Monthly Archives: March 2016

Learn Rack Size By the Signs

You know what a buck rub looks like. You know that bigger bucks tend to rub bigger trees, and you’re probably aware that a buck travels in the direction facing the rubbed side of a tree. But there’s more to be gleaned from a savaged sapling. The right rub can tell you the size of a buck’s rack, whether he has any beauty points, and how to hunt him.

1. Time of Day
In hilly country, buck rubs that are visible when facing uphill were likely made in the morning as the buck traveled back to his high-ground bedding area. Likewise, the ones you see when looking downhill were probably made in the evening. Wherever feeding areas are open and obvious, such as crop fields, rubs that show when you’re facing into the woods are morning rubs. Their opposites are evening rubs.

2. Velvet Proof
Where there’s off-track ATV travel, it can be difficult to distinguish between a tree that’s been debarked by a buck and one that’s been scraped by a four-wheeler. During preseason and early-season scouting, look for shed velvet on the ground beneath the rub. You won’t always find it—velvet dries quickly and bucks sometimes eat it—but it’s a sure sign when it’s there.

3. Big Tree, Big Buck
This familiar rule of thumb is valid. But remember, there are plenty of exceptions. A mature buck with a narrow tip-to-tip spread or other unusual rack configuration may not be able to rub a large-diameter tree in the usual way.

4. High Rub, Big Buck
Though far less familiar, this is a good rule of thumb, too. A mature buck is taller and stronger and therefore tends to rub higher off the ground. Caveat: This only applies to fresh rubs in fall. Snowpack can affect rub height, giving you a false reading late in the season.

5. Non-typical Marks
Sticker points, split brow tines, and other odd pieces of bone commonly leave corresponding deep, off-center gouges on the tree trunk, branches, or adjacent trees, which can help you identify a specific buck.

6. Rack Width
Wherever you find rubs on multi trunked or closely clumped trees, look for scars or broken branches on saplings and shrubs adjacent to the main rub. They can tell you how wide a buck’s rack is.

7. Tine Length
Look on the underside of branches, too. A tall-tined buck may leave nicks or scraped bark on branches a foot or more above the main rub.

8. Color Clues
Keep an eye peeled for old rubs. A mixture of light-colored new rubs, gray weathered rubs, and often blackish healing-over rubs reveals a perennial favorite buck route and also suggests that the animal making them is now mature.

"The Beatty Buck" taken with a compound bow by Michael Beatty in Ohio in 2000. 40 Points on a 10 point mainframe

“The Beatty Buck” taken with a compound bow by Michael Beatty in Ohio in 2000. 40 Points on a 10 point mainframe



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FUN Camo Cupcake Sandwiches

Camo cupcakes are surprisingly easy to make considering how cool they look!

To make the cupcake sandwiches, start by mixing up a box of French vanilla cake batter, then divide the batter into four equal parts in four separate bowls. Use Kelly green, brown, and black gel dyes to tint the batter army green, black, brown, and beige (see handy-dandy chart, below).



Once all the batters are mixed up, spoon the batter bit by bit, color by color, into a whoopie pie pan – or to get the waffle effect shown here, use a Wilton ice cream sandwich pan instead.

Bake the cakes for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. After baking, remove each cake and cool on a wire rack, then sandwich them together with frosting that’s been tinted army green. Be sure to check out Debbie’s blog for her shortening-free whoopie pie frosting recipe!


…and yes – you can make these in pink, too! (Adorable!)



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Gear: A Cure for Cold Feet

ThermaCELL’s electronically heated insoles aren’t perfect, but they are the best cure for my biggest late-season deer hunting problem: cold feet. When temperatures drop into the teens,  toes can start to burn with the cold unless wearing heavy felt-lined boots. If hiking to a stand or do some still-hunting, however, pac boots make feet sweat, which guarantees  toes will be cold when standing still.Thermacell-Insole-1

The best thing about ThermaCELL’s heated insoles is the fob-like remote and built-in control board and battery. Unlike chemical toe warmers, which start out hot and gradually cool down, these let you wirelessly select “No Heat” when you don’t need any supplemental warmth, then either “Medium” (100 degrees F) or “High” (110 degrees F) heat when you do, all without clumsy external batteries or switches.

That allows for wearing a favorite pair of lightweight, moderately insulated knee-high rubber boots when on the go, with the assurance that the heat can be vamped up if on a stand or stop for whatever reason. And even if wearing heavier boots, the control board acts like a thermostat and temporarily shuts off power to the heating element when it reaches the selected temperature.


