Archive for the ‘Hunting’ Category

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.
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.


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 (, 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.
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
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.

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

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.


No matter what, when or where you hunt, every moment you spend fighting the cold, wind and rain means less quality time actually hunting. So knowing what’s new in apparel and boot design can help make you a more comfortable and maybe even a more successful hunter.

Every hunter knows the benefits of layering. Multiple layers of clothing, starting with a light-weight base layer, help keep you warm and dry in cold temperatures and remain comfortable by removing outer layers when temperatures rise. A tight, body-hugging base layer can, however, sometimes bind and make you feel uncomfortable even after just a few hours. Worse yet, it might even restrict your mobility just when you need it most.

If that’s ever happened to you, you’ll really appreciate new Evolution Cold Gear from Under Armour. It’s the first breathable base layer legging and mock designed specifically for hunters. “Our Evolution Cold Gear includes all the moisture-management and Armourblock odor protection you expect when our name is on the label,” says Under Armour. “It also features a soft inner layer for excellent all-day comfort, along with a slick-finished, low-friction outer layer and slightly looser fit hunters need to move around more easily.”

If you hunt in extreme cold or spend hours waiting patiently in a blind, look for base layer clothing that offers maximum thermal protection. Under Armour’s new Base Layer 3.0 legging and crew, for example, feature a special breathable heavyweight fabric grid designed to trap heat and channel it across body surfaces. “Base Layer 3.0 gear, topped with an ultra-warm Hurlock Hoody, is an exceptionally warm, dry and comfortable combination,” according to Under Armour.

When shopping for outerwear, look for quality-made waterproof and breathable parkas and pants with plenty of extras. Don’t wait until a cold, rainy and windy day to discover how convenient a pack-away hood, deep cargo-style pockets and pants with draw cord adjustable ankles can be.

Scent-blocking and noise are other important considerations. Animals have highly developed senses. Most can detect your scent or hear you before you ever see them. Hunters have long relied on odor neutralizers, scent-blocking laundry detergents and fabric softeners to help solve the problem. But now, there’s a high-tech solution.

Waterproof and breathable Scent-Factor parkas and pants from Yukon Gear feature a soft, scent-inhibiting, silver ion-treated micro-fleece inner lining. Fabrics treated with silver ions were first used in hospital operating rooms. Undetectable by sight, smell or touch, silver ions inhibit the growth of odor causing microbes such as bacteria and fungus. Yukon Gear Scent-Factor protection is good for up to 50 washings. The ultra-soft outer fleece layer is also extremely quiet.

“In addition to solving the scent and noise challenges, the Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo design also makes the hunter practically invisible,” according to Yukon Gear. “The design has amazing detail and an almost three-dimensional depth.”

Hunting boots are usually constructed of fabric, leather or rubber uppers, and a rubber or synthetic bottom called an outsole. When shopping for boots, start by carefully considering how you’ll use them. Will they be worn more for walking through open fields, or standing in a blind for hours? Will the ground be rocky, muddy or sandy? Will the terrain be hilly or flat? How important is waterproofing, weight and insulation for the type of hunting you do?

Waterproof field boots with sturdy leather uppers provide excellent protection from rocks, thistles and thick vegetation. The right fit is important. Allow just a little “wiggle room.” Too much movement may eventually cause blisters. Padded insoles provide added comfort, even if your feet are normal, flat or highly-arched. Some insoles are treated to prevent bacteria and odor buildup. Boots may be un-insulated or insulated with felt, foam or Thinsulate, which is a heat-trapping microfiber padding available in different weights. The higher the number, the greater the insulating capacity.

If you hunt in swampy, marshy grounds or wetlands, consider a quality-built rubber boot. The best feature 100% waterproof construction, protective toe caps, sturdy rubber outsoles, drawstring collars and scent-free camouflage imprints. “Our Swampwalker rubber boot is designed for comfort and outstanding field performance,” says Itasca Boot. “Important extras include a super-warm 1000-gram Thinsulate inner and an ankle-fit design that securely holds your foot in the boot, so you can walk comfortably and confidently even in muddy terrain.”

