Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 Nebraska Turkeys

The last few years we have kind of started a tradition for the opening weekend of the Nebraska turkey season. My cousin's good friend, who happens to farm some excellent turkey hunting land, treats us all to a good steak before he lets us hunt on his land. How's that for being spoiled?

Years ago my cousin and I were looking at a few strutting toms as we sat on the public side of a fence line. Chad leaned over and said, "What would you give to be able to hunt that place!?". Wouldn't you know that that place is exactly where we hunt now?

Heath, the farmer, sets up a few tables in his barn where he grills everybody an unbelievable steak.

The turkey numbers in much of Nebraska are down. We still had a good number of birds filing into the field we were hunting.

Danny and my brother-in-law Kelly were both inundated with hens Saturday morning. No toms came close enough to shoot. 

After the turkeys moved off Danny jumped in Chad's pickup to go hunt another creek. They barely drove a mile before spotting a turkey walking down a cedar row. Danny jumped out of the truck and headed towards the bird.

Chad just had time to turn the truck around when he looked up and saw Danny be-bopping down the cedar row with a bird over his shoulder. Danny put the bird in the bed of the truck and jumped in the passenger seat like he just got done answering a call to mother nature. Leave it to my little brother to treat a spot-and-stalk turkey like just another day in the woods. He creeped down that cedar row until he thought he was within 50 yards of the bird. Danny eased through the dense trees to get an idea of where he was. As he peeked out he noticed the turkey slowly meandering away from him at 30 yards. Danny nocked his arrow and eased out just enough to send an arrow on the way.

Chad, and former RMSGear employee Andy, had already had a great morning by the time that Danny was putting the sneak on the bird above. They both decided to take one for the team and go to the "bad field" with not as many turkeys. Chad and Andy are both known for their generosity. It was swell of them to be so self sacrificing. If you read some sarcasm in the last few sentences, good, I'm glad it came across. But in all honesty these two really did choose to hunt an area with fewer birds. They were the only ones that had a chance to scout it, there were less birds, and their chances were not as good. They really did "take one for the team". All that doesn't mean much with Chad and Andy. They are both great shots, great callers, and great turkey hunters. No surprise that four of their arrows resulted in four dead toms. You could put these guys anywhere and you'll probably still see red on their arrows when they get back to camp.

I missed the big steak and the good times this year. I had to stay and watch the archery store. Which is okay, I got there late but I hunted more days. Trade-offs.

Kelly and I adjusted our first morning set up because we noticed the turkeys moving in a different pattern than years past. We brushed our blind in as good as possible and held tight. I am still coming off of a major foot surgery, so I couldn't walk that well or that far. As bad as I wanted to be out of the blind, that's my only option for the time being.

Kelly shot a nice tom early in the afternoon on the first day. We were looking at a bunch of turkeys to our east when we heard the low drumming of a nearby tom. Kelly and I slowly turned around in our blind and saw two giant toms about to start beating up our decoy. The toms came to our calls from the west as we were looking at birds to our east. Kelly made a great shot.

There were lots of turkeys around, but Kelly used the creek at our backs to retrieve the bird. Nothing keeps turkeys away better than a dead bird laying in the field.

About thirty minutes later a jake came in to check us out. I sent a Pearson Deadhead flying his direction. The jake didn't make it ten yards before dying in the field. Kelly and I let all the birds leave before getting out of the blind. By the time we got to the truck it was dark. We could hear plenty of toms gobbling from their roost, and we decided to leave our blind where it was for the following morning.

The next morning was a turkey bonanza. There was a pile of birds to our east. Before the sun came up we heard one lone gobble to the west. I hoped that bird would walk towards all the commotion on the other side of us. There would be a great chance that he would swing by us on his way.

Sure enough, that lone tom gave a thunderous gobble just a hundred yards away, but on the other side of the creek. I threw a couple of yelps his direction, hoping he'd come to us before going to join the real action. He did.