It’s genius—though not without a few flaws.

  • For starters, the molded, cushioned insoles are much thicker than the insoles that come standard with most boots and can only use them with light socks in boots that are large to begin with. Otherwise the fit is way too snug.
  • They could also be a little warmer, and the battery life is disappointing. The lithium-ion unit built into the heel of each insole recharges quickly, but it does not come close to the advertised five-hour run time at medium heat.
  • And they’re pricey, at about $130. If the battery lives up to its promised 500 charges, that works out to only about $0.26 per use, which is about one-quarter what chemical toe warmers cost. At this point, though, that’s still a big “if.”


But the biggest complaint is with the remote. It doesn’t confirm what setting the insole is at. Sometimes it’s off when it should be on and on when it should be off. A positive on-off switch, or even better a setting and battery level indicator, would be a huge improvement. So for now we’ll have to wait for the perfect cure. Until then, these are still pretty darn good, and a second pair would be convenient so they can be swap out on all-day hunts.



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One of the consolations of getting older is getting better at some things, like shooting a shotgun, for instance. On the other hand an older person would lose a game of one-on-one basketball or a footrace with 30-year-old person, and we all know who would win the shooting contest.


What that means is, if you’re a shot-gunner, you probably have a list of days gone by you wish you had back for a do-over. You know, those days in the field when everything was perfect, the stars aligned, and . . .  you couldn’t hit a thing.

In those days we shot only traps for target practice and we hunted a lot of upland birds.  We were good shots on flushing game, but we had no clue how to lead birds when it came to pass-shooting. They are two very different shooting skills.

imagesA0ZB103T2We were setting up in a snowy field with a small spread of full-body decoys. Layout blinds hadn’t become universally popular yet and we were sitting in popup blinds that were square and about the size of a washing machine. Across the road from us was a mass of 50,000 geese that are called the Glob.  In the morning the whole Glob rose up in a seething ball, and as it whirled around like the flakes of a snow globe, strings of geese would split off from it on their way out to feed. At first, geese ignored our spread. The rest of our party grew impatient and went off to try somewhere else, leaving just one and the guide to guard the decoys.

Then the geese started flying over us. They didn’t want in to the decoys, but we were right on the flightline. The snows came in a near endless stream of ones, twos and little bunches about 35 yards up and directly over us. It didn’t even bother them if we left the lids of our popup blinds open. It was as perfect a setup as a pass-shooter could hope for.   We both shot as the guide, Dave, tried to coach on the right leads.  We went through the first box without cutting a feather and was into the second when finally a lone goose came by about ten feet off the ground. That shot had to made, and at the end of the morning, that one bird was all to show for the big pile of empty cartridges on the ground.


We had been on quite a few snow goose hunts and of course,  all of them unsuccessful. This was the best chance to shoot a bunch of them and can still see those geese clearly, flying at us in line. We yearn to go back and have that day over again, knowing what we know now.



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Bull-In the Rut

Understanding the Moose Rut

Once you understand the moose rut, you will have a much better chance of finding moose. During the moose-rutting season moose are found in different areas than other parts of the seasons.

What Season Is the Rut?

Typically the peak of the rutting season for moose is the first two weeks of October. This is only an average though. The further north in the hemisphere you travel the earlier in the season the rut happens and the opposite is true for going south.

There are of course always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part early October will be the peak. Some have hunted in early September and been able to call bull moose in using and estrous cow moose calls in an area that I know the peak rut is October. There will always be some cow moose that will start ovulating early and of course a bull moose that hears the yearning calls of a cow moose in estrous will investigate, and may even vocalize his approach.

Where do the Moose Go During the Rut?

We have been asked many times where do the moose go during the rut? Hunters have been out pre-rut scouting and located the moose. Once the season has arrived they return to where they found the moose and cannot find any! Why?


Before the bull moose go into rut, they are usually found in the higher elevation areas. They will seek out cooler and thicker areas of the forest, higher in elevation trying to escape insects and predators.

Cow moose and their calves on the other hand will stay in the lowlands near water. The cows seek out water for two main reasons… food and safety. Calves are vulnerable, especially to wolves and bears. A cow with calf will use the water as an escape when threatened by predators. Sure the insects will be more bother but the safety of water will outweigh this.

When the moose rut begins and likely for a few weeks before the beginning of the cow moose estrous the bulls will move down out of the higher elevations to seek out the cows. The bulls will stay in the lower and wetter areas within proximity of the cows with hope of getting the breeding done. As the rut winds down the bull moose will once again move back to the higher elevations.

