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Where to Place Your Trail Cams

A trail camera won’t stumble through a bedding area, leave scent all over a trail, or exaggerate the size of a rack. And it’ll never oversleep. But your perfect little scouting buddy must be chosen wisely and placed carefully if you want to pattern that old, crafty animal you know is around. Here’s how…

CameraNO_MosaicYELLOW

The earlier version trail cameras were just a 35mm film point-and-shoot tucked in a weatherproof housing. It snapped a single picture when something triggered the sensor. After retrieving the camera, you ran to the one-hour shop to get the film developed, then thumbed through a week’s worth of pictures. More than once a stack of 36 prints revealed a handful of out-of-focus animals and a couple dozen shots of a wind-whipped brush or a drooping tree branch. That was only a few years ago.

Today, many website boasts several pages of trail cams, and even the cheapest one outperforms the original older ones. They have lenses sharp enough to count the ticks on a deer’s neck, electronic circuit boards so efficient that four AA batteries will run a unit for months, and memory cards that hold thousands of pictures you can download to your computer or delete at the touch of a button. And those are standard features on mid-priced cameras. The high-end ones will send a photo to your cellphone or laptop.

Like everything in the digital age, trail-cam technology has improved, competition has become fierce, and prices have plunged. Still, $200 is plenty of money, and matching a camera with the right features to meet your needs is critical. And even the best camera can’t take spectacular photos of a trophy buck if you don’t set it properly. But it’s not difficult to get started. These are the basics.

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Wildlife biologists use trail cams to measure herd densities, buck-to-doe ratios, and the like. Your goals should be simpler: learning about the deer on your property, figuring out where to hunt them, and having fun in the process. You can pinpoint ideal spots before you buy a camera, and the locations you choose can determine what model is best for you. Here are four sites for four different periods.

Time: Late Summer
Site: Mineral lick
Goal: To start an inventory of buck numbers and quality on your property.
Setup: Find a spot with moderate to heavy deer traffic and spade up dirt in a 2-foot circle. Pour in half of an ice-cream pail of stock salt or commercial deer mineral and spade it into the loosened soil. Pour the rest on top.
Tips:
• Establish one or two licks per 80 acres. Allow deer up to a week to find them.
• Situate each lick 10 to 30 feet from a tree for mounting a camera.
• Jam a stick behind the camera’s top edge to point it down toward the lick.

500Time: Early Season
Site: Mock scrape
Goal: To find bucks after velvet shed, when they often relocate. Mocks can draw up to 90 percent of the bucks you’ll hunt.
Setup: Rake grass and forest debris 5 feet away from a tree that has a green, overhanging licking branch 5 to 7 feet above the ground. Activate with your own “product” (drink plenty of liquids) or deer urine.
Tips:
• If you are not getting clear shots of a buck, aim the camera at the licking branch. Most bucks will work it with their antlers.
• Establish multiple scrapes in each area and hang cameras only on the most active ones.

Time: Rut
Site: Funnel
Goal: To determine where resident bucks are traveling and whether traveling bucks are in the area.
Setup: Find terrain features that channel buck movement and hang a camera near fresh tracks and rubbing activity. Check camera every three to five days—the rut moves quickly.
Tips:
• Mount camera at a 45-degree angle to the trail. Bucks often move through funnels quickly; a camera set perpendicular to the trail might miss the shot.
• Scuff dirt in front of the camera with a boot. Such a mini mock will often make a moving buck pause and get “shot.”

Time: Late Season
Site: Food source
Goal: To find out where to fill a last-minute tag, and to know which bucks have survived the bulk of the hunting season.
Setup: Scout widely to find the hot food sources in your area, such as waste grainfields and clear-cuts. Place camera within 30 feet of the most heavily trafficked area. Load it with fresh batteries if you hunt in an extremely cold area.
Tips:
• Set up and check cameras at midday to avoid spooking feeding deer.
• If no trees are located near the food source, mount the camera on a tripod and camouflage it with grass or brush.

