthusiast, remember that your collection will likely grow larger over the years. Nothing says, “plan ahead” like two small safes standing side-by-side
 
A Premium Product
 
But while size matters, it’s not the only consideration. Equally important are locking security, fire resistance and waterproofing. Not all locking systems are created equal, and while most of today’s better safes offer protection from the elements, the quality and level of temperature resistance and moisture sealing varies.
 
The best safes offer extensive protection from fire and water, along with multiple locking points. For example, one of the most popular gun safes available at Dunham’s is the Total Defense 28-gun fire resistant/waterproof safe from Stack-On, The safe is approved by the California Department of Justice for firearm safety and features four-way locking with eight 1.5-inch locking bolts. A durable combination lock opens the safe and a hardened steel plate behind the lock resists drilling. The safe can resist fire for up to 30 minutes at 1400° F. It’s built with insulation inside the doors and walls and a fire seal at the door’s closure point. The seal expands when heated and can keep out smoke and soot.
 
The safe is also water resistant and can keep your guns and valuables dry for up to 72 hours in as much as 2 feet of standing water. Both the fire resistance and waterproof ratings are not just the opinion of the manufacturer. The safe was tested by ETL, an independent testing lab. Look for ETL ratings when purchasing any safe that is said to be waterproof or fire resistant.
 
With more than 17 cubic feet of interior space, the safe is engineered to accommodate different storage needs. It’s fully carpeted and equipped with six interior shelves. It can be configured to hold 28 guns, converted to hold 14 guns plus storage items or set up for storage only. Barrel rests help organize and protect stored long guns. In an online review, a buyer wrote, “This safe is very flexible in how you position weapons, shelves, etc. If you have an assortment of long arms and handguns, this safe will fit your needs well.”
 
A Wealth of Choices
 
Dunham’s also carries a wide range of other Stack-On gun safes and cabinets. Among the safes are 24-, 36- and 48-gun fire-resistant safes from Stack-On’s Elite line. Gun cabinets are offered in 8-gun and 14-gun models. Also available are smaller personal and quick access safes.
 
Gun cabinets are an alternative to safes for those who aren’t looking for protection from fire, water or professional thieves, but just want to keep their weapons out of the reach of small children.
 
The 14-gun Stack-On Steel Security Cabinet can hold up to 14 guns and has a removable shelf. Foam padding on the bottom of the cabinet protects weapons. A key lock and three-point locking system provide good security. The cabinet meets the California Department of Justice standards for firearm safety.
 
Choosing a storage safe or cabinet is simply a matter of determining what’s right for you and your family. If you need premium security and protection, the Total Defense 28-gun safe is a great fit. But if flooding isn’t a concern, one of the Elite series safes can provide security. And for those who only want to restrict access to weapons in the home, a gun cabinet is a great choice.
In the final analysis, one can never be overcautious when it comes to the secure storage of weapons. Peace of mind is priceless.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Set Your Sights on a Successful Hunt

For hunters, there’s no better time than fall and the thrill that the new hunting season brings. Crisp mornings spent stalking favorite prey are preceded by relentless preparation. Like any other sport or hobby, success is often dependent on the quality of the equipment. When it comes to hunting rifles, it’s difficult to surpass the quality and name recognition of Remington. Dunham’s Sports carries three specific Remington hunting rifles: the 700 ADL, the 770 and the newly introduced 783.
 
Remington 783
 
“Our Model 783 is a brand-new bolt-action rifle designed to deliver accuracy, shot after shot,” said Remington’s John Benjamin. (The Remington 783 is available at Dunham’s Sports.)
 
“The Remington 783 features a carbon steel magnum contour button rifled barrel that is threaded into a cylindrical receiver and tied together with a barrel nut. This is the heaviest sporter weight barrel that we make. It’s all done for accuracy and the receiver provides lot of mass and a solid platform to thread the barrel into,” added John Fink of Remington.
 
The 783 is available in a choice of four calibers: 270 Win, 30-06 Springfield, 308 Win and 7mm Remington Magnum. Features include a detachable magazine box with a steel latch. It’s durable, reliable and provides one-handed operation — either in or out of the gun. The 783 also features a new CrossFire™ trigger system set at 3.5 lbs. and consumer-adjustable from 2.5 lbs. to 5 lbs. Additional 783 features include a pillar-bedded stock and free-floated barrel for shot consistency and a SuperCell™ recoil pad for comfortable shooting.
 
Remington 770
 
“For those new to hunting, we offer our 770 model; it’s ideal as a first rifle,” Benjamin said.
 