Recent advancements in boot design include the use of new materials and the introduction of new comfort-fit technology.

Servus Boots, which has been keeping fire rescue workers safe for over fifty years, now offers a new waterproof boot that combines neoprene and rubber construction  “Neoprene boots have superior insulating property, that’s why deep sea divers use them when cold weather diving,” according to Servus Boots. “Our Outdoor Comfort Series Hi Boot has a cold-beating closed-cell neoprene sock, overlaid in UV-resistant 100% virgin rubber. Toe, heel and Achilles reinforcements provide added protection, and our tough, durable Geo Trac outsole is designed to be slip resistant.”

The RutMaster boot from Irish Setter introduces a whole new level of comfort. It features durable, scent-free, all-rubber construction, 1200-gram Thinsulate insulation and an exclusive ExoFlex comfort-fit system. “ExoFlex technology allows panels in the back of the boot to expand and, once the foot is securely in place, then detract for a lock-tight fit,” says Irish Setter. “It not only makes RutMaster the easiest on-off boot every designed, ExoFlex technology also holds the ankle in an anatomically correct position so you’ll enjoy an optimum fit and amazing all-day comfort.”

Before choosing any boot, be sure the outsole tread design matches the terrain you hunt. A shallow tread with a thin wavy pattern will provide good traction when traveling through mud, grass and other slick surfaces, but is not recommended for climbing over steep terrain. Tall lugs or thick rubber cleats will dig into hard surfaces such as rocks and clay, but can easily pack with mud if you suddenly move to swampy or marshy ground. Shallow lugs or air bobs, which are rounded knobs with hollow cores, offer good all-around traction and grip, yet may pickup and hold mud in extremely wet or soggy terrain.

You don’t “ready, fire, aim” when you hunt. Don’t do it when you shop for hunting apparel or boots. If you’re not in the know, just ask a Dunham’s professional to explain how new advancements in apparel design and boot construction can help make you a more comfortable and maybe even a more successful hunter.

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.

An Ancient Weapon for Contemporary Hunters

The crossbow is such an excellent and logical weapon that both ancient Chinese and Mediterranean civilizations developed it independently prior to the first century. Both early crossbows incorporated some means of drawing the bowstring to firing position and a trigger to release it. But the differences in the designs from those two cultures demonstrate that they weren’t e-mailing blueprints back and forth. The crossbow was an early and obvious answer to the question, “What should I shoot?”

The Modern Crossbow

Today, crossbows are an obvious answer to that same question. While some bow and rifle hunters once scorned crossbows, they have recently become more popular. This is due in part to relaxed hunting regulations in many states. But it’s also a product of awareness. Hunters have come to realize that crossbows are accurate, powerful, quiet, safe and economical. Offering the stability of a gun coupled with the aiming and trajectory challenges of bow hunting, the crossbow is enjoying a renaissance.

Among the crossbow’s advantages over a traditional bow is that it can be precocked before the game is in range. With a bow, drawing the string can make it difficult to steady the weapon and can spook the animal.

Because the crossbow can be precocked, safety considerations are paramount. Like rifles, crossbows are equipped with devices to help prevent accidental firing. But you have to be aware of how they function and employ them consistently.

The Recurve Crossbow

Today’s crossbow is the product of thousands of years of development. Recurve versions, which most closely resemble the medieval weapons, have a reverse curve at the end of each limb, and the string attaches directly to the limbs. Recurve crossbows are quiet when fired. That’s a plus. They’re also relatively light in comparison to a compound crossbow. Because the cocking string is simply looped over the ends of the limbs, it can be changed in the field if it breaks.


The Compound Crossbow

Many modern crossbows are of a compound design. The draw is shorter than that of a recurve, so a cam system is employed to maximize delivery velocity and enable substantial draw weights. Because compound crossbows generate quite a bit of vibration, they are noisier than recurves. Restringing a compound crossbow is a complicated affair due to the cam assemblies. It’s best not attempted in the field.