Make the Next Shot Count!

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Maximizing Your Hunting Time With Trail Cameras

cameraOver the last five years, probably no other “gadget” has changed the way we scout more than the trail camera. For many of us, running trail cameras is a hobby in itself, bringing a whole new excitement to our deer hunting efforts. Much more than just something to pass time, however, running trail cameras can give you a unique insight into the patterns of deer on your hunting properties and really tip the odds in your favor for harvesting a mature whitetail. Let’s take a look at the features to look for when purchasing a trail camera, and how to get the maximum benefit from the camera once you have made your purchase.

As the popularity of these scouting tools has grown, so has the number of companies offering their own line of cameras. The features on these cameras cover such a wide spectrum that choosing the right one for you can be a daunting and sometimes confusing task. While this article isn’t meant to tell you WHICH camera to buy, it IS meant to help you sort through some of the most common differences among the various trail cameras to help you narrow down your search.

RESOLUTION
The resolution of a trail camera is a measure of the image size that the camera creates. So a 5.0 megapixal trail camera will give you a much larger image – and therefore more detail – than one with 3.0 megapixals. Which resolution you choose really depends on how important it is to have a large, crisp image. If you are only concerned with having a general idea of what deer are in the area and when they are traveling through, then about any resolution offered on today’s cameras will suffice. If you want a larger, more detailed image to print off for your friends, then you may want to shoot for something with at least 3.0 megapixels.

BATTERY TYPE & LIFE
In my mind, this is one of the most important considerations when choosing a trail camera, as it will have a huge effect on the cost of maintaining the camera. I have seen some “cheap” trail cameras that burn through six C-sized batteries in a week, and suddenly the “cheap” camera gets VERY expensive! Others claim to operate up to a year on eight AA batteries. So before you go buying a camera based on price alone, keep in mind the battery life, as it may be the most expensive choice you could make in the long run.

TRIGGER SPEED
Another important feature is the trigger speed of the camera, which is simply how long it takes the trail camera to shoot a picture once something has “triggered” the motion sensor. A faster trigger speed can be the difference between having a great shot of that trophy buck and just having a picture of a deer’s butt as it walks out of the frame. If you plan on placing your trail cameras over feeders or a mineral lick, then trigger speed will not be as much of an issue as it would if hung along a trail.

FLASH TYPE
This is almost a moot point, since most trail cameras today have gone to infrared flash. An infrared flash, as opposed to the incandescent flash found standard on most consumer cameras, is less likely to spook deer, uses less battery life, and is less likely to be detected by other humans (i.e. thieves!). While I’ve gotten plenty of pictures of big, mature whitetails with an incandescent flash trail camera, there is no doubt that some animals are spooked by the bright flash. If you can afford the infrared flash, the benefits certainly outweigh the small increase in cost.

OTHER FEATURES
While we have covered some of the most important features to consider when buying a new trail camera, there are many more options that could impact your decision. One of these options is the size of the unit. Size varies greatly amongst trail cameras, and some companies are now producing models that are as small as your hand. Other models go as far as being able to send the pictures it takes directly to your email or cell phone, so the only time you have to check them is when the batteries need replacing. How’s that for convenience?

Before you head out to buy your next trail camera, take a minute to think about how it will be used and what features are most important to you. This will make the task of narrowing down your choices much easier when you start the shopping process.

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MAXIMIZING TRAIL CAMERA USE
Once you have waded through all the details, made your decision and laid down your hard earned money on a trail camera, all that’s left is to hang that thing on a tree, right? Let’s take a look at some ways you can be sure you are using your camera to its potential this season and getting the most bang for your buck.