The Remington 770 is bolt-action, center-fire rifle and is available in most deer-hunting cartridges. It features a synthetic stock with hammer forged barrel and 60 degree bolt throw and includes a pre-mounted and boresighted 3-9x40mm scope.
 
“This is a very good, functional working rifle. Dunham’s carries it in a variety of calibers, for whatever game you are pursuing,” Fink explained.
 
The 770 is available in blued with black synthetic stock and molded sling swivel studs. It’s priced below the Remington 783.
 
Remington 700 ADL
 
For more seasoned hunters, Dunham’s Sports offers the Remington 700 ADL hunting rifle. It features a black synthetic stock with swivel studs, a pre-mounted and boresighted 3-9x40mm scope and an X-Mark Pro trigger set at 3 1/2 lbs. from the factory.
 
“The Remington 700 delivers legendary action and is revered by hunters for its accuracy,” Benjamin said.
 
“We introduced the Remington 700 in 1962 and since then, it’s the standard by which all other rifles are measured. It’s going to deliver on durability, accuracy and reliability. You can hunt with this rifle for your entire life, then hand it down to the next generation,” Fink explained.
 
The Remington Model 700 ADL is available at Dunham’s Sports.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Pointers on Pointers

So you’re decked out in your camo, have your weapon of choice, your tree stand or blind is set up and the truck is packed. But now what? What do you do once you get out there to ensure that you’re able to lure that trophy buck to make all your hunting buddies jealous?
 
Baiting Basics
 
In order to make sure you get as many deer in your area as possible, there is an endless array of different techniques and products designed to assist with your big hunt. Attractants, mock scrapes and rubs, mineral licks, and even deer urine have been formulated to be as effective as possible in luring deer to your desired hunting area.
 
But with all products, there are techniques that should be followed to ensure that they are used in the most effective manner possible. Ron Bice of Wildlife Research Center, Inc. offers some insight. For scrape locations, Bice explains, deer normally visit their scrapes at night. Scent drippers at scrape sites force a deer to alter his routine of visiting his scrape, bringing him right into your crosshairs.
 
Drip, Drip, Drip
 
“When using hunting scents, the method you use to set up the scent can increase the effectiveness of the product,” explains Bice. “We’ve developed several scent dispensers and methods, which we feel are the most effective ways to use hunting scents. For example Magnum Scrape-Drippers® are great for use at natural and mock scrape locations. They’re a special device that drips the scent out in a regulated manner. The important thing that makes them so different and effective is that they drip daytime only.”
 
On Your Mark-ings…
 
Another technique, as offered by Todd Weston of Wildgame Innovations/Evolved/Synergy, utilizes various markings left by deer at a given site. Using a mineral attractant in the correct manner will get the deer visiting your site over a long period of time.
 
“First, find the heavy thick cover in your area and start with mineral attractants like Deer Cain and Black Magic,” Weston said. “Mix with a small amount of water for immediate effectiveness. Look for signs like large tracks, droppings, rubs or signs of grazing on fresh growth. Once the deer locate your site, refresh the attractant every 30 to 60 days, and the deer will establish frequent visits.”
 
If you’re unsure of what products are best for you, there are some things to consider. According to Weston, if you have the ability to regularly check your site, powder forms can be beneficial. However, if you’re only able to make it to your site one or two times per month, then block-type feed and attractants will last longer. Finally, liquid or gel products that last only a short time in the elements are best if you’re on a shorter hunting trip. No matter your hunting excursion, there’s an abundance of products to make your hunt a success.
 
Staying Stealthy
 
With all of the varieties of products and techniques available to get as many deer in your hunting area as possible, hunters can’t forget that their smell will repel deer from long distances. Luckily, though, there have been many advances in the technology of blocking human scent from dispersing into the air. Consumers can look for products like Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer spray as one avenue to prevent a hunter’s scent from scaring away any deer.
 
“Anytime you hunt or scout for whitetails, you should be concerned about reducing human and other odors. Scent Killer® products can really help,” explains Bice. “Spraying your clothes with Scent Killer spray may be the easiest and most critical single thing you can do in the effort to eliminate human odor. It will dramatically reduce the human odor passing into the air from your body. It will also minimize the human odor being left in your stand area and your trail to it, dramatically reducing scent transfer.”
 
One of the most important things to remember when hunting is that a deer’s most powerful defense is its nose. Bice explains that thousands of deer avoid humans countless times each year, often without the hunter noticing, because the deer smelled the hunter.
 