I started to get my bow ready as he changed his course towards our set up. He must have started sprinting when I took my eyes off of him. Before I was fully ready I heard wings flapping across the creek. One second later he was puffed up against my jake decoy. I zipped another Pearson Deadhead his direction. The bird was all swelled up and spinning in circles when I was aiming. I did not wait to shoot. My arrow went exactly where I aimed, straight up the legs, and just below beard level.

The tom made it back across the creek, but no further.

My brother has spent many miles of walking to locate a few mountain birds in an area where they are quite sparse. My biggest goal in turkey hunting is to get a mountain bird without a blind. After three years of scouting, and hundreds of miles of walking, there's a chance that Danny's hard work will finally pay off. Hunting those mountain birds is nothing like hunting the creek bottom toms in Nebraska. It is lots of walking, lots of days without a peep. When you finally find a tom he is as surprised to hear a hen yelp as we are to hear him gobble. So when we find one it will most likely happen pretty fast. I'll let you know how it goes!

Good luck, turkey hunters!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Commemorative Bow

A few years ago our good friend and employee, Brock, was looking for a bowyer that could build a special bow. Brock wanted to commemorate his friends the he served with in the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. Joseph Garrison, Xhacob LaTorre, Donald Vincent, and Bruce Ferrell.

After a pretty extensive search Brock settled on ordering a bow from Mike Hays of Black Canyon Bows. We all agreed that Mike's bows are hard to beat. His craftsmanship is top shelf and his bows are unbelievable shooters. Even though we all figured that Mike would be the man for the job, none of us could have guessed how spectacular this bow would actually turn out.

The riser is dymondwood with birdseye maple accent lines. 

Marv Clynke donated a scrimshaw button for the riser. I have 20/20 vision, but I cannot read the detailed letters without a magnifying glass. Marv is a true master. The intricate letters and other fine details are nothing short of amazing. 

Let me reiterate, that you cannot read this with the naked eye.

The limbs are bacote with birdseye maple spliced on the belly. The lighter colored wood showed off the writing that was laser engraved before laminating.

Brad Chamberlin of Hapa Enterprises did the laser work on the limbs for free. Mike and Brad did an amazing job. They spent a lot of money and tested a few different methods before finding a method and style that they were pleased with.

All of us here at RMSGear were absolutely thrilled with the way that the bow turned out. A huge, huge thank you to Mike Hays, Marv Clynke, and Brad Chamberlin for helping make this happen. And a bigger thanks to Joseph Garrison, Xhacob LaTorre, Donald Vincent, and Bruce Ferrell and their families. A stupid bow is not enough to thank them. Their lives are remembered.

Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Texas Pigs

We had such a good time in Texas last year that we couldn't wait to get back into the bush. A group of us from RMSGear met at my Dad's house at 6am to start the ten hour drive. A few last minute cancellations opened the door for a few guys that hadn't been there before. Stories from  previous years began immediately. We discussed pig behavior, strategy, and started to count our chickens long before they hatched.


This year was a little bit tougher. We still killed a good number of pigs, but we didn't see them concentrated in the same areas as before. The ranch got so much moisture this year that the pigs were much more spread out.

My brother didn't waste any time. He was hunting through a prickly pear flat on the first morning when he came to a little wallow. He stopped to look around when he noticed a pig snout sticking out of a bush, just thirty yards ahead. The pig snout quickly turned into a full pig, and it started walking straight towards him. The pig flopped down in the small puddle just a step away. Danny drew his bow as he was standing over the pig and pointed it at the pig's body. The pig flopped back and forth a few times before jumping to his feet and walking straight away. Danny was dumbfounded. He had a pig at his feet for ten seconds and didn't let go of an arrow. But as the pig walked away, it turned slightly broadside. Danny saw his chance and sent his arrow, a Maxima Red tipped with a razor sharp Cutthroat Broadhead, towards the pig. Danny was shooting a 500gr arrow with a heavy single bevel broadhead out of his compound bow. There ain't a pig in Texas that could slow that arrow down. The arrow entered in front of the pig's back leg and exited near the neck by the opposite front leg. The arrow buried in the dirt twenty yards beyond. The pig ran a very short distance before tipping over.