DRAW THEM IN
One of the easiest ways to maximize the effectiveness of your trail camera and insure that you see a good representation of what is in your hunting area is to use some type of attractant to lure the deer into camera range. Probably the most common attractant used across the country is shelled corn – it’s cheap, readily available, and the deer love it. For the purpose of getting trail camera pictures, there is no need to invest in an expensive feeder; just simply spread 100 pounds on the ground in an eight to ten-foot circle area where you want to hang your camera. For safety reasons, do not place the corn in large piles or in an area that holds moisture, as this can result in molding that can cause disease in both deer and turkey. Depending on deer density and other available food sources, this should get you five to ten days worth of pictures. Be patient, as it may take a few days for the deer to really key in on the corn and for you to start getting good pictures. Once they find it, though, it won’t last long!

Before you start dumping corn on your favorite hunting property, check your local game laws regarding baiting. If corn or other “feed” is prohibited, but would still like to attract deer to your camera location, then you may want to consider creating a mineral lick. You can buy one of the many commercial mixes available today, or simply create your own by mixing 50 lbs of trace mineral, 50 lbs of feed mix salt, and 10 lbs of dicalcium phosphate. Break the soil up with a shovel in the area where you want to create your lick and work your mix into the soil. Once the lick gets a good rain on it, it shouldn’t take long for the deer to find it and start paying regular visits.

KEEP IT MOBILE
Unless you are hunting a really small property, or you have the money to invest in lots of trail cameras, then you are going to need to move your cameras around to really get a good idea of what the deer are doing on your hunting property. Don’t get caught in the trap of leaving your camera in the same spot all season. This will not only limit your ability to pattern the deer, but it may keep you from discovering that trophy buck that could be hanging out on the other side of the property!

images40V5Z2FA2By experience, two weeks seems to be enough time to get a good representation of what deer are in the area, without your camera spending too much time in one location. You can always bring the camera back to the same spot at a later time, but the idea is to cover as much of your hunting area as possible.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Once you have moved your camera around your property and gotten plenty of pictures to look at, the real work has just begun. Now is the time to sort through the pictures, identifying as many unique animals as you can, analyzing what camera sites each deer is visiting and the times that they were there. This should start to give you an idea of the travel patterns on the property, as well as potential stand locations.

This season, make sure you use these tips to get the most out of your trail cameras, and the next picture you get of that monster buck may be the one with you behind him holding his antlers, OR, even that BIG bear 🙂

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Checklist for Backpacker’s

Checklist for Backpacker’s

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Hunting: Muzzleloader

Muzzleloaders are a lot of fun to shoot! The concept of a single shot makes shooters try to do their best on every shot. Large puffs of smoke belching from the muzzle after each shot, makes this a very visual shooting sport. As well, muzzleloaders are capable of firing a variety of bullet weights and powder charges, giving them the ability to be a multi species firearm.

For years, people have shot muzzle-loading guns. Most shooters fired old style flintlock guns with open sights. Some shooters found these early muzzle-loading firearms reminded them of their forefathers and helped these individuals re-live the past. However, for many shooters, these guns were unappealing, inaccurate and were a royal pain in the butt to shoot and clean. Thus, there were a very limited number of people involved in muzzleloader shooting and hunting.

Over the course of the past several years, the interest in muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunting has grown and continues to grow. Much of this growth is due to several gun manufacturers developing inline muzzle-loading rifles that are built with today’s technology, using yesterday’s ideas. These fine firearms are fun and easy to use, have high percentage ignitions and are highly accurate. In addition, they’re easy to disassemble and clean.

These new muzzle-loading guns resemble modern center-fire rifles. They have excellent safety mechanisms and precision rifled barrels. Many of them come tapped and died directly from the factory, so all a shooter has to do is add bases, rings and a scope. It’s very common these days for shooters using in-line muzzleloaders with scopes to achieve one inch groups or better at a hundred yards.

Along with the invention of new muzzleloaders, there has also been a major advancement in gun cleaning solutions. There are all kinds of effective no fuss, no mess gun cleaning solutions designed specifically for muzzleloaders. These new cleaning chemicals make cleaning muzzleloaders a breeze. With these new products, gone are the hours of cleaning after each session at the range or in the field!