Traverse Your Terrain
 
Spending some time in the field scouting your terrain is the best way to learn your area and find the best locations for deer. If there’s an area with markings that show deer have been there, it’s likely they’ll be back. Weston offered one more tip: “Remember to go where the deer are!”
 
Whether you’re looking for your first trophy or you’re running out of space on the walls of your hunting cabin, there are countless products and techniques to both lure deer to you and keep your scent protected. Thanks to great companies like Wildlife Research Center and Wildgame Innovations/Evolved/Synergy, it’s never been easier for hunters to find the right product to get as many deer as possible. And with the help of knowledgeable Dunham’s Sports hunting experts, you’ll have no problem bagging that buck.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Clothes Makes the Hunter

While your choice of weapons may be the single most important factor in hunting, what you wear is also important. Not only should your clothing help disguise you from your prey, but your choice of boots and outerwear will be a big factor in how comfortable you are.
 
From the Ground Up
 
Hunting boots are the obvious place to start because at some point you’re going to have to get to your prey. What to look for in a boot depends on the type of hunting you will do. “If you’re constantly moving in search of prey, then flexibility and durability will be most important to you,” says Trent Busenbark of Bushnell Boots. “But if you’re in a tree stand most of the time just waiting for deer, then insulation and warmth will be your priorities because you’ll have less circulation to keep your blood warm.”
 
Keeping water out of your boots is an important consideration if you are hunting near lakes and in marshland.  While you can always add waterproofing protection to your boots, it’s obviously better to start with designs that keep the water out.
 
Sophisticated Designs
 
High-tech engineering has long been part of the boot design business, with sophisticated polymers and foam design. For example, EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) is a compression-molded foam that combines durability with light weight design. So-called “memory foams” also emphasize comfort. These mold to the shape of the foot and provide close to a custom fit. Keeping water out of boots is obviously a priority, and technology such as neoprene rubber has greatly improved water resistance in hunting boot design.
 
Recognizing that different parts of the foot require different amounts of support, Bushnell uses varying densities for the insole, toe and heel. That kind of design takes into account how your foot actually works. Above all, the emphasis is on comfort. “You put these boots on, and you think you’re wearing tennis shoes,” Busenbark says.
 
Under Armour has come up with a specific design for tree-stand hunting. Its HAW (Hurry Up and Wait) boots use an air-mesh lining that increases airflow and also wicks sweat from the foot — a characteristic the company has become famous for in its high compression athletic wear. These boots also use heel lock memory foam that features higher viscosity and density for more support and comfort.
 
Clothes That Get the Job Done
 
Hunting clothes are a lot like work clothes — you’re more interested in them helping you get a job done than looking good (though that’s a plus, of course). Fit is very important because you’ll be doing a lot of different kind of stretching and exercising. When you raise your arms up, the whole jacket shouldn’t go up with them. And if you’re going to climb into a deer blind you want the pants to be cut plenty loose.
 
Temperatures vary greatly during hunting season and what is warm and snuggly at dawn may be stifling hot when the noontime sun arrives. The answer is layering — so you can peel back clothes as the mercury rises. It’s the same concept used in all kinds of winter activities in the Midwest, but some hunting apparel manufacturers have advanced the idea. Rocky Brands has introduced three different layers — Level I, II and III, to ensure temperature flexibility. “By the time you’ve stripped down to Level I, it’s almost like you’re in a t-shirt,” says company representative Sam Bowman.
 
While layering is a universal concept, there are specific clothing technologies designed for the hunter.  Various manufacturing techniques provide additional warmth as well as waterproofing. And there are ways clothing can make your quieter in the woods. Under Armour’s Ridge Reaper® Camo Shell Jacket uses strategically stretched four-way fabric that reduces noise from the clothing.
 
Besides clothing, there are different color and tag requirements that vary state by state. David Avila from Master Sportsman suggests asking your Dunham’s sales associate for your local information.
 
Passing the Smell Test
 
The most acute sense for most animals is smell. Thus, it is critical you mask your scent in the field, and that is much more difficult than using camouflage or staying quiet. Virtually everything we come in contact affects how we smell. You can cover up smells, but the most effective way to eliminate them is with clothing designed to trap those odors.
 
Scent-Lok has been a pioneer in this field, using activated carbon. The system uses the process of physical adsorption, similar to a sponge only with air instead of water. In the fabric of clothing the carbon creates a bond that traps odor molecules produced by the body. Activated carbon acts like microscopic Velcro. When the odor molecules come into contact with the activated carbon, they are trapped within the pores until the product is reactivated.
 
