Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 Nebraska Turkeys

We drove out to Nebraska for the opening weekend of the turkey season. We always get out there and invade my cousin Chad's house to chase birds.

Friday afternoon we rolled into town. The scouting report was good! There were hundreds of turkeys, still in their big winter flocks, hanging out on the property we have permission to hunt. We didn't bother them that evening, instead a couple of us built a gate and some fence for our rancher buddy, and the others chose to try and get on a few of the birds on some nearby public ground.

The only turkey we managed to call in was this hen. I could have reached out of the blind and touched her. She hung out for an hour, and I thought surely this live decoy work out perfect, but a bearded turkey never materialized. No biggie, the next morning was going to be epic...or so I thought.

We got into the field in the pitch dark on Saturday morning. We sat in the blind making coffee. I was waiting for the thunder of 100 gobbles that should have started any second. I waited, and waited, no turkey sounds. What the heck? It was finally light enough to see the main roosting area, about 700 yards away. I pulled up my binos, no turkeys. WHAT THE HECK! Where do 400 turkeys go?

Come to find out, the landowner was chasing some trespassers that he saw on his property. They must have walked right under the roosts that night, as the birds had been in the same trees every night for a few months, and were now gone. 

I busted out the new Avian X strutter decoy...unfortunately I never got to find out how it worked.

My brother was set up a couple hundred yards away. At about 2pm he finally saw his first turkey of the day. The tom was not interested in his calls or his set up, but still happened to walk within bow range. Well...compound bow range anyway! ;)

That is Danny's most killenest arrow. He killed an elk, two deer, and a hog with it. He missed another hog and lost the arrow, only to have it found by another group of Colorado hunters the next week. They found it by chance on a 20,000 acre ranch. Finally, after all that action, the arrow was broken by this turkey.

My cousin, Tyler, brought his wife and two young boys out with him a few miles to the north. They had a great time, and Tyler made a fantastic shot on this gobbler. Ty's wife had to put her hand around their younger son's mouth as the turkey came within range. Good times! Ty shot him with a Chargin' Bull recurve.

Tyler's brother, Chad, was with Andy to the NW of us a few miles. Chad and Andy had a great morning. These guys are killers, two shots, two dead turkeys.
Andy shoots a Bob Morrison recurve. Chad shoots a Chargin' Bull recurve that he makes.

Here's a video of Andy's tom. Great shot! (shot at 2:42)

Now don't get me wrong, our group killed four turkeys on Saturday, but it wasn't the turkey shootathon that we thought it would be. With all of the birds gone Kelly and I drove to one of my public land honey holes for the next few days. There were lots of turkeys but they were using completely different fields and different roosts than I've observed in the past. The first day we heard them all around us, but never got anything to commit to our calls. We were always on the wrong end of the field, wrong side of the creek, etc.

Monday morning's forecast called for brutal winds. We've hunted this area enough to know where the turkeys go to protect themselves from the wind. Kelly and I got all set up on the edge of a milo field with a bluff behind us. 

The weatherman was right. The wind was crazy! Our spot at the base of the bluff protected us from the hardest winds. Several hours into the morning we had yet to hear or see a turkey.

The day before, in this exact spot, a group of hens started yacking up a storm. Six gobblers coming from every direction were soon strutting in the field. That got me thinking...Ten of me couldn't make as much noise as the real turkeys were making the day before. But by God I was going to try! 

I got my box call in my hand and put my diaphragm call in my mouth. Over the next five minutes I got to work! YAP! YAP! YAP! I HAMMERED AWAY, as loud and hard as I could. I had to penetrate the wind.

Ten minutes later I got bored and picked up my box call. YAP! YAP! YAP! I looked out into the field. Uh-oh. I'm calling like an idiot and there are two big ol' toms in full strut just 50 yards away.

I set the call down and got my bow ready. The two toms were perfectly content to just stand where they were. Over the next hour the toms made their way to the base of the bluff behind us. They just sat there, strutting, occasionally gobbling, but making no hint at moving towards our decoys.

The birds were only 15-20 yards away, but behind a a mess of branches. Kelly started telling me that there was an opening. I said no way. Kelly insisted that if the bird took three more steps to the left that there was an opening. I studied the branches, he's right! I got my bow ready.

The turkey took the three steps we were hoping for. As I reached full draw I completely lost focus on the bird. My eyes studied the branches, I aimed for the opening, I could still see the turkey in my blurred vision. This is going to work!