This migration makes for a sometimes elusive hunt.  Scan the area and look for all sign and be prepared for one exhilarating experience!

Join us next time for what to do when you spot your moose!!



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Posted by on March 27, 2016 in hunting, moose, Wawang Lake Resort


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Balancing Your Back Pack

In hurry and trying to hastily pack out a deer from the backcountry in one trip, a hunter carried a heavy, irregular pack too low and in the process damaged a spinal disc, pinched nerves in his hip, and lost feeling in his ham hocks for quite some time.



Here are a few tips to help you shoulder a heavy load comfortably and safely—and avoid the physical therapy and chiropractic sessions the hunter had to go through.

From the bottom up
Stuff your sleeping bag, pad, and tent in the bottom of the pack.

Heavy load
Place the heavy freight—like a meat quarter—above the light cargo and against your back. It should sit above your hips and between your shoulder blades.

Cram Session
Surround the heavy stuff with lighter gear, such as clothing and food, followed by cooking gear, water filter, and the like. Pack the lightest gear like a hat and gloves in any remaining space at the top.

At the ready
Stash gear like a GPS, flashlight, or other items you might need to access quickly in the pack’s lid.

It’s a cinch
Now that it’s packed right, here’s how to carry your pack:



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Geared Up: Cleaning your gun

Most know that cleaning a firearm is a necessity for ownership.  This not only helps prevent malfunction and missfire but can also help bullet path and accuracy.  What most don’t know is that the average gun owner does not clean their firearm correctly which can lead to major headaches down the road 🙂

Here are a few great tips to set you straight

Step 1: Clean barrel and metal parts
Step 1: Clean barrel and metal parts with good commercial solvent.
Step 2: Bore should be cleaned through breech end
Step 2: Bore should be cleaned through breech end where possible.
Step 3: Clean bore until dry patch comes through as clean
Step 3: Clean bore until dry patch comes through as clean as possible.
Step 4: Run oily patch through barrel
Step 4: Run oily patch through barrel.
Step 5: All metal parts should get light coat of oil
Step 5: All metal parts should get light coat of oil.
Step 6: Store in horizontal position
Step 6: Store in horizontal position, or with muzzle pointing down.
Step 7: After storage, run a clean patch through bore
Step 7: After storage, run a clean patch through bore before firing.
Step 8: Remove all excess grease and oil
Step 8: Remove all excess grease and oil.
Click to view pdf of this diagram
With clean gun in hand, enjoy the hunt!


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The Bear Facts – What You Should Know

Despite divided opinion about the political correctness of bear hunting, it is something every hunter should try at least once. But a word of caution, if you want to make the most of your outings, there are a few key things you should know. The more knowledgeable you are, the better your chances of tagging a trophy.


Black Bear can be found roaming the woods in every northern state, all provinces and many eastern and western states. The smallest member of the bear family in North America, black bears are the most populated. Thriving in almost every jurisdiction, populations are on the rise across the continent.

Black bear can be hunted only in the fall at Wawang Lake. Each state and province has specific regulations dictating when and how bears can be hunted. If you want to spend more time in the woods, black bears make the perfect prey during the fall. With thick coats in prime condition, fall is the preferred choice of bear hunters that are looking for that trophy bear. If you’re fortunate enough to connect with a trophy-sized black bear chances are you’ll end up with a beautiful specimen, well worth making into a rug or head mount.

Over-the-counter tags are only available in certain states and provinces. Some states issue tags only through a limited entry draw/lottery process.

In many ways black bears are misrepresented and misunderstood. Ironic but true, bruins are gentle by nature. This stands in contrast to their stereotypically vicious reputation.

Found in a variety of color phases, pelage can range from white through yellow, with black, brown and cinnamon being the most common. Their ominous looking dark shiny coat is the obvious contributor to their malignant image; it may also be the black bear’s slow, methodical and calculated gestures. Whatever the reason, these quiet, yet dominant nomads of our coniferous and mixed forests, are worthy of both admiration and respect.

A sow will typically accompany her cubs for 16 or 17 months. At the end of this period she will sever ties, forcing the youngsters to go off on their own.

Females will reach their maximum size at six years, and boars continue to grow to a maximum size at 12 years of age. On average, most bears taken by hunters weigh somewhere between 175 and 300 pounds. Any black bear topping the 300-pound mark is considered large.

Aside from body weight, black bears are judged by the size of their skull, with a Boone & Crockett minimum eligibility score of 21 inches and a Pope & Young score of 18 inches.