Reactivation is achieved by putting the activated carbon fabric in a dryer where the heat from the dryer will break the bond with the odor compounds. The odor compounds are released and the activated carbon is virtually as good as new. Typically, reactivation should occur after 30 to 40 hours of use, but always check the garment for washing and drying instructions.
 
Under Armour has introduced new scent control clothing where the reactivation occurs in the washer, not the dryer. “The advantage,” according to Under Armour’s Eddie Stevenson, “is that you don’t need to have the heat of the dryer and the product will last longer.”
 
Camouflage Underwear?
 
And if you just have to be completely ready for the hunt, how about some camouflage underwear? Under Armour makes camo-design boxer briefs, but they aren’t just for “show.” They have the Under Armour signature sweat wicking power along with anti-odor technology.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Baiting the Big Buck

When trying to lure in that big trophy buck, it’s just as much about technique as it is about being in the right place at the right time. Through the use of various technologies, luring a buck between your crosshairs has never been easier. Food plots, attractants, mock scrapes, salt licks, and different types of deer urine give hunters a plethora of options when it comes to baiting your trophy. And thanks to brands like C’mere Deer, Wildlife Research, and Tinks, it’s never been easier.
 
The smell is a deer’s strongest sense, so it’s something hunters need to exploit. Ron Bice at Wildlife Research Center explains that a deer can smell somewhere around 1,000 times stronger than a human, and offers some great products hunters can use.
 
“When you are using hunting scents, the method that you use to set up the scent can increase the effectiveness of the product,” Bice explains. “We have developed several scent dispensers and methods, which we feel are the most effective ways to use hunting scents. Our Magnum Scrape-Dripper® is for use at natural and mock scrape locations.”
 
Bice also recommends a scent wick, which effectively disperses the scent into the air. This results in a wider range being covered, thus attracting more deer.
 
“The Key-Wick® by Wildlife Research Center® is the world’s favorite scent wick and it’s easy to see why. The economical, convenient shape, extreme absorbance, and high scent dispersion of the Key-Wick®, revolutionized the industry. Their convenient shape even allows users to dip them right into a bottle of liquid scent and hold an unbelievable quantity.”
 
There are also varying options when creating a food plot. Jedd Culler of C’mere Deer explains that using a product like 3-day Harvest is ideal for shorter-term hunts, like if you were to head up north with the boys for the weekend.
 
“…If you just have a weekend to hunt, you can use the 3-day Harvest mixed with patented C’mere Deer root extract to attract the dominant bucks,” said Culler.
 
Terry Rohm of Tinks explains that scent bombs can be an effective technique to use all around a hunter’s scope area. However, wind must be taken into consideration for them to be as effective as possible.
 
“Hunters should hang three or more scent bombs around their hunting location with Tink’s #69 in them, or if it is early season, then Tink’s #1 Doe-P would be a better choice,” Rohm explains. “The reason for three or more is because of changing wind directions. One must remember for a deer lure to work, the animal has to be downwind to smell it. The scent bombs are bright orange and can be hung in trees. Also bow hunters can use them as yardage markers.”
 
While deer use their sense of smell as an advantage, they use rubs and scrapes as ways to communicate with each other. Rohm explains that when a buck rubs his head against a tree, a gland secretes a scent on the tree. Other ways they communicate is by rub urination, in which case the buck paws the ground, then urinates down over his tarsal glands, leaving scents in the dirt.
 
This is where mock rubs and scrapes come in to play. They essentially give a buck the illusion that another is trying to take over its territory. It lures the buck back to his area, so it can investigate the foreign scent.
 
“A mock scrape is one you create to mimic the natural scrapes in the area, to fool a buck into thinking a new buck is trying to take over his territory,” Bice explains. “In the fall of the year, a scrape is made by a whitetail buck to mark breeding territory. The fall’s decreasing sunlight triggers extremely elevated amounts of testosterone released in his body. This begins to happen during the end of August and beginning of September.”
 
So you have your mock scrape. What next? Bice advises hunters find the freshest scrape that a hunter can find in the area. An item to keep in mind is the Magnum Scrape-Dripper® which can be added to a mock scrape. This will drift a scent downwind, alerting the deer of a foreign scent at or near his original scrape. Scrape drippers can also last up to three weeks, and shut off when it’s too cold or when inclement weather arises.
 