The Snuffer on the end of my cedar arrow barely fit through the tiny opening. I missed the branches completely and the arrow zipped right through the turkey. The tom ran up the bluff and out of sight. After a very short search we found him underneath a cedar tree, dead.

The turkey was about in the middle of the frame when I shot.

Chargin' Bull recurve, cedar arrow, Snuffer broadhead.

My first double bearded tom (you have to look close but that second beard is there!)

4 Key Strategies employed on this hunt:

This is mostly common sense, but hunting usually is. Observe animal behavior under the conditions, and use those observations to anticipate their future location/mood/vocalizations/etc.

1) Knowing an area is invaluable. Having observed turkey behavior in high winds, in this area, we had a good idea where to intercept a tom. The bluff we were set up on is long, maybe a half mile. We knew we had to be patient, they'd be somewhere along this bluff for sure, and eventually they would be near us.

2) Patience: The turkeys came to my calls at 11am. I am willing to bet that, even with the high winds, they were within ear shot of my calls before that. Toms are not going to leave their hens early in the morning. Knowing this gave us the patience and confidence to sit tight. Turkeys are quite pattern-able in this area at this time of the year. If they know you're there, they will usually come check you out at some point.

3) Make adjustments: On the first day in this area we positioned ourselves in all of the "right" places, based on previous experience. This year was different. We observed the turkey's behavior and adjusted for the following day. I've killed a bunch of turkeys in this area, but never from this spot. It is usually not a good place to be. We put ourselves where the turkeys were.

4) Calling: Everybody has their own thoughts on calling. The day before we heard hens calling IN FORCE from this corner of the field. We observed toms congregate on their calls. As a matter of fact, every single year we hear hens going crazy wild early in the season. We called like the turkeys call. Our calling was insane, loud, and long...exactly how live birds call this time of the year. Will I call that way in May? No. But in March? You bet!

I wish I was going back out this year but I've got a baby girl coming soon. It's time for me to stick close to home. I should have one or two more good stories from the RMSGear crew though. Good luck turkey hunters!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


One of the great parts of this business is the conversations that we get to have. We learn so much from our customers, and we are constantly immersed in our passion.

 A customer recently asked my Dad, Tom, about a particular bow. I thought that his response was worthy of a blog post, because there is some good information here, but more than anything, it is an interesting read. 

Everybody has an opinion of what they are looking for in a bow. Here is a short outline of Tom's opinions.

Excerpt from Tom Clum's Email:

I have been thinking about your question about bows since I saw your first email this morning. Here are MY opinions. There are a very large number of really good bowyers out there now that are putting out beautiful and great shooting bows. 

 Most all of the knowledgeable bowyers know how to make a fast bow. They add more reflex, they push the handle back, etc. BUT, most of the attributes that make a the bow fast, make it loud. Too much reflex and handle setback makes the bow unstable, and exaggerates your mistakes (not forgiving). 

They know how to make a bow quiet. They deflex the riser, have little or no string contact with the limbs, etc. BUT the bow is slow. 

The great bows are a blend that keeps the bow snappy, fairly quiet, and forgiving. I like short bows, longbows, and physically light bows, but I can't shoot these types of bows at long distance with consistency. Darn, there are always tradeoffs. 

I have short bows for niche situations, like when I know things are going to be tight (when I am in a ground blind and will have short shots). But I now mostly shoot a 62" bow, with a "kinda" heavy riser, I am a short guy with a 28" draw. I can really put them in there at long distance with this kind of hunting recurve. 

Some bowyers really focus on one aspect of a bow i.e. quiet or fast, and there is a market for the guy who will buy based on one aspect. But to get a bow that is whisper quiet, super fast, and very forgiving, is in my opinion an impossible order. You can however get a high percentage of each of these attributes in the best bows. 

My first dis-qualification for a bow is probably grip. You just cannot have a grip where your hand slides to the side, or a grip that "makes" you squeeze in order to keep it straight. For me the bow grip has to be fairly flat so that I can line it up on the life line of my palm quickly and in the same spot every time. It will just sit there without me having to hold onto it. I had Ben Graham grind a flat spot on my Hummingbird when I went to see him a couple years ago. I immediately shot this bow with improved accuracy. The Hummingbird Kingfisher recurve is an example of a bow that combines a bunch of great features. It is NOT like the Tree's bow in that it has a heavy riser, but it is like it in regards to speed and performance. I have Keith Chastain finishing a bow for me right now, and he has instructions to call me so that I can go over to his place to finalize the shape of the grip. I have Mike Beckwith (Hawk Bows) making a set of limbs for me now for the riser that my boy's gave to me for Christmas. Mike has the best grip in the business. 