The Crossbow in Action

The projectiles that are fired by a crossbow, which are called bolts, are shorter than arrows yet heavier. Due to their weight, they hit with considerable force on impact. Bolts are generally available in lengths of 16–22 inches, and with aluminum or carbon shafts. Carbon bolts are costly, but they will retain more velocity downrange than their aluminum counterparts.

The most powerful crossbows have draw weights of about 200 pounds and can generate a delivery speed of over 350 feet per second. Entry level weapons might have a draw weight of about 120 pounds and a delivery speed of 225 feet per second. High-end crossbows are generally lighter and more compact than the less expensive weapons.

The most basic crossbows are usually cocked by hand, while somewhat more expensive models come with a cocking assist device. Cocking mechanisms are also available as accessories that can be mounted on a crossbow stock. Hand cocking can lead to uneven loading of the limbs, which will make accurate firing impossible.

While some crossbow hunters work with a basic sight, a quality scope is almost essential for long range shooting. The least expensive scopes are nothing more than a tube through which you can look and target your prey. More advanced scopes, including both those that use a red dot for sighting and those that employ crosshairs, provide a means of gauging range and adjusting for the effect of gravity. Both have to be calibrated on a target range to work correctly with your equipment. For this, you’ll want to use the type of broadhead with which you’ll be hunting.

The Crossbow in the Field

Crossbow hunting offers many of the challenges of bow hunting. While powerful crossbows can bring down a deer at distances somewhat beyond that of a bow, you still have to get close. That means you have to know your hunting ground and choose a site where deer are likely to graze. Once you’ve chosen a site, analyze the landscape and select an ambush position. To get close enough for a kill, which for all but the most proficient hunters is about 40 yards, you’ll need a blind or a treestand. Finally, you have to be patient. Shooting before the prey is in range is the most common cause of failure in the field.

Of course, you should be proficient with the weapon. Only a well-placed bolt will bring down your prey. As with any weapon, accuracy with a crossbow is a skill that has to be acquired. A steady hold and smooth release are essential and can only be developed with practice. Those skills are easier to master with a crossbow than with a conventional bow, but proficiency is difficult to attain with either. If you can’t place bolts tightly on target at 40 yards or so, you’re not likely to end up with meat in the freezer.

The Point at the Point of Impact


The difference between a quick and humane kill and a wounded animal on the run is often determined by the effectiveness of the broadhead on the end of the bolt. Because broadheads are available in a wide range of configurations and a variety of weights, choosing the right one for your hunt requires a bit of research.

First and foremost, the broadhead should be matched to the prey. You don’t want to try to bring down a grizzly bear with a broadhead designed for shooting carp. Big game  requires a broadhead that will produce maximum impact on entry and cut a large hole. That same broadhead will turn the carp into fish fertilizer.

Some experts recommend that novice crossbow hunters who aren’t yet capable of tuning their crossbow and sighting the device for accuracy should use expandable broadheads, which are sometimes called mechanical broadheads. Because the cutting blades remain retracted until impact, the bolt will fly straighter than one fitted with a fixed-blade broadhead. Expandable broadheads enable a higher flight speed, since they are aerodynamically cleaner than fixed-blade broadheads.

Fixed-blade broadheads require more tuning of your targeting equipment to ensure accuracy. You can’t simply switch from a field tip to a fixed-blade broadhead and expect to achieve the same accuracy in the field that you were getting on the target range. In other words, you have to devote some target time to firing fixed-blade broadheads and calibrating your scope if you expect to come home with game.

Weight is a consideration as well. A heavier broadhead won’t fly as fast as a lighter one, but it hits with a lot of force and can be very accurate. Many hunters are now using 125- or 150-grain broadheads when deer hunting, and they’re getting results.

Your broadhead blades should be sharpened after every shot when possible.  While you should practice with a broadhead, reserve one or two just for that purpose. Don’t dull or damage your field equipment on the range. When using expandable broadheads, make sure the blades move freely and are sharp and clean before using them a second time.