With all of the options available to hunters at Dunham’s stores this season, there’s no reason not to get that trophy buck every hunter desires. And with the help of great brands like C’mere Deer, Wildlife Research, and Tinks, you’d better clear off some wall space.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Making The Sale

 
Combine Tactics To Bring Whitetails Close
 
By Todd Amenrud
 
(reprinted from NBS Outdoor)
 
The big Minnesota buck stood at the edge of a picked corn field about 250 yards away, and even from that distance I could see he was a definite shooter.
 
Rather than skirting the field and coming by my stand just off of the corner, he cut straight across the middle. What to do? I picked up my rattle-bag and cracked it as hard as I could. He stopped and turned his head toward me. I hit the rattle bag a second time and he came on a steady trot in my direction. Once he reached 100 yards he slowed to a fast walk and started to swing downwind.
 
Long story short … he stood 80 yards downwind of me hardly moving a muscle for almost 5 minutes. The only movements were his ears searching for the two bucks he had just heard and his nose waving in the breeze scanning for other supporting evidence. He turned and disappeared slowly over the ridge.
 
What makes a situation seem real to you?
 
Sight, sound, scent, feel — the more senses we appease the more realistic a scenario seems to us. And that’s also true for whitetails. A hunter can use a combination of techniques to appeal to multiple whitetail senses at once. On that day, I sure wish I would have set up some scent or placed a decoy to draw his attention and coax him in the final 80 yards.
 
Does, fawns, and young bucks often will ramble straight into a well-placed decoy, a scent that’s been placed out properly, or a vocalization that sounds authentic. Mature bucks, though, almost always needs confirmation from more than one source before they plow forth into the unknown.
 
The nose knows.
 
If you can fool a whitetail’s sense of smell, you’ve almost got it made. Just like sight is our most believable sense, (“seeing is believing”) a whitetail’s most trusted guide is his nose. That doesn’t only mean that hunters must use scent to draw them in, it also means that hunters must practice a strict scent-elimination regimen. Actually, when it comes to fooling the whitetail nose, the most important step is probably to keep foreign smells completely out of the picture — by using Scent Killer, for example. If a mature buck smells the sweet smell of estrus, intermingled with an unfamiliar “danger” smell, his instinct for survival will win out and your work will go for naught.
 
The eyes have it.
 
Scent (or thereof) can con a whitetail’s sense of smell. But you can help seal the deal by addressing more than one of their senses at a time. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the art of using decoys to fool the whitetail’s sense of sight.
 
The first step is to start with the correct decoy. Pay special attention to the decoys’ posture and movement. Decoys that are in an alert posture typically will bring in deer in an alert, edgy temperament. They may come to within 40 to 60 yards, snorting and stomping the ground at your decoy, or at whatever has caused your decoy to be so alert. A decoy with an alert, intimidating posture is useful at times, but for most deer throughout most of the season you’ll be better off with a decoy displaying a more serene pose.
 
Movement is important too. When is it natural for a standing deer to be totally motionless? The answer is, when it’s alert, when something is wrong or out of place, or just before it’s about to bolt. None of those scenarios evoke the emotions you want your whitetails to feel.
 
There are all kinds of ways to add motion to decoys — from tying a string to a chicken feather or white hanky, taping the string to the hind end or ear of the decoy and letting the wind move it; to tacking a real whitetail-tail to the hind end of the decoy and operating it with monofilament line. Granted, in a 15-mph wind, the chicken feather flutters so fast it looks like the decoy is about to take flight. But I believe extreme motion is better than no motion at all. You can also purchase a decoy kit that’s designed to convert standard decoys into motion decoys, or purchase a decoy that has moving parts.
 
One of the three biggest whitetails I’ve ever seen in my life showed up to a small central Iowa alfalfa field one December day. I had a doe decoy in front of my ground blind about 30 yards and I had just rattled, imitating my best “two bucks fighting over a hot doe” possible. When this guy made the scene, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. He was a perfect 6×6 with 14-inch tines, mass throughout, and an inside spread exceeding 20 inches. This buck easily would have scored over 200 inches. He was a sight to see, even though I didn’t get a shot.
 
He hopped the fence in a shelterbelt about 120 yards away, and once he reached the alfalfa he stood staring at my motionless decoy. Although he stood in one spot, his ears were scanning and his tail swung occasionally — motion that my decoy lacked. The big guy suspected something and wouldn’t come any closer. Another 135-inch 5×5 showed up in the opposite corner of the small 20-acre field. He wouldn’t come closer either, because he knew where he ranked in this social standoff. In the span of about an hour, I brought the mammoth buck as close as 60 yards three different times by rattling and smacking the antlers on the ground as hard as I could. But, each time he stopped short to stare at my motionless decoy. In this case, multiple stimuli worked great to bring the animals in, but the lack of movement on my decoy prevented me from closing the deal. (I did manage to kill the smaller 5×5 the next morning at a mock scrape set-up.)
 