If you want the best performance (speed) out of a longbow, get an A&H. As you know, Larry Hannify is a fine gentleman and builds a fine bow that will outshoot anything around, as far as speed. If your form is great, these bows will make you better, but if you torque with your bow hand, they may exaggerate your mistakes. I can get perfect hand placement on his take down bows every time. I would shoot them, but I shoot my recurves (with more mass weight in the riser) better at distance. 

I do think that a guy has to find that match for himself and I think that this is true if only because of the variety of size in human beings. I am short and hunt big animals, so I might look at speed a little more that a guy with a 30" draw. A big guy might focus more on a quiet bow, because he has no worries about speed. As far as arrow speed goes, an inch of draw length is equivalent to 10 lbs of draw weight, and I can prove it on a chronograph. 

The Denver area is the only place that a guy might be able to shoot ten different types of custom bows right next to each other anytime of the year (how is that for an un-disguised advertisement).

At one time we just happened to have about ten different custom bows of almost identical weight. We found it very interesting that among those bows, there was not more than five feet per second difference between them all. All were big name bows, including our local guys, and all except for one used conventional materials. The only design that I can prove that equates to measurably increased arrow speed is the ACS limb design, like in the A&H bows. 

Well there you have it. I have just confused the issue, and not given you any kind of definitive answer. And, opinions are like belly buttons. 

I still enjoy the discussion.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014 Pigs: Death From Above

I enjoy hunting, a lot. And I really like elk hunting, it's got to be my favorite. However, I'm not sure I've ever had a better time than we did in Texas last week. I was laughing from the moment the guys got in my car until the moment I dropped them off. 

We returned to the same ranch we hunted last year (story here). A group of us from RMSGear headed south, met by my cousin Chad and some of his Nebraska buddies.

The weather was pretty chilly for Texas. When we got there we had a little bit of blowing snow and high temps in the 20's. The pigs moved later in the day, but that didn't stop us from getting out early the first morning. Everybody went out, but nobody got shots. We calmed down the next few days, and like the pigs, slept in a little bit before starting our onslaught. 

The country in this part of Texas is made especially for bowhunters. I love the brush down there, open enough to spot the animals but dense enough to get your sneak on. 

I thought that the pig sign last year was impressive, it was nothing compared to this year. The pigs are taking over, and their presence is obvious around every bush and tree.

Stalking in this country cannot be beat.

We didn't see see the sky for the first two days, but on day three we were treated with a really nice sunset.

Even though the first morning started slow, by early afternoon the arrows were starting to fly. My brother and I were making our way through my favorite area from last year when we spotted a group of pigs heading towards us. We quickly found a hiding place and waited for the pigs to come. Danny was up first. He didn't waste his opportunity. Danny's arrow hit the pig with a loud whack and dropped him where he stood. The other pigs ran up to see what was going on, and before the dust started to settle my cedar shaft was in the air. 

The same time Danny and I were dragging pigs to the truck Blake was skulking towards this nice boar. Blake got a little too close, and the pig got nervous when he saw a figure in the grass just three yards away. The pig started to move away, but Blake made the best of it and drew his bow as the pig was trotting off. The big boar slowed down just enough for Blake to make a perfect shot.

Blake used a Chargin' Bull recurve. 60", 55@28. Blake and Chad started building bows a year ago, they are fantastic. He's shooting CX Heritage arrows, his quiver was a smorgasbord of broadheads. 

We found three pig nests with little babies. How can something so cute turn so ugly? Mike and Tab killed a few pigs each, these guys didn't play around.

On the second evening of the hunt I discovered pig paradise. I grabbed my cousin, Chad, for the following day. We crept along the edge of a bluff above the Brazos river. Since the time we were little kids, Chad and I have always got into the animals. Chad killed his first deer with his 13 year old cousin at his side (me), and the following year I called in my first bull elk to Chad. To this day whenever we hunt together we are in the thick of it. In no time we spotted two groups of pigs below us in the brush.

We let the wind choose which group of pigs to sneak up on. These have to be the perfect bowhunting animals, good enough senses that you need to be sneaky, but blind enough that a guy has a great chance of success on each stalk. 