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.

Crossbow Regulations

p>Note: While state laws widely differ and can change without notice, the information herein is intended to be a brief overview of the laws and regulations at the time of printing, and is incomplete. Dunham’s and/or its representatives cannot and will not be responsible for its content, and therefore is not liable or responsible for any damages, monetary or otherwise, which may result in its use. For more details and up-to-date information, please consult your state’s fishing and gaming regulations.
Illinois — Hunters 62 years of age and older are now permitted to use a crossbow without a special permit. Hunters using a crossbow will need an archery deer permit and proof of age in the form of an official ID.  Crossbows used in hunting as authorized by a permit issued under this section shall meet all of the following specifications:
 1) Shall have a minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds.
2) Shall have a minimum overall length (from butt of stock to front of limbs) of 24 inches.
3) Shall have a working safety.
4) Shall be used with bolts or arrows of not less than 14 inches in length (not including point) with a broadhead. Broadheads may have fixed or expandable blades, but they must be barbless and have a minimum 7/8 inch diameter when fully opened. Broadheads with fixed blade must be metal or flint-, chert-, or obsidian-napped. Broadheads with expandable blades must be metal.
Crossbows also legal for handicapped hunters by permit.
Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation allowing expanded use of crossbows during the Illinois archery deer and fall archery wild turkey hunting seasons. A legally permitted archery hunter may use a crossbow from the second Monday following Thanksgiving through the end of the archery hunting seasons. For the upcoming season, those dates are Dec. 3, 2012 through Jan. 20, 2013. Illinois law continues to allow use of a crossbow throughout the entire archery season by persons age 62 or older and handicapped persons who are issued crossbow permits by the IDNR.
Indiana — Crossbows legal in entire archery season beginning December 31, 2011.  Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a mechanical safety.
Iowa- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters with permit.  Resident hunters 70 years old and older may purchase one statewide antlerless-deer only license to hunt deer with a crossbow.
Kentucky- Crossbows legal for all hunters during rifle and muzzleloader seasons, and portions of archery season (dates change annually). Legal in archery season for handicapped hunters.
Maryland- The MarylandDepartment of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service now allows crossbows to be used to hunt any game species during any open season where a vertical bow may be used (excluding waterfowl and certain furbearers). This would permit the use of a crossbow during the entire deer bow season in all counties.  Minimum draw weight is 75-pounds, telescopic sights are permitted and the crossbow must have a working safety.
Michigan- August 17, 2010, Effective immediately, crossbow regulations have expanded for hunters statewide.
 The crossbow regulation changes include the following:
 1) Lowered the minimum age for crossbow use from 12 to 10 years of age statewide.
 2) Expanded the use of crossbows to all legal hunters during all archery and firearms seasons statewide, except in the Upper Peninsula, where crossbow use will remain prohibited during the late archery and muzzleloader seasons, unless the hunter is disabled (Crossbows may only be used in the Upper Peninsula by anyone 50 years of age or older during the Oct. 1-Nov. 14 bow hunting deer season statewide).
 Hunters using crossbows will still be required to obtain a free crossbow stamp. The stamp, which is free, will help the DNR monitor and survey crossbow hunters.
Minnesota- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters by permit. Also legal for anyone during firearms season and Turkey and Bear seasons.