Sometimes an alert posture will work. Sometimes I prefer an alert, aggressive posture. If I’m after a mature buck, playing the “competition card” by using aggressive tactics has worked great for me. I wish I would have had that scenario ready to go for that Iowa buck! When you’re targeting any deer, the most important detail is to give that particular deer a reason to interact with your set-up.
 
What time of year is it? Are you after a specific buck or doe, or will any deer do? What age-class buck are you after? Think about what that deer would want at that time of year, and give it a reason to close the distance. For any deer, any time of year, a decoy in a feeding, greeting, or bedded posture works best.
 
To combine scent and decoying, first you must eliminate foreign odors. First clean your decoy with Scent Killer soap, then touch it only while wearing gloves, and always store it someplace where foreign odors will not transfer onto it. If you need to transport your decoy, first place it in a garbage bag or something that will seal out odors.
 
When choosing lures and scents, again, think about what the deer you’re after wants at that specific time of the season. Early season, you might use plain buck or doe urine … just something to add realism to the scenario. Closer to the rut, you might scent your buck decoy with a combination of Active Scrape and Mega Tarsal Plus: the first provides a full-spectrum scrape aroma and the other is a territorial-intrusion scent. This helps create the illusion that your fake buck is moving into his breeding territory. Consider how and why a buck might interact with your set-up, and give them a reason to close the distance.
 
When dispersing scent, I prefer to place it on a Pro-Wick or a Key-Wick near the decoy rather than applying it directly to the decoy. The simple reason is that a week later, your decoy won’t smell like last week’s pee and you won’t have to constantly scrub it down.
 
Calling all bucks.
 
Calling can be a lethal weapon in your arsenal. What works will vary depending on the situation: add soft, social grunts during early season while using a buck decoy; add an estrus bleat combined estrus lure during the rut … it all depends. One of my favorite tactics just before and after the peak of the rut is to place a small buck decoy over a bedded doe decoy, then try to create the illusion that two bucks are fighting over the fake doe in estrus. Between rattling sequences, I might imitate an estrus bleat. Special Golden Estrus helps pull off the ruse.
 
Taking the decoy out of the picture and using scent and calling/rattling together happens much more often than adding a decoy to the list of tools. But even minus the decoy, the combination of calling or rattling and scent works great. They hear “deer sounds,” then circle downwind and smell “deer smells,” which gives them the confidence to close the distance. Where a decoy requires some forethought, calling and scent, whose tools are easily carried in your pack, can be spontaneous.
 
When I specifically venture forth in an attempt to rattle in a buck, I almost always use real antlers. Their true-to-life resonance and the extra subtle sounds you can create with them, like scraping a tree or smacking the ground, can’t be achieved with a rattle-bag or plastic gadget. Still, I’ve called in the most bucks with my rattle-bag simply because it’s with me all the time.
 
Decoys are fun to use, but it’s really that “one-two punch” of calls and scent that produce the most consistent results. Last season, calls and scent helped me harvest a wide 4×4. It was November 7, the first day of a hunt on my Ontario property and I had just laid a scent trail of Special Golden Estrus right down the logging road that leads past one of my blinds. After parking the ATV downwind I got into the blind, looked over my shoulder, and saw a doe rounding the corner on the logging road. There was no chance to ready my equipment because there was more movement on the other side. When I looked back, a buck we had named Patches (because of the white piebald spots on his shoulder) was already 60 yards away coming down the trail with his nose to the ground following the scent. He caught me getting my equipment ready and we did the “Mexican standoff.” I lost. He turned around and bounded out of view. I grabbed my rattle bag and popped it, gave a loud vocalization with my voice, but I figured I had just goofed that one.
 
Thirty seconds later a doe and a fawn rounded the corner and 5 seconds later another doe was being pushed around the corner. I realized Patches was doing the pushing, and I was thankful for the second chance. The buck must have thought one of those does was the source of the enticing Special Golden Estrus; he wasn’t going to leave even though he had just seen me moments before. Because I’m always very careful about scent elimination and scent transfer, he never cold confirm that I was dangerous. Special Golden Estrus plus the great timing of a couple of does saved me on this hunt.
 
Some hunters think that trying to appeal to more senses leaves you prone to making more mistakes. Details are important whenever you hunt whitetails, but if you use common sense, keep human scent out of the picture, and present the most natural set-up possible, results will follow.
 