I brought my 21st Century longbow on this trip. I've had the bow for 5 or 6 years but never took it hunting. I was a little worried about stalking with a 64" bow (I usually like 'em short). It's not a pretty bow - weird green color, Holmegaard limb profile, brush nocks, and 63 pounds. This bow only has about 8 inches of working limb, and I love how it throws my arrows fast and hard. My concerns over length proved unfounded, Chad and I were easily able to crawl on our stomachs to within bow range. The only difficult part about the stalk was avoiding all the pig poop, it felt like crawling through a dog park. P.I.G. P.A.R.A.D.I.S.E!

After I killed the first pig we wasted no time in getting back on top of the bluff. It didn't take long to find another group with a bunch of big ol' hogs. Chad slinked in, the smallest pig of the group stepped into an opening. Chad made a chip shot and the pig didn't run 30 yards before falling. It was the smallest of the group, but the biggest any of us killed on the trip.

Chad used a Chargin' Bull bow of his own making. His bow is 60" and 57@28.

There isn't anything on earth more fun than razzing the guy who has had the worst luck. On this trip, that just happened to be Del. In three days of hard hunting Del had yet to shoot an arrow, and he only got a small glimpse of a pig. 

Before this trip the Nebraska guys didn't know Del other than by the crazy elk hunting stories we told about him. Del's lungs and legs are a thing of legend, and he kills more than his share of elk. On day 3 of the 4 day hunt, the Nebraska boys started to call him Tebow - all hype and no show. Del got a good laugh at himself, and being that we were pig hunting, I started calling him Teboar.

Chad, Danny and I decided to show Del some mercy and teach him how to hunt pigs. We brought him to our perch, and in less than two minutes we spotted a lone boar feeding near the water's edge.

Zoomed all the way out, the pig is in the center of the frame.

Zoomed all the way in.

After spotting the pig, Chad and Teboar (Del) got off the bluff and started their sneak. Danny and I stayed above to watch the show through our binoculars.

True to form, Del did pretty much the opposite of what I would have done, he took his boots off so he could move silently in the water. When he got close to the pig he got on shore. His bare feet falling on the mud made, quite literally, no noise at all.

Del closed the distance on a totally unsuspecting boar. Del's Spirit longbow launched a Carbon Express Heritage arrow, tipped with a scary sharp Bear Razorhead. Danny and I had the second best view of the whole thing from our vantage point on the bluff.

Internet, get ready for a new meme - Teboaring (I know, I know, that's so 2012).

We cut up the pig and returned to our outlook high on the bluff. Chad and Danny headed South, Del and I headed North. Del and I sat down to drink a Mountain Dew before searching in earnest for our next stalk. It didn't take more than a minute to spot another lone pig on the river's edge. Del and I crossed the river and made our way to the bank, directly across from the boar.

I looked over my shoulder and gave Del a droll smile before lifting my bow to shoot. He smiled back. This was serious fun. My arrow zipped through the pig in a blink but it wasn't an ideal shot. Del was Johnny-on-the-spot with a follow up shot, driving his arrow straight through the boar's chest. The boar ran down the river a very short ways before falling over in the water.

This picture is taken from where the pig was standing, looking at the spot where Del and I peaked over the grass to shoot. 

The pig hardly had time to run before Del's arrow buried in the dirt, not at all far from mine.

We made our way back on the bluff and spotted another pig immediately, a true giant. With daylight running low and swirling wind, I did the best with what I had. I was peaking over the grass at the last place I saw the monster swine, ready and expecting to ease my bow back at any moment. But the big pig was gone. He must have smelled me, my only blown stalk in four days of non stop action. Not bad odds, I can't wait for next year!

Email me, tlc@rmsgear.com, for the contact info for the ranch. It's 22,000 acres of pig hunting madness. You can bait roads, sit on feeders, or do like we did, and get in the pig's bedroom to stalk them. Jay runs the hunts, he's a traditional bowhunter who treats us the exact way I'd hope to be treated. Just bring a lot of arrows when you go. We put 14 pigs in the barn, and I fully expect that we kill more next year with our new method of hunting them from above.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Mountain Lion

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. We sure did. Everybody was around and we ate a lot of good food and enjoyed each other's company. I've included my brother-in-law, Kelly, in a lot of my hunting stories. Kelly has been a very good friend, and I'm thrilled that my sister married such a great guy. Anyway, Kelly's parents were in town from Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Kelly's Dad, Pat, usually real quiet and reserved, came by to visit us at the store. He was as happy and chatty as I've ever seen him. Pat recently bought a Flying Eagle longbow which he really loves. Pat was looking forward to building his own arrows this winter, and really wanted to try splicing his own feathers. It was exciting to see a 71 year old man's man so excited about traditional archery.