We often hear of bears being territorial and, in a sense, this is true. While there exists a distinct hierarchy within the ranks of bear world, it is not uncommon to find many individuals residing in a given geographic area. Home ranges can span from two to 10 miles and resident populations will often hold a variety of boars, sows and cubs.

Heavily timbered forests near logging areas often sustain good bear densities.  With blueberry areas, black bear favor the accessibility and abundance of such forage and often reside in proximity.

As forest dwellers, black bear are omnivorous. Predominantly feeding on a variety of plants and berries throughout the summer, springtime offers a feast of dandelion and fresh grasses. Opportunists extraordinaire, black bear  will also feed on carrion. Consistent with this and the fact that bears favor beavers as a staple food source in some regions, areas with spruce and poplar mixed forest and cascading beaver dams can be dynamite locations for the hunter to focus his/her attention.dam2

As with ungulate species, black bears undergo an annual rut cycle. Beginning in late May and continuing on through most of June, boars go in search of breeding partners. It is during this approximate six to eight week period that most large bears are taken by savvy hunters. Just as with members of the deer family, the larger, educated and otherwise reclusive boars become more visible as they readily cross roadways, clear-cuts and feed in open areas as they look for sows in estrus.

Black bears den up in late October and drift into a state of torpor. This is not a true state of hibernation, but rather of slowed metabolism, during the cold winter months. In this suspended state, they cease to defecate, urinate or eat for the next 5-6 months. They do however periodically awaken from this sleep to stretch and walk around. Usually only a brief interlude, black bears soon return to the den to wait out the long winter. Sows will deliver and nurse their cubs in the den and as the snow begins to melt and spring arrives, they’ll leave the den to begin their search for food.

Bear meat brings mixed reviews. Some savor every morsel, and others grimace at the very mention of it. Its greasy, coarse texture and sweet flavor requires a certain kind of palate. A word of caution however, bear meat should be thoroughly cooked as it can carry a parasitic infection known as trichinella, a potentially dangerous disease to humans.

Black bear have relatively poor eyesight, but an outstanding sense of smell and an uncanny hearing ability.

When hunting black bear, consider food source. Focus on areas with a sufficient forage base. There should be water nearby along with good cover. With the aid of topographic maps, look for spots with streams, rivers and ample low ground to provide damp, dark and cool cover. In boreal forest regions, this will be dense moss-laden areas bordering swamps and isolated marshy wetlands. In mountainous regions, this will often be found in drainages along creeks and other waterways.

Once a general area is identified, begin your search by looking at trees. Claw marks on deciduous trees are the most obvious indicators. In mixed forest areas mature poplars wear the battle scars revealing claw marks of days gone by. While rarely do you stumble upon fresh markings, these lasting scars unveil a historical presence.

Bear leave tracks. A great place to look for these is in the wet sand and soil along shorelines of rivers, streams and lakes. Most often at least one or two old or new tracks are found, keeping in mind that bears frequently use these movement corridors. A 5″ or better pad/track can suggest a good bear is in the area.DDW-Bear-Hunt-086

Nomadic creatures, bears commonly travel traditional trails along ridges, in valleys, and along drainages. Finding fresh scat can instill further confidence in your pursuit and help you identify the size of a particular bear.

A variety of strategies and techniques are proven effective in pursuing spring black bears. Whether floating down a river, walking cut-lines, spot and stalk hunting, baiting or calling, black bears are very huntable. Each strategy has its own merits.

A good set of binoculars is a must when spot and stalk bear hunting. Once spotted, the stalk begins. The regular rules apply – keep the wind in your face; remember bears rely heavily on their sense of smell. The best time to spot and stalk black bears is the five to 10 day window just prior to, or just as the deciduous trees begin to bud. With little food available in the woods, they can frequently be seen browsing on cut-lines and south-facing slopes where the first green grasses begin to sprout.bin

Baiting is far from easy, and holds no guarantees! From time to time you get lucky and have one move in cautiously to inspect the provisions, but this is frequently more the exception than the rule. Perhaps the biggest advantage I see in baiting is that, if and when a bear finally does come to the bait, it can allow the hunter time to assess size and stature. This is advantageous for the trophy hunter, allowing the option to pass up smaller bears, thus diminishing the odds of falling victim to ground shrink.