Hunters are also quickly discovering that muzzleloaders offer new hunting seasons, high levels of success and many other unique opportunities.

Extra Seasons and Hunting Benefits
Many states and provinces, including my home province of Saskatchewan offer special muzzleloader hunting seasons that are separate from regular rifle seasons. Many of these special seasons are approximately a month before the regular rifle hunting seasons and are often set up to coincide with or run just before the peak rut of the big game species. Hunting with a muzzleloader during these bonus time periods can prove very exciting and productive. Antelope, deer, moose and elk become more mobile and visible just prior to and during their rutting periods as they try to prove their dominance or search for mates.

In many jurisdictions, special muzzle-loading seasons are often held after all other hunting seasons are over. Typically, these extra seasons are several weeks long. They give hunters ample opportunity to get out in the field and get in some bonus hunting action when big game animals are often patternable as they concentrate on cold weather feeding areas.


Inline muzzleloaders such as this one, have made muzzleloader hunting for
big game animals, much more enjoyable.

During muzzleloader seasons, there are usually fewer hunters in the field than during a regular rifle season. This gives muzzleloader hunters an excellent opportunity to harvest an animal. Fewer hunters means less pressure and less pressure means that the animals should continue acting in their natural ways. With the animals’ daily habits remaining unchanged, muzzleloader hunters should be able to pattern the animals. If the hunter is able to determine when, where and why an animal will be in certain location, it should increase the hunter’s odds for success.

Since in many areas muzzleloader seasons generally start before the rifle seasons, the muzzleloader hunter is able to get a jump on the rifle hunters. This early start accompanied with the fact that there are fewer hunters in the field, should allow the muzzleloader hunter to see more animals and get more opportunities at harvesting a big game animal before the rifle hunters move in.

Muzzle-loading Tactics
Using game calls to attract big animals can be very productive during the muzzleloader seasons. Whitetail and mule deer will often respond to grunt and bleat calls. In the early part of the season, when the rut is just starting to fire up, they may come to your call out of curiosity. If this is the case, be patient as their approach will typically be very slow. Later in the season when the rut is in full swing, be prepared for fast action, as the deer may come storming in to investigate your call.

Many a muzzleloader hunter has rattled in a whitetail deer. To be successful during the early part of the season, you should just tickle your rattling antlers together to stimulate a minor sparring match. Try to scrape your rattling antlers on trees and bushes, trying to fool a buck that there is another buck in his territory. Later in the season, when the rut is more advanced, you can use more aggressive rattling techniques to stimulate full-scale battles.

Elk can be called into range with bugles or cow calls. If the bull elk are bugling, try bugling back to them. With any luck, they will respond and move into muzzleloader shooting range. If the bulls are not calling, try using a cow call to entice them into shooting range. Often a simple series of cow calls will bring in an entire herd of elk.

If you get a chance to hunt moose just prior to the breeding period, bull grunts can be used to effectively coax a bull into range. The reason for this is that bulls will be competing with one another for dominance. However, if it’s breeding season, the bulls will be more interested in checking out the call of a cow in heat as opposed to responding to a bugling bull looking for a fight.

Some muzzleloader hunters pursuing antelope will use a decoy to try and lure in their buck. Although this technique can be highly productive, it can also be very dangerous. Other hunters may see the decoy and be fooled by it. The result could be someone shooting at the decoy and killing or injuring the hunter hiding behind the decoy. In most antelope/muzzleloader situations, I prefer to set up near a watering hole and try to catch a love struck buck as it comes in for a quick drink.

Added Bonuses
Muzzleloader hunters are usually able to go hunting in decent weather conditions. During a typical muzzleloader season, the temperatures are usually moderate to warm. Snow and winter blizzards are a rarity. This means the traditional hunting attire of long johns, toques and parkas can be replaced by T-Shirts, sweat shirts, light jackets and ball caps.