Missouri-Crossbows for handicapped archers by permit and during firearms season.
Nebraska- Crossbows are legal archery equipment for big game (deer, antelope, elk, turkey & bighorn sheep).
North Carolina- Effective August 1, 2010, allows the use of crossbows anytime bow and arrows are legal weapons. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 150-pounds.
Ohio-Crossbow – draw weight not less than 75 lbs. The arrow tip shall have a minimum of two cutting edges which may be exposed or unexposed and minimum 3/4-inch width. Expandable and mechanical broadheads are legal. Poisoned or explosive arrows are illegal.
Pennsylvania-The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners has approved the expanded lawful use of crossbows to include both the archery deer and bear seasons. The Board included a sunset date for the expanded crossbow use requiring a future vote on the measure again before June 30, 2012. The use of magnified scopes was approved on April 21, 2009.
South Dakota- Crossbows legal for handicapped hunters during archery season. Must have a minimum draw weight of 125-pounds and a functional mechanical safety device.  Telescopic sights and lighted sight pins are prohibited.
Tennessee-The use of crossbows is now permitted during all seasons including the regular archery season.
West Virginia-It is illegal to:
1) be afield with both gun and bow or with a gun and any arrows, except that persons who have a concealed weapon permit may carry a concealed handgun for self-defense only.
2) hunt with a crossbow and/or have a crossbow afield except for the holders of Class Y or YY permits during designated archery seasons. Crossbows must have:
      i)  a draw weight of at least 125 pounds.
      ii) a working safety.
      iii) bolts at least 18 inches long.
       iv) broadheads with at least two cutting edges at least¾ inch in width.
3) hunt deer with arrows having less than two sharp cutting edges, measuring less than ¾ inch in width.
4) use a bow-locking device, except with a modified bowpermit issued by the Director.
5) use an arrow with an explosive, drug-laced or poisoned head or shaft.
6) use an electronic call to hunt deer
 Wisconsin- Crossbows are not legal to use except by disabled hunters issued a Class A, B, or Crossbow permit; and hunters 65 years of age or older issued a valid archery hunting license.
-Deer Abby
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.
Note: While state laws widely differ and can change without notice, the information herein is intended to be a brief overview of the laws and regulations at the time of printing, and is incomplete. Dunham’s and/or its representatives cannot and will not be responsible for its content, and therefore is not liable or responsible for any damages, monetary or otherwise, which may result in its use. For more details and up-to-date information, please consult your state’s fishing and gaming regulations.

Safe at Home

p>With gun ownership comes responsibility. Every keeper of firearms is obligated to ensure the safety of his household, while taking every precaution to prevent an intruder from accessing weapons. The only certain way to accomplish both goals is with a high technology gun safe. The best safes will also serve to protect the weapons while they’re in storage.

There are a number of factors to consider in choosing a gun safe. Two of them are capacity and size. A small safe is adequate for a handgun or two. But if you’re investing in a safe, it’s good to consider what other things you might wish to protect. For example, irreplaceable documents and valuable possessions are best kept in secure storage. So you may want to think beyond the size of your firearm collections when choosing a safe.

Of course, if you own long guns, a small safe is out of the question. Some newer safes are configured to maximize the number of long guns that can be stored with racks that permit alternate rows of barrel up and barrel down storage. Many of these safes have padded floors in order to protect the barrel or stock. Some gunsmiths recommend barrel down storage in order to prevent leakage of contaminants from damaging a wooden stock.

Most modern safes allow the removal and repositioning of shelving and racks in order to optimize the storage area. It’s a good idea to plan carefully and consider future needs before making a purchase. While your firearm collection may be limited today, you don’t want to curtail future expansion by choosing a safe that can’t accommodate new acquisitions. Dunham’s offers an extensive variety of secure storage devices in all sizes and shapes, from small personal lock boxes to large floor standing safes that can store more than forty firearms, so you’re sure to find a safe that matches your requirements.

Fire and water protection is also a consideration. Fire protection has become standard among better safes, but the degree of protection can vary. An ETL rating is your best assurance of quality fire protection. A Dunham’s sales representative can explain the rating system and help you determine how much protection you need. Waterproof safes are a more recent development. Some new safes offer protection in up to two feet of water.

Various locking mechanisms are available. Many of today’s safes are equipped with electronic locks that open by means of a keypad rather than a dial. The commercial grade electronic locks used on the best safes are extremely secure and reliable.

Securing and protecting your stored guns is a critical responsibility. Not only will proper storage provide peace of mind for you and your family, it will protect your expensive firearms as well. And nothing offers better security and protection than a modern safe.

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.

Muzzleloading Offers Unique Hunting Challenges

p>Daniel Boone may not recognize many of today’s muzzleloading rifles but he could certainly relate to what makes black-powder muzzleloading hunting one of the fastest growing shooting sports in America.