Friday afternoon I got a call from Mark Turner, owner of Rocky Mountain Big Game Adventures - Turner Guide Service. Mark told me that he found a fresh lion kill, and it looked like a nice Tom. I went mountain lion hunting with Mark 3 times last year. We never treed a cat, but those were some of the most brutal days I have ever spent in the woods. Mark told me to be ready in the morning.

Of course my wife had to work the next morning, since we have two young boys at home I called my Mom to see if I could drop the off boys bright and early the next morning. With that taken care of I prepared my gear, and my mind, for the next morning.

4:30am rolled around quick. I got the boys loaded in the car and pulled into my parents driveway...but my Mom's car was gone. Weird, but whatever.

I brought the boys up into my parent's dark bedroom and saw Dad sitting up watching TV. "Where's Mom?" I asked. My Dad said in a low voice, "Set the boys down buddy, I need to tell you something." What in the world is going on?

My Dad told me that Pat had a massive heart attack and died early that morning. My Mom was bringing Kelly, his twin brother, and their older brother to the airport.

"He's dead?" I asked.


I must have asked five more times. I just saw Pat. He was happy as a lark. Pat was the most indestructible man I knew. At 71 he could outwork any man of any age. Pat built his house himself, he worked in hard physical labor his whole life, and still was for that matter. He didn't feel pain, didn't complain, loved his wife, and served the Lord with all of his heart. Pat produced some fine, hard working kids too. His son's have served in the military in some elite levels, earned Division I All-American status as a wrestler, and he had three boys compete in DI college wrestling in the Big Ten. To put it mildly, he raised the toughest set of boys I've ever met, and he was tougher than them all. Throughout the 12 years that I knew Pat, his sons went on and on that they still couldn't keep up with the old man. There's no way he's dead.

What is Kelly going through? Their mom? All of Pat's kids?

I didn't want to go lion hunting anymore. After asking a few questions and standing still in quiet disbelief I set the boys in bed with their Poppa and started to walk out of the room. I almost turned the car around when I was just a few houses away, but I went hunting.

I got to Mark's at 6:30am. My car thermometer said -3 degrees. Mark was waiting for me and ready to go. Mark's friendliness and good nature cheered me up, and as we drove to the lion's kill I almost forgot for a second what my brother-in-law and his family were going through.

We got to the kill. We looked around for the freshest set of tracks. There were too many and they all looked the same to my untrained eye. "We'll let the dogs figure it out", Mark said, and he turned them loose. We started following the dogs straight up the mountain.

When we got up the mountain we heard the dogs...and they were down at the bottom. We sat on the side of the mountain just watching the dogs for the next five minutes. It was a treat to watch those dogs work. Back and forth they worked the mountain side over. One dog started making fairly small circles. The other dogs were soon with him. Then a bunch of snow fell from one of the trees they were circling.

There's the lion!

From where we were.
A little closer...
A little closer yet...

We set off down the mountain with a whole new kind of excitement. In no time we were underneath the lion.

I have seen one mountain lion in my life. I was elk hunting with a buddy from Wisconsin, I told my buddy not to move a muscle because a mountain lion was walking right towards us. Of course he whipped around and the lion trotted off. It was a small lion, no big deal, a neat experience but nothing more.

The lion in the tree now...this, I wasn't prepared for. I always thought that lion hunting would be a bit of a let down. The dogs tree the cat, you walk up, shoot the cat, go home. That is NOT the case.

It took four brutal days to get to this point. I probably fell down 500 hundred times to get here. I bet I slid 2 miles on my butt. I damaged two bows, bruised my muscles, cut my face, froze my fingers, burned my lungs, lost an expensive wool jacket, and all around beat myself up. Now I'm finally there, a treed mountain lion is sitting in front of me.

Mark and his nephew Tony got the dogs chained up while I got in the best position I could find to shoot.

I took out my first arrow. The shot angle wasn't ideal, but I was 100% certain I could sneak my arrow right where it needed to be. I got to full draw and loosed the first shot. Right over his back. Geeez...what is wrong with me? I haven't had this kind of rush in years and years. Not what I was expecting.