Many gun ranges have realized the growth of muzzle-loading. As a result, special muzzleloader ranges have been built to meet the unique needs of smoke-pole shooters. Having spent time on such ranges, I have found that muzzleloader shooters tend to be friendly, outgoing individuals who are willing to help other shooters, teach them tricks of the trade and talk hunting and shooting for hours on end.

Book, magazine publishers and Internet websites, such as www.biggamehunt.net have also recognized the growth of muzzle-loading. Over the past few years, there has been a steady growth in the number of books and articles published on muzzleloaders and muzzle-loading hunting. With increased access to product reviews, reference materials, hunting stories and hunting techniques, muzzleloader shooters are able to learn more about their sport. Increased knowledge means greater satisfaction and a greater desire to participate in the sport.

Game of Accessories and Gadgets
Muzzleloader shooters will also find that shooting a muzzleloader requires a variety of accessories and gadgets. These items are fun to accumulate. They are even more fun to use!


A few accessories: bullets/sabots, ram rod T-handle, cleaning jag, wire brush,
ball/quick starter, speed loader and cleaning solution are needed for your muzzleloader.

The ramrod is probably the most used muzzleloader gadget you require. One of the main functions of the ramrod is stuffing bullets down the barrel. However, it is also used for maintaining and cleaning the muzzleloader barrel. Ramrods are typically threaded on both ends for adding a variety of gun care attachments.

In addition to your ramrod, you’ll also need a jag (ribbed attachment for cleaning), ramrod extension, bullet puller and a short starter or bullet starter.

For those shooting loose powder, a powder measurer and a flask are essential. For a couple of dollars, you can also get a powder can nozzle that allows you easily pour powder right out of the can.


Just a few of my favorite things: bullets/sabots, speed loader, powder flask,
powder measurer, T-handle, ball/quick starter and a jag.

Whether you shoot loose powder or pellets, express loaders are a very good investment. These small tubes are made to hold a bullet and premeasured charge of powder. Express loaders make reloading a quick process and one that you’ll appreciate, especially when you have a 1200 pound moose requiring a second shot coming straight at you.

A capper unit serves a dual role of helping you put percussion caps on your gun’s nipple and allowing you to carry a few spare percussion caps. Speaking of nipples, a nipple wrench is necessary for removing and replacing the muzzleloader’s nipple. In most muzzleloaders, the nipples must be removed before the gun can be cleaned. Since the nipples are threaded and generally tucked away, a specialized nipple wrench is another must.


A variety of muzzleloader accessories resting on a possibles bag. Included are a powder flask, primers, ball/quick starter, powder measurer, capper and a speed loader.

Black-powder and pyrodex are highly corrosive propellants as they attract moisture. At a minimum, you require cleaning patches, a wire brush, cleaning solutions and gun oil. However, as previously mentioned, with today’s technologies, there are a variety of cleaning solutions and accessories that help make muzzleloader cleaning an easy event.


Cleaning is made easy these days!

After shooting your muzzleloader, you should clean it. For best results, get in the habit of cleaning it after every hunt. If you shoot your gun and store it away without cleaning it, you’ll be in for a big surprise (and it won’t be pleasant) the next time you go to use your muzzleloader.

A small glass jar with a lid on it is ideal for soaking small parts in cleaning solution. As well, an old toothbrush works great for cleaning hard to reach areas of your muzzleloader.

You will require a good set of screwdrivers for taking your gun apart and ensuring that everything is tight. Teflon tape is great for wrapping around the threads on the gun’s nipples. A simple wrap of teflon tape makes the nipple easier to remove and prevents it from seizing. If you are shooting your muzzleloader with a scope, a roll of electrical tape is a good investment. Since black powder and pyrodex are so corrosive, you can save damage to your scope’s finish by covering the scope tube with electrical tape.