Remember: Why would a specific deer want to interact with your set-up? How he might interact with the scenario you’ve presented — to socialize or to compete? The more realistic you can make it seem, the better your results will be.
 
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GEAR UP FOR THE HUNT

Getting ready for hunting season? Here are 15 essentials. It may not be you want, but if you have these, you’re ready.
 
1. Firearm or Bow
2. Arrows or Ammo
3. License
4. Game Calls
5. Flares, Mirrors
6. Field Boots
7. Knife
8. Map
9. Blaze Orange or Camo Hat
10. Blaze Orange or Camo Coat
11. Binoculars
12. Decoys
13. Scents, Attractants, Coverups
14. Hand/Toe Warmers
15. First Aid Kit
 
Hunting may well be the most gear- and gadget-intensive sport on Earth. You don’t have to have the best and latest equipment, but then you don’t have to come back with a trophy, either. With so much that is essential, here’s a very broad overview to buying hunting gear.
 
The Weapon of Choice
 
It all starts with the weapon; after all, how many people do you know who hunt bare-handed? As for rifles and shotguns, there are a tremendous number of choices available, from the budget-priced to the expensive and very expensive, from the standard to the exotic, from the powerful to the very powerful. With so many choices, the best advice on selecting a rifle or shotgun is work backward. That is, determine what game you’re after, then select the right ammunition, then the right gun for that ammunition.
 
As for cartridges or pellets, you want to be a responsible hunter so the animal is killed quickly. That means a big enough bullet for a clean kill while preserving as much meat as possible. Lighter bullets tend to be more accurate over shorter distances, but obviously they have less killing power at longer range.
 
After ammunition, you still have a lot of choices. For repeating rifles you’ll need to select bolt, pump or lever action, which is mostly a matter of personal preference. So much of choosing a rifle or shotgun is personal, and what feels good on your shoulder. There are also a lot of technical information available, and manufacturer’s websites (www.remington.com, for instance) will help you match the exact rifle or shotgun to fit your needs.
 
Of course budget is a factor, but it shouldn’t prevent anybody from starting out. “You can get a very good entry-level rifle or shotgun at a modest price,” says Remington, “and as you continue your hunting career you can move up.”
 
Bows (and Arrows)
 
Bow hunting goes back a few years (almost 40,000, in fact). And while the fundamentals haven’t changed much, the equipment is a lot more sophisticated than in the days of Fred Flintstone. Most hunting today is done with compound bows that use a series of cables and pulleys that reduce the amount of power needed to pull the string back.
 
Generally, the longer the brace height the more accurate the bow. Accomplished hunters can probably do well with a 6-inch brace, but an average hunter (or if your accuracy has been declining — be honest) should probably use a 7-inch. Some professionals use an 8-inch brace.
 
Quietness and lack of vibration are critical for successful bow hunting, because if the deer can hear the string, it can “jump-the-string” and get out of the way before the arrow arrives. This is an area where manufacturers have made great strides, including anti-vibration and damping accessories, as well as with ready-to-shoot packages where these items are built in.
 
The speed of the arrow (measured in FPS — feet per second) gets a lot of attention because the quicker the arrow arrives, the more likely a clean kill. However, some hunting authorities discount the importance of speed unless you’re hunting mule, deer or antelope at longer distances. In most cases, arrows that are not too heavy can take a target down within 40 yards.
 
Arrows are measured in grains per pound of draw weight. A heavy arrow (8-10 grains) will absorb vibration and produce smoother, quieter shots, while light arrows (under 6 grains) will be faster and have a flatter trajectory. Medium weighted arrows (6-8 brains) are a good choice for beginners.
 
The stiffness of the arrow is also a factor. Most manufacturers provide a chart for recommended stiffness, based on the length of the arrow, desired weight of the point and desired draw weight. Aluminum arrows provide reliable flight and penetration at a lower cost. Spend a little more for carbon arrows which will last longer without sacrificing speed and trajectory.
 
Knives
 
A good knife is a must-have for hunters. Bow hunters may want more flexibility with a utility tool that will help them adjust bow pulleys. For others the ability to skin game after the kill will be most important. The weight and portability of the knife is important, especially how well it fits into your supply pack or belt. Folding knives mean less storage space. For durability look for “full tang” construction. This means there is a single piece of metal all the way through the handle.
 