Danny heard more pigs grunting, so he walked to the dead pig and marked it in his GPS. As he peaked over the next little rise, he got his second shot of the morning. Another Cutthroat zipped through another big pig, this time broadside. That pig, too, ran a very short ways before dying. And, within an hour of the first morning of the first hunt, Danny had two pigs on the ground.

Dad didn't waste much time either. He found himself among a group of big pigs. When his hunting partner let go an errant arrow, the pigs started to trot away. Dad pulled back his Palmer recurve and followed the biggest of the group as it moved quickly through the dense brush. At thirty yards, on a trot, Dad knew that he had this pig. His arrow couldn't have been placed any better if the pig were five yards away and standing still. Dad was shooting a Beeman arrow with a 200gr Cutthroat Broadhead.

A pig rib is no match for a Cutthroat Broadhead. The broadhead didn't just shoot through the rib, it split it in half. The arrow ended up lodged in the pigs off shoulder, and put him down in under 50 yards.

On another part of the ranch, my brother-in-law, Kelly, was still hunting on top of one of the big bluffs. He spotted a bobcat through the thick bush moving right towards him. With some quick calculations of where the cat was moving, Kelly positioned himself and got his bow ready. He saw the cat moving through the trees and pointed his full-drawn bow at the opening the cat was about to walk through. When the cat stepped out, Kelly shot. The shot was spot on. The cat jumped and looked around. Kelly had a follow up shot on the way immediately. The second shot was a little further back than the first. With two arrows through the cat Kelly followed a short blood trail.

I was super excited for Kelly. That's one of my biggest bucket list critters, but Kelly didn't seem to care that much. He'd rather shoot a pig! We had to convince him that what he did was quite a feat.

So, the hunt started as we expected - fast and furious. The action slowed down over the next few days though. Most everybody got shots as the days went on, but the sightings were fewer and further between. 

Chad always has a knack for finding animals. He was still hunting down a creek when he caught the scent of swine. Their odor is...their own. Chad slipped into stealth mode and started moving even slower. He lost the scent, so he changed course until he was back on the trail. Moving slowly through the grass and cedar trees, Chad finally spotted his prey. There, ten yards away, sleeping on his side, was a little black pig. Chad creeped a few steps closer before sending an arrow into the snoozing hog. Pigs started jumping up all around him after the shot, and though he trailed the herd for a little while, his sniffer wasn't good enough to keep on them. Circling back to the place of his shot led him to his dead pig.

Our good buddy, Dave, came with us for the first time this year. We built up his expectations a little too much before the trip, but Dave still killed a couple of pigs.

On the second day of the hunt, Dave was creeping over a big hill when he heard a noise below him. Slowly glancing down the hill he saw a nice sized sow. Dave has become one of the best shots around in the past few years. The pig's demise was imminent as Dave eased his bow back to anchor. Our other buddy, Blake, was watching the events unfold through his binoculars on an adjacent ridge. The sow ran 50 yards before reaching her final resting place.

 Dave was shooting a Wapiti recurve, Maxima Red arrows, and a Cutthroat Broadhead.

On the final evening of the hunt, Dad was making his way towards a few smallish hogs that were feeding on a road. It was getting pretty dark and hard to pick a spot. Dad's arrow hit the pig with a loud crack, and it fell where it stood. The pig was spine shot.

Dad's Cutthroat was undamaged and shaving sharp, even after punching through the spine.

The rest of our group killed a few other pigs and had a fantastic time.

As for me, well, I wasn't much for hunting on this trip. I was two weeks out of  a pretty major reconstructive foot surgery. So, I was acting as the chauffeur, driving the guys to their hunting spots, dropping them off, and picking them up. I went for the laughs and camaraderie more than anything. But I cannot conclude this story without my own confession.