I get the second arrow out and come to full draw. This time the shot is right where I was looking. The cat jumps around the other side of the tree. I shoot again through thick cover. That arrow missed its mark, I don't know where it went after it blew through the branches.. Now the cat is coming down the tree, I pull another arrow out and hit him again, right in the shoulder. That's two good arrows in him. He hits the ground running.

I look at Mark fully confident that I have two good arrows in the cat. Mark smiles and shakes my hand. I cannot contain myself and confess what a rush that was, I feel like such a rookie bowhunter admitting it. Mark is smiling and tells me good shooting.

Mark and I take one dog and follow the trail. The blood trail is pretty weak and we're about 200 yards from the tree. It didn't take long before Mark turns around and tells me that this is not a fatally hit cat. I was already thinking the same thing. Mark turns his dog loose and tells Tony to turn the rest loose as well. They did not want to do this. If the dogs catch a wounded cat on the ground it will not turn out well for the dogs.

Mark and I follow the tracks as fast as we can through the deep snow. My thighs are absolutely burning, I haven't been in the hills for a few months. It didn't take long before we heard all sorts of yelps, growls, barking, and total chaos going on ahead of us. "Get up there, Tommy!" Mark tells me. I'm starting to feel like a real idiot now, who knows what is going on up there, what dogs are getting hurt, all due to my poor shooting. But how? I thought my first hit was perfect, let alone the last one.

Mark and I finally reach the dogs, they have the cat treed again. He's not that high and I walk right underneath him. He's showing me his giant teeth. His intimidation tactic works.

I thought the first time was a rush, it was nothing compared to being this close. I have two arrows left in my quiver. I take my time as I aim with the first one. Bam! Perfect shot. I rip my last arrow out of my quiver. Again! Perfect shot. I take a step back knowing full well that the cat is going to fall at any moment.

Mark is digging in his pack. I see what is going on. The dogs are not chained up. The lion has two arrows in him with sharp broadheads on one end. Even if that big cat doesn't have strength to keep himself in the tree, when he falls he's going to get his licks in on the dogs. Hell, there might be a dead dog on the mountain for all I know, it sure sounded like it.

Mark hands me a pistol. Damn it. I don't want to shoot this cat with a pistol. I know he's dead. If we wait another minute he's going to fall out of that tree. I ask Mark if he thinks that the dogs are going to get injured. He does. Mark tells me that it is my choice, that I do not have to shoot the lion with the pistol.

I'm thinking about what is going on.Mark is awesome, his dogs are absolutely incredible. He is doing me a huge favor on this hunt. I look up at the lion, his armpits are both full of blood. Blood is running down one of the arrows and dripping on the dogs just ten feet below.

What would I feel like if this lion falls out of the tree and severely injures one or more of the dogs? Am I going to risk Mark's dogs for, for what? Why would I do that? Why would I risk the dog's safety?

I feel so selfish for even hesitating.

I raise the pistol and put the sights on his shoulder. Boom. The lion lets out a low growl and bails out of the tree. The dogs are in hot pursuit. Mark and I throw our packs on and slide on our butts just a short ways down the hill. The cat is dead.

Holy cow! That was wild!

We look the dogs over. Pretty much each dog hand a cut on his face somewhere, but they were all there and  they were all fine. One dog had a split in his ear, another a cut over his eye. They will all heal up in no time.

The trip down the mountain was pretty easy. Mark, the cat, and I slid the whole way.

After I got the cat checked in and brought him home I got to inspect what happened with my arrows. My first two good shots, or so I thought, were both high. One in the shoulder blade and one in the spine. The shots from the second tree were both fatal. One entered the right armpit and exited behind the left front leg. The other entered the left armpit but did not exit.
My arrows would have killed that cat in a short amount of time. How they didn't sooner is a shock to me, especially after seeing the damage. I don't care, I feel good about the decision I made with what I saw at the time.

Black Canyon 55# 2-piece longbow. Arrow entrance and exit holes are visible.

Mark Turner is the real deal. He was simply fantastic. I enjoyed his company and his professionalism immensely. I have never entertained the thought of using a guide for any kind of hunting. But after spending some time with Mark, seeing him work, hearing him talk, and learning about him as a hunter and a man, I am blown away. Mark is incredible.