Scent Elimination
 
A deer’s sense of smell is 60 times more powerful than a human’s, and depending on wind that deer can smell you a mile away (literally). You want to remove your human scent, but you don’t want to replace it with something the animal will still recognize as dangerous. Washing with regular soap merely replaces one scent with another, and a deer will be very leery of the smell of soap.
 
While it is impossible to completely eliminate your human scent, the key for a hunter is to get that scent down to trace levels so you can get close enough to the deer without setting off their olfactory alarms. “Deer constantly smell predators,” according to Wildlife International, makers of Super Charged Scent Killer®, “but it’s only when the smell is powerful enough that they will react to it. If you can keep your odor at trace levels, you can get as close as you need to make a kill.” Super Charged Scent Killer works at a molecular level, preventing molecules from forming into gaseous odors. Another advantage over conventional soap is that the product will last longer than a day.
 
Besides eliminating odors, there are scent masks that will help you blend into your surroundings. There are pine, acorn, apple, cedar and other ‘natural’ scents that will help you become unobtrusive to your prey.
 
Seeing the Target
 
While your sense of smell may never match the animals you hunt, there are numerous ways to improve your vision. Binoculars will help you spot game, but nothing will beat laser range finders in precisely measuring distance to the target. This is extremely important in bow hunting, where misjudging distance will put the arrow over or under the target and risk wounding (but not killing) the animal.
 
Bushnell Optics rangefinders include Angle Range Compensation Targeting Modes that will provide true horizontal distance from 5 to 99 yards for bow, and bullet drop/holdover data from 100 to 800 yards for rifle.
 
These rangefinders include different modes:
 
SCAN — across the course while viewing a continuously updated LCD display of the distance between you and your target.
 
BULLSEYE — geared for close-range use, this mode acquires the distances of small targets and game without inadvertently measuring background target distances. When more than one object is acquired, the closer of the two objects is shown on the LCD display.
 
BRUSH—ignores the foreground, such as brush, boulders and tree branches, and provides distances on the LCD display to background objects only.
 
Rangefinders are an outstanding tool for hunters, but they can only do so much. “The problem some people have is with expectations,” says Bushnell. “They see the word ‘laser’ and they think it is some kind of ‘Star Wars’ device that’s going to make them amazing hunters. The rangefinder is a tool — a good tool — but it doesn’t eliminate the need for skill with a rifle or bow.
 
And that really applies to any piece of hunting equipment. It can make you more comfortable, it can improve your ability to see the animal, it can even help you shoot; but ultimately, hunting comes down to you versus the animal.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Hunting License Information

As it is an exciting time of the year, hunters are known for anxiously anticipating the start of a new hunting season. And while some might like to hunt to their hearts’ desire — for all game, at any time of the year — there are state regulations which prevent it.

The Need for Licensing

Regulations are put on hunting to eliminate the risk of species endangerment due to over harvesting. States enforce this by breaking down various hunted species into categories and putting a cap on how many can be hunted per season, as well as how long that season will last. Licenses are then sold based on these categories and are only available in a limited amount.

The Different Types

Licenses are then broken down into categories based on animal types. Generally, these include Small Game (meaning pheasant, quail, dove and squirrel), Large Game (deer, elk, and antelope), All Game, Waterfowl (ducks and geese), Fishing and Migratory.

Within these general categories there are often more specific types of licenses based on state and local animal population, as well as the type of weapon used to hunt (i.e. bow or gun).

Who Can Hunt and When

Different prices and stipulations also exist for different types of hunters. Veterans, senior citizens, minors and those with disabilities often receive discounts or need special licensing.

Also different are the seasons for various game per state regulations. Deer season begins in mid-November; while in South Carolina, wild turkey season takes place in May; and in New Hampshire, moose season lasts only a week in October.

The laws for hunting are very different across the country. Some states have as little as 10 licenses, whereas others such as Michigan offer nearly 150 different licenses. Most regulation information can be found at state Departments of Conservation or Natural Resources.

Where and How to Apply

The most common place licenses can be purchased at is your state’s local Department of Conservation or Natural Resources. They can also be acquired at commercial stores or organizations that have been approved as a licensing agent. In certain states, Dunham’s is considered one of these agents. So you may be able to “kill two birds with one stone” (if you’ll excuse the pun) and get your license at participating locations while gearing up for the season.

Most licensing agents require a driver’s license or photo ID; others cite the completion of a hunter’s safety course as a necessary step.

Hunting licensing is a very specific process; however it is important to find out individual state regulations to avoid costly poaching fees, not to mention a huge damper on your hunting season. Make it a good one by doing the research and getting licensed.

-Deer Abby

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