The pigs had been coming by the house every night. The last night of the hunt I sat in my blind under the full moon. Around 10:30pm a group of decent sized hogs surrounded me. I have been shooting out of a longer hold these past few years, and it has been serving me well. As I anchored my bow I could feel my hand drifting off of the pig. Now why is it that I didn't just let down on my bow, and restart my shot? I guess I am not that disciplined yet (but I will get there). Trying to force my aim back on to the pig proved as fruitless as any experienced archer would know. I let go of the string out of habit, not under the controlled aim that has served me so well this past year. My arrow sailed over the pig's back, and away they all went. But I'll be back. Next year...

Friday, November 21, 2014

A few weeks with Cutthroat Broadheads

This year's deer season was extra exciting with the arrival of our new broadheads. We were anxious to get them into the hands of our family and friends and take them to the field.

None of us here are marketers. We aren't "salesmen" as most people think of it. I have a hard time putting a spin on something or making large claims about a product. I don't like to be sold that way, and I don't like to sell that way. So, if you asked me how the broadheads did, I'd say that they performed like I would expect any good broadhead to perform.

The bloodtrails were consistent with what I would expect from the shot placements. Some were absolutely humongous, and some were just average.

No large bones were encountered upon entry. Ribs that were hit were splinted into many pieces. The big whitetail at the top of the page was killed by my cousin, Chad. His arrow hit the deer's far leg bone, putting a hole in it and literally splitting the bone vertically.

We are going to beef up the tips. They are too thin for our liking. Once we are happy with every aspect of the broadhead design, we'll start to market them a lot harder. For our initial roll-out though, we remain as excited as ever. There are no solid piece options on the market in single bevel (at a decent price), and none in a glue-on option. In a market where everything under the sun has been tried, thought of, produced, marketed and sold, this one design was missing. It's the simplest design, the most obvious. Isn't the simplest option usually the best option? One piece. Single bevel. It doesn't get any simpler. It doesn't get any tougher.

Brock and I each killed a doe, Brock used the 160gr glue-on head, with a 125gr steel broadhead adapter. Brock has become a heck of a shot, and when this doe stepped into his opening at 28 yards, Brock's arrow struck her right behind the elbow.

I also killed a doe, but I used the 200gr screw-in. I took a 30 yard shot. The doe ran into the creek you can see in the picture but never made it up the far bank. She died in the creek, five yards from where I shot her.

As much as I enjoy whitetail hunting, neither Brock or I took a single step towards those animals. Ground hunting is where my heart lies, pursuing an animal, stalking it, or calling to it. I went out with Brock to look at a nice muley buck that he had spotted.

Brock and I watched this buck chase a doe all morning. They covered some ground before they finally found their afternoon resting place. We watched them bed down in a patch of tall weeds. Brock knew the land owner, so I sat behind the spotting scope and kept an eye on the deer while Brock found the rancher and got permission to stalk this buck. Brock filmed his good friend kill a 200" muley in this same pasture last year, so even though he knew it would be okay, he asked anyway.

The adjoining property was standing corn. As Brock was sneaking towards the buck, four whitetail does came barreling out of the corn field a half mile away. The buck was bedded at the far right hand side of this picture. My heart rate started to increase when these deer came running by. Brock was barely in shooting position, and I worried the muley would spook. He never stood up though.

Four hours into the stalk, the wind almost picked up a little bit. Brock took off his shoes and started inching his way through the weeds. He could hear the buck's antlers hitting the dry weeds, so he had a good idea where the buck was, but he had no idea where the doe was laying.

Brock shifted the weight to his front foot when he heard a slight rustling in the weeds. He looked up to see the doe staring at him, only yards away. If he had been moving any faster, the jig would have been up. The doe stood up to her feet, which brought the buck to his feet as well. The buck stretched out his swollen neck and trotted over to the doe, passing Brock within three yards. They trotted out to thirty yards. Brock came to full draw...