Here is Mark Turner's information. If anybody reading this would like to spend some time with a truly first class guide, Mark Turner is your man. Mark knows his stuff, he has guided hunters to two Colorado State Records including a mountain lion, and also a shiras moose.

I texted a few pictures to my closest friends on my way down the mountain, but I didn't send one to Kelly. I didn't know how to act or what to say. My best friend lost his Dad that very day, and here I am hunting. Kelly got word anyway and sent me a text saying he still wanted to see a picture of the cat. I sent him one. Kelly told me some nice things about his Dad. He told me how lucky he was to have spent 31 years of his life with a man like that. Kelly is right, he is lucky. Pat Flaherty was what a father and husband should be, he was a good and Godly man.

Pat Flaherty: Oct 20, 1942 - Dec 07, 2013.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chad's 2013 Mule Deer

My cousin Chad is a killer. Not only is he a good hunter, but he is a good enough shot to prove it. After killing a beautiful bull elk in Colorado, Chad devoted his time to hunting for a nice mule deer in his home state of Nebraska. Here's Chad's story in his own words...

2013 Muley

This year Blake and I decided that instead of targeting whitetails, we would spend October hunting hard for a big mule deer. On our first morning hunt of 2013 we checked in on an old haunt that has never failed to produce a handful of mule deer. 

As the sun rose we began to see deer, one in particular had a much larger body than the others. It was dark enough that the size of his rack was not obvious, so we got out the spotting scope to get a better look. My heart began to race as the scope focused on his rack. Blake had a quick look and said it was probably the biggest deer he had ever seen in Nebraska. 

We moved in on the deer and got ourselves set up. Long story short, the buck crossed 50 yards ahead of me and went directly towards Blake. Minutes later I watched the buck trot away, shortly after that I see Blake dig his arrow out of a dirt bank. His bowstring caught his sleeve and his shot fell short. 

That night I watched the buck lay in a pocket until dark with deer on all sides. The next morning we were back and saw the deer cross another wheat field. There was no pattern to this deer’s movement. We decided to make a move, hoping to catch him coming off the wheat field. When we got to where he should have been he was nowhere to be found.

After that morning it was three weeks of hard hunting with no more sightings of the buck. Blake and I were obsessed with finding the deer. Between the two of us we spent no less than 25 days looking for him. We had found every other buck in the section but not him. There were regularly several different trucks slowly driving the outskirts of the property, I was sure the deer had been poached.  

My son helping me look for the big buck.

As luck would have it I had a work appointment cancel on the coming Friday, so I went out Thursday night after work to hopefully find the deer. I didn't see the buck we were after but I did see 20 other mule deer. I also found the deer’s water source, a pond we had assumed was dry. I noticed a perfect way to get into the area without being detected. Friday morning was a south wind so I made my way to the pond from the north and set up on a hill above.

As the sun began to rise I saw a white patch in a thicket, close to a mile south. I was watching deer in several other areas but I had a feeling about the white patch, so I kept panning the spotting scope back to the spot. The sun finally rose high enough to hit the thicket and, much to my pleasure, I see it is the buck we have been after. 

I watched in amazement as a 2 point whitetail dogged a mule deer doe all around the big muley buck. I looked at another group of deer, and when I panned back the whitetail was on a hard run, the big muley buck was now standing with the doe. The deer began to move north, in my direction, and then went out of sight. Before they disappeared I noticed two small whitetail bucks moving just ahead of the big muley. 

I hustled to the bottom of the canyon and stealthily worked my way towards them. I slowed down as I got near the area I had last seen the deer. Good thing too, I got lucky to spot those two whitetail bucks before they saw me. They were on the same cow path as me. If they spotted my they would surely blow back up the canyon and spook all of the other deer. The next cow path over was about a foot deep so I rolled over into it, and laid down flat. Both bucks passed by me at 4 yards. 

Here is a video I captured of these two little bucks that almost ruined the entire hunt.

Once they left I continued up the canyon. I noticed 3 does head up into a pocket to the west, but no bucks followed them, so I kept going. I was one ridge away from the last place I saw the buck when I caught movement above and behind me. A 2 point muley had me pegged. To make it worse the big buck was feeding in the field just beyond the 2 point. After a long stare down the 2 point went back to feeding, but the other deer had moved off. 

A view from the spotting scope the morning I killed the big buck.