Predator calling bears has come into its own in recent years. A myriad of videos and how-to articles are available to hunters looking for an alternative approach to hunting bears. I sometimes carry a Lohman wounded rabbit call for scenarios where calling might come in handy. While patience is required in this game of calling, it can take some time before a big old bruin responds favorably. But when they do, be ready, because they’re coming in for dinner!wawanglakebear

As a rule, black bears want no more to do with you than Superman does with kryptonite. The fact is, it’s important to treat them with due respect, be aware they possess immense strength and are able to cause considerable damage. To get an accurate picture on the nature of bears, I highly recommend a book entitled, Bear Attacks – Their Causes and Avoidance written by Dr. Stephen Herrero. Having heard him speak at a conference, the clear message I gleaned was that if, and when, black bears show aggression, most often they’ll bluff charge … stop 10 yards away and bounce on their front legs. Periodically they’ll stand up, but this is usually to help them get a better look at what is going on. This is intimidating, but most often harmless.

The only thing predictable about black bears is that they are unpredictable. Although many will avoid humans at all cost, there are some that have no fear at all. Caution and respect should always be exercised.



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How To Call Your Shots

Calling a shot simply means the marksman can tell where his bullet hit. This can be done by observing the bullet’s flight and impact or by knowing where the sights were the instant the firearm was triggered. There are two separate, but complementary, ways to call a shot.


When shooting from non-prone positions, witnessing the impact of the bullet is difficult. The trick is to focus intently on the position of the sights and take a mental snapshot of where they were in relation to the target when the bullet was fired.

The best way to develop this skill is through dry-fire practice, coupled with live-fire practice shots at the range. When dry-firing, use a small target that is a challenge to keep the crosshairs on. Don’t fight the wobble of the sight, just smoothly break the shot as it covers the target. Remember where the crosshairs were when the trigger clicked. At the range, do this with every shot.

To actually see your bullet’s impact, you must pair this level of focus with excellent form. If you are square behind the rifle and not putting any pressure on the stock that will cause it to jump to the side under recoil, you’ll be able to watch the bullet and see where it hits.



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Pattern Birds for a Better Hunt

But you can save steps, increase your flush count, get more shots, and bag more birds if you use some common sense and follow the program below. Ruffed grouse utilize different parts of their habitat at different times of day. Here’s where to hunt and when.

Early Morning: Timber Seams
Don’t believe sleepyhead late-risers who rationalize that grouse hunting is better at midmorning. Hit the woods at sunrise, when the birds have just flown down and are moving out and laying down some scent for your dog. Even if you hunt without a canine, grouse are on the move and more vulnerable now.


Hunt seams and transitions between big, mature timber (where birds like to roost), open areas, and the thick brush where grouse spend the bulk of their day. Another good zone is the seam between conifers, such as pines or spruce, and hardwoods.

cranMidmorning: Feeding Zones
By the time the sun has been up for an hour, most grouse have arrived at their feeding area and are foraging hard. Know what the birds are eating: If you shoot a grouse, open up its crop and check inside. Then hunt that kind of feed.

Grouse love high bush cranberries, plus most any other juicy or freeze-dried fruit, such as crab apples. Abandoned orchards are grouse heaven. If there are oaks around, grouse will look for small acorns and pieces. Work the edges of open areas like hay meadows and abandoned fields, where grouse will hunt insects and pick up seeds. Logging roads and tote trails with clover are also prime.

Afternoon: Thick Stuff
After feeding, ruffs work their way into the thick stuff, where they will loaf and spend the day under cover. As a general rule, think “low” and/or “damp” now—along brooks, creeks, marshes, bogs, and seeps.

Head for stands of young aspen—trunks from buggy-whip-thick to fencepost diameter are about right. Grouse love tag alder thickets, especially where that cover butts up to timber or wetlands. Brushy tangles of witch hazel, raspberry canes, and multiflora rose hold birds. So do deadfalls. On windy days, kick around in the grassy edges of some of the thickest cover.

Late Afternoon: Feeding/Gritting Areas
By late afternoon, grouse are out feeding again, as well as pecking for grit.
Hit the kinds of feeding areas discussed above. Also work sandy lanes, dirt roads, and the edges of other open areas where birds pick up grit.

Evening: Transition Corridors
You can hunt grouse right up to sunset, and this is a great time to be out, when the birds are back on the move toward roosting areas. Research indicates that grouse prefer to roost in and under deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, in brush piles, and in leaf litter. When cold weather hits, grouse will snow roost unless conditions are unsuitable. Conifers are then the roost cover of choice. Try hunting the transitions between stands of young timber and thick brush, or young timber and mature trees. If the evening is windy, stick to lower ground where birds find protection and quiet.



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