My heart was absolutely racing. I was watching the events through a spotting scope from a few hundred yards away. I could see Brock come to full draw, but I was too far to see a release or the arrow in flight. I could tell by the deer's reaction that Brock had shot. I stared hard at the buck looking for any sign that he had been hit. He ran fifty yards or so before stopping. Even from my distance, I could see red blood flowing from his side, low and tight to the front leg.

I snapped this picture moments after the shot. You can see Brock in the weeds, the doe on the left, and the buck, just before expiring, on the right.

Brock's arrow passed through the deer like a hot knife through butter.

Usually dirt on my own broadhead is a bad sign, but when you shoot as well as Brock, they always get dirt on them!

Blood gushed from the low hit. 

The buck, as he lay.


Brock shot his deer with a Hawk recurve, 47@28, 62". He was using Victory HV arrows and a Cutthroat Broadhead. The bloodtrail was profuse!

I had some of the best whitetail deer hunting action I have ever experienced. The wind, my eternal enemy, really played with my emotions on this trip. I was not where I knew I needed to be. I watched four tremendous bucks walk down a ditch between corn fields in their search for does. They all passed by the same tree, the one that held my stand. The one the wind never allowed me to use because I wasn't willing to take the chance of alerting them to my presence. 

I ended up having two giant bucks cruise past me, barely out of range, and drew my bow on a spot and stalk, but that was it. They eluded me this year...but not without a couple memories and experiences that will be with me forever.

This great buck passed me at 45 yards, a shot I will not take.

I've only gotten out of my treestand twice in my life, both times due to weather. With 40mph wind gusts and temperatures in the single digits, I didn't want to sit in a swaying tree. I thought my chances would be better trying to sneak up on a buck, so I got down and walked to the truck.

Brock and I spotted a great whitetail bedded with a doe in the middle of a pasture, in a perfect spot to sneak up on. I crawled to within 20 yards of the buck and doe. I didn't know how to play it after I got within range. I knew I was going to wait them out and let them stand on their own, but then what? I decided to sit at the ready and draw my bow when the deer stood up. I knew that they would see me but hoped that they would give me a half second to shoot.

I could see the buck's antler tines through the grass. I drew my bow when his head dipped and his tail end came up. I got to full draw on a great buck who was oblivious to my presence. Before the buck completed his stance he glanced at the figure sitting in the grass. He was not curious, and he did not take a second to figure out what I was. He simply bolted. So close...

My cousin Chad had better luck on the ground than I did. Chad spotted this buck bedded in a corn field. Luck was on Chad's side, and he was able to use combine tracks to silently crawl 15 yards from this deer. With day light fading Chad was worried the deer might not stand up. As if by divine intervention, in the middle of a huge field, another buck happened to walk right to Chad and the big deer. The big buck sprang to his feet and aggressively moved towards the smaller deer. Chad drew undetected and shot as the buck walked by less than five yards away. The deer ran 40 yards on a hard sprint before crashing into the corn field.

Chad used a 55@28, 60" Chargin' Bull bow that he built and an adapted 160gr Cutthroat Broadhead.

My brother's girlfriend Ashely got her first big game kill. She has been a dedicated shooter and bowhunter. She has put on more miles in the mountains than most men I know. Ashley made a great 25yard shot on this little doe, who only ran 20 yards before falling.

Ashley's arrow buried into the far shoulder, which kept the doe from running very well. The amount of blood was impressive. Ashley's arrow pierced the deer's heart and both lungs.

Ashley shoots a 55@28, 60" Rampart recurve. She was shooting the 200gr Cutthroat Broadhead.

Danny had some good action but did not kill a deer. We've had some fun encounters with this ten point over the past few years. A hunting buddy and I both had him at ten yards last season, both times in the dark. Danny had him at 20 yards this year at 1pm. He was chasing a doe and would not stop in Danny's opening. He got a little smaller this year, but he's still an impressive deer.

Danny also got to full draw on the buck below but never had an opening to shoot.

We are all hoping to get some late season hunting in. Good luck to everybody who still has a tag!