I circled back around the hill and followed the draw in the same direction I had seen those two does go earlier. I had to crawl the last 75 yards as I could see the backs of several feeding deer just 20-30 yards beyond the fence. I was in a good spot in a deep cow path, along the fence and out of sight. The deer were now on the neighbors property. I figured that I would have to come back that afternoon in hopes that the deer would come back onto the property I had permission to hunt. 

The big buck I was after was feeding just 20 yards away and I had a clear shot. As I watched the big buck I prayed, please Lord let that buck jump the fence.  Even though I was very tempted, I made the decision not to shoot across the fence. The second I made that decision the buck turned and headed straight towards the fence line. I could not believe it. 

As he got to the fence, 25 yards away, he stopped and looked directly at me. I thought the gig was up. After a long stare down the deer jumped the fence, but when he stopped I was waiting at full draw. He was 30 yards away and up a steep hill. I watched my arrow disappear over the grass between us. Then I heard a thud. The buck bolted over the hill and out of sight. I ran to the top of the hill to see where he went, but it didn't matter, the buck was already laying at the bottom of the canyon. I felt blessed to have had such an amazing opportunity and to have made a good shot.  

My Magnus Stinger did a good job on this big bodied mule deer.

The second bow I ever built was a gift for my cousin Tommy. Tommy is starting to get a little weak, so he sent me the bow to have a set of lighter limbs made. Since I had the bow I decided that I might as well kill a few deer with it. I built it, after all.

Growing up as kids, Tommy and I would always make one arrow for the other. That arrow became first in the quiver. I shot my first mule deer with an arrow that Tommy made me. We have always enjoyed doing little things like that, so shooting this deer with Tommy's bow made this deer just a little more special.

Chargin' Bull recurve, 64@28, 60". 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Deer Season

We had a pretty slow deer season. Although I did see more big bucks than I ever have in one season, none came close enough for a shot in the daylight (more in a second). 

Tom and Dan started off their season in Wisconsin. They got there for the first week of November - prime time! Unfortunately it was the slowest hunting action either of them have ever experienced. Especially in this area of Wisconsin, where we usually see a lot of quality bucks, and tons of does and small bucks. This year they hardly saw anything. 

Dan did shoot this small doe on the last day of their trip.

In the area of Colorado that we hunt the rut is usually kickin' a week or so later than Wisconsin. So that works out perfect for us. Danny and I hunted for 3.5 days, we each had an either sex tag and a doe tag. I wish we had more time to hunt!

I do not feel like I have a good grasp on how the deer move on the properties we were hunting. It is mostly sandy and filled with tamaracks. There are deer tracks scattered everywhere, with a few obvious trails. I have not observed any rhyme or reason to why the deer move where they do, and they always seemed to be 50 yards away no matter if I was set up on the best looking trail. After two years of hunting this area I already cannot wait for next season. There are several bruisers, and their chances of making it to next year are pretty good since the hunting pressure is pretty light.

Dan didn't wast any time filling his doe tag, he shot this nice big doe on the first evening of our hunt.

On the last evening of our hunt Dan went to a stand that was his last choice, but the best choice for the wind that we had to deal with. It turned out to be a good choice. In the middle of a yawn Dan thought he heard a grunt. He didn't totally trust his ears because he was yawning, but he grabbed his bow anyway and got ready, just in case. Not a minute later this buck came trotting down the trail. Dan was in position and waiting when the deer offered him a 17 yard shot.

My luck wasn't quite as good. I never had a shot present itself, though I was the one who saw the most of the big bucks on our hunt. 

One evening I was set up on the edge of a thick bunch of tamaracks. The light faded and I got ready to get out of my stand. I lowered my bow, and since I needed my pull cord for the stand I planned on hunting in the morning, I dropped it to the ground. No sooner did I do that than a nice buck walked out of the tamaracks and marched straight towards my decoy. He stood nose to nose with my decoy, snort wheezing and pawing at the ground for no less than 5 minutes. It was quite the display!

Since I had no way of getting my bow I grabbed my flashlight from my pocket. I was cussing myself and pouting as I turned my light onto the buck. The cussing and pouting got worse when I saw the deer. It was a buck we have a ton of pictures of, the biggest one we know of in the area. Ten yards away, broadside, and completely pre-occupied with my decoy. Why didn't he show up a few minutes earlier!?!?!? 

My set up.
Here are a couple of pictures we got of this deer from earlier in the season.

It was still an enjoyable year, and I passed on several smaller bucks that should turn out to be real trophies in the future. Hopefully I'll have a chance to make it out again before it gets too cold!