The basics of muzzleloaders have not changed with the time. Today there are two basic types of muzzleloaders used for hunting — traditional and in-line. Both are based upon the premise that the shooter pours powder down the end of the gun barrel, and then rams a slug or ball down on top of it to load the gun.

Traditional muzzleloading firearms include reproductions of sidelock, flintlock and percussion long guns.  In-line rifles that use modern inventions such as a closed breech, sealed primer and fast rifling to allow for considerable accuracy at long ranges.

Something that has not changed with time is the unique challenge of hunting with a black-powder muzzleloader.

Muzzleloading hunters typically fall into one of three categories: the frontiersman, extended season and the ultimate hunting experience. Each presents a hunting challenge and opportunity you can’t match with modern rifles.

Back to Basics

The frontiersman is someone who enjoys recreating the early American hunting experience. We are talking about wearing buckskin clothes, sleeping on the ground by a fire and the up-close hunting skills needed to effectively use the long guns of the American frontier.

Hunters getting back to the basics of a “patch round ball” rifle are accurate between 75 and 150 yards. Hunters using a replica of a percussion rifle used by sharpshooters during the Civil War can be accurate up to 200 yards . . . with a lot of practice.

Extended Season

Many hunters have joined the black-powder ranks because it offers an extended hunting season.  Muzzleloader season in many areas starts before hunters using conventional weapons can get started. Another advantage is that muzzleloaders frequently have access to prime hunting areas that are off limits to modern weapons.

Ultimate Hunting Experience

Some may view muzzleloading rifles as having limitations with a single shot, limited range and reduced velocity. For many experienced hunters, these are attributes that make black-powder hunting a unique experience.

Muzzleloader hunters know they can easily bag their limit with a modern weapon. These hunters relish the challenge of having to get close without being detected and bringing home the trophy with a single, precise shot. Black-powder hunters take pride in mastering the limitations imposed by a muzzleloader because it makes the hunting experience far more rewarding than using a conventional weapon.

Load and Aim

Muzzleloader calibers range from old .36 and .40 caliber flintlock squirrel rifles to .68 caliber muskets used for warfare. Most flintlock and caplock guns today are .50 or .54 caliber, with an occasional .58 caliber rifle. The minimum size elk rifle is .50 caliber, and .54 certainly hits harder. The biggest in-line muzzleloaders are .50 caliber, with the occasional .45 caliber rifle used for deer and smaller game.

While close range hunting is one of the appeals associated with muzzleloaders, many people still have questions of accuracy. In truth, the accuracy of today’s in-line muzzleloaders rivals most modern weapons up to 200 yards.

A big reason for the improved accuracy is in-line barrel design. Manufacturers such as Bergara Barrels use computerized technology to manufacturer affordable barrels that rival custom made designs. The accuracy of Bergara Barrels is so impressive that CVA, the nation’s leading manufacturer of muzzleloaders, has made them standard on CVA’s highest grade guns.

Like any rifle, a clean barrel improves accuracy. One thing to keep in mind is that all the cleaning tools you buy will cost a fraction of replacing a ruined barrel. Here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Buy a good quality rod with a ball bearing, rotating handle so the brush and patch can accurately follow the twist in the barrel. This action allows for efficient cleaning of the bottom of the groove, especially in the corner where the groove meets the land.
  • Buy brushes with brass wire cores. Steel cores can damage your barrel should one bend or otherwise go awry while in the bore.
  • Buy a good quality brass jag for each caliber rifle you own. Whether you “wrap” or “pierce” the patch is up to you, but keep your jag clean. Grit that gets embedded in a soft brass jag acts like a file if it contacts the delicate inside of your bore.
  • Most solvents currently on the market will do a great job. Follow the directions on the chemicals container carefully. NEVER mix types of solvents as undesirable chemical reactions can occur.
  • Patches should be cotton or cotton flannel only. Cheap synthetic patches do not absorb solvents and carry away the fouling you are trying to clean out of your barrel.

Having a clean muzzleloader is something even Daniel Boone would appreciate.

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.


Hunting is a very generic term covering a lot of wildlife and a lot of geography. There’s deer, elk, ducks, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel — the list goes on and on. You can hunt in forests, prairies, swamps, cornfields or mountains. It can be 90 degrees in September or 20-below in December.

Which is why it is so important to choose clothing based on the type of hunting you do, where you do it and when you do it. “The biggest mistake most people make in buying hunting clothes is to try to have one suit fit everything,” says Rocky Brands. “I can hunt within a 30-mile radius of my home, but that includes a lot of different kinds of hunting. Plus, weather is a big factor. You don’t want a parka in the hot days of fall.”

Choices, Choices, Choices

The type of hunting you do will be a big factor in your wardrobe. Upland hunting of pheasant and small game requires a lot of walking, so mobility and flexibility will be very important. All that walking will keep your body warm, so you likely won’t need as much insulation as when you’re sitting in a blind waiting for deer to come to you. Duck and geese hunters spend a lot of time near water, so water repellent materials are especially important.

Temperature will be a major factor in choosing clothing. In the early hunting seasons, warmth isn’t much of a factor — staying cool on hot afternoons is more of the problem. But as November approaches, bitter cold and snow mean keeping warm is a priority. Deer season in the Midwest can be very cold, so insulation is key. Thermal underwear provides an excellent base and there are numerous pants/parka/bib combinations that can keep you toasty in that deer blind. You don’t want just bulk, however, so be sure you can move around comfortably. The better the combination of warmth and movement, the more you are likely to pay.

If you need some extra heat there are plenty of artificial sources. Battery-powered socks and gloves will warm away the iciest chill, as will hats, muffs and hand warmers. Foot warmers include insoles with a heating element that will kick in when exposed to open air and provide up to 5 hours of heat.

Of course how you feel at 6 a.m. and how you feel 8 hours later after tromping around when the sun is out are two different situations. That’s why layering is important. Look for jackets, vests, raingear and hats you can take off when the temperature rises.

These Boots are Made for Hunting

Most hunters spend a lot of time walking, so comfortable boots are critical. That starts before you leave the store to make sure everything fits right. “The right fit is important in any clothing, but especially so for boots,” says Irish Setter. “After all, you don’t get blisters if your pants are too tight.”

Irish Setter suggests looking closely at the linings inside the boot. If they are loose they can become folded or wrinkled and very uncomfortable. If you do a lot of upland hunting you are more likely to accumulate mud on the soles, which can make a 2-pound boot feel like an 8-pounder. In that case look for a freer sole with a less aggressive cleat pattern. Of course, all boots are going to collect dirt and mud which can act like cement and absorb water. At the end of the day take a damp rag and remove that debris and then apply a leather care product.

Helping the Hunt

The whole purpose of hunting is to make the kill. And while your personal comfort is important, you also need clothing that will help (or not detract from) the hunt. That’s where two key issues come into play — noise and scent. Depending on material, some clothing is just noisier. If you can hear your pants when walking through the store, don’t you think that deer will hear it too?

Because animals have such a highly developed sense of smell, it’s important to mask your human scent. It’s especially important for bow and muzzle hunters who need to get very close to their prey. The “de-scenting” process can start with clothing that includes materials which absorb the human scent. Charcoal is an excellent filter and a thin layer of it within the fabric will help you mask your presence.

How you clean your clothes can also mark your presence in the field. Floral detergents are not good and scented fabric softener is the ultimate no-no; Dunham’s carries scent blocking laundry detergent and fabric softener.

There are also a number of different odor neutralizers/attractants you can use. Commercial odor neutralizers are typically sprayed, rolled or washed into garments prior to a hunt, while attractants are used on wicks placed around the hunter or dispersed on local vegetation. Cover scents are natural odors that mask the human scent and do not alarm the animal. These techniques all work well singularly or combined, so try different methods to see which fits you the best.

-Deer Abby

*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.