When hunting, you will need to carry your muzzleloader accessories with you. Some hunters like to go with backpacks or bags they can carry, while other prefer a pouch that attaches to their belt. Whatever style you choose, make sure that it is big enough to carry all the equipment that you need, yet not so bulky that you continually leave it at home or in your truck. As well, make sure it seals shut, so that you don’t loose your equipment as you stalk across the countryside.

Limitations and Potential Restrictions
Muzzleloaders have changed dramatically over the past few years. However, it’s important to remember that they are still only capable of firing one shot at a time. In addition, they also have a limited effective range. While stories abound of hunters taking big game animals at long range shots with muzzleloaders, they really are a close to moderate range firearm. While many of the new in-line muzzleloaders loaded with a maximum charge have the capability of taking animals out to ranges of 200 plus yards, I personally try to limit my shots to 150 yards and prefer those in the 100 yard range.

Before heading out on a muzzleloader hunt, take time to check the regulations for the jurisdiction you are planning to hunt. Some states and provinces may have restrictions in place that do not allow hunters to use in-line muzzleloaders or scopes on their muzzleloaders. In addition, there may be restrictions in place for minimum caliber sizes…………Article by: Mike Hungle

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HOW SCENT ACTUALLY WORKS

scent2Scent is a mysterious  and often grossly misunderstood aspect amongst those who not only pursue game with hounds or other hunting dog breeds, but all hunters in general.

Scent is simply comprised of micro parti­cles of disturbed vegetable matter and/or released dead body cells drifting from the targeted subject. Vegetable matter can be crushed plant material or even minute surface dwelling bio-material living upon hard surfaces like concrete or rock.  Dead body cells consist of drifting dead skin, fur or feather cells eventually falling to the ground.  This may also include fluids, oils and vapors the body expels.

How long does a scent trail last?  That depends on given environmental conditions. The trail won ‘t exist very long if it has been hot and windy over dry surfaces.  In contrast, it will sur­vive much longer in cool, moist conditions upon grassy areas with no wind exposure.

Here are some Myths about scenting:

1.
“Animals can’t smell me when I apply scent-free products like special soaps, sprays or even wear scent free clothing.’   If you are liv­ing and breathing, you are giving off scent.  Although these products may lessen the scent intensity from your person, a Bloodhound can find you in the woods within minutes.  It is impossible for any human to be scent free.

2.
“Hounds can’t run a scent trail in the rain.”  Scent parti­cles tend to be hydrophilic, meaning they readily soak up moisture and create an effluvium of scent for the canine olfactory system.  Hounds have successfully found humans and animals in the pounding rain.  Any good hunting breed should be able to trail game in light to moder­ate rain.

3.
“My dog sometimes ground scents and other times he air scents.”  I suppose if your dog’s nose is on the ground, you can call that ground scenting and if it’s in the air, you can call that air scenting. Is it called water scenting if he sniffs a running creek or tree scenting if he barks up a tree?  Scent is scent!

imagesY2AQPWJMThe canine’s nose is attracted to the strongest scent source available at that moment during trailing.  The canine has thousands more scent receptors than humans. A roaming nose is a hunting nose; let it be.

If you want to see how your dog scents, ignite a brightly colored smoke bomb outdoors with plenty of room to observe and follow the pock­ etc. of floating smoke. Watch how clouds of smoke slowly break apart, climb high into tree tops, sink down into ravines or just lazily snake over the high grass. Wind, atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature, etc. ….all affect the smoke as it does with scent. That is why your trailing dog runs, stops, circles around, runs again ….. Let him work it out without interference from you. Scenting is his world, not yours.

You can improve your game scent trailing by taking advantage of the best environmental conditions available, as well as staying away from proven scent killers, i.e…..hot and dry surfaces, vehicle exhaust fumes or petroleum products. Trying to scent a hound on a fresh track next to a chugging hunting rig is like us trying to smell a rose over a smoky camp fire.

bait

As much as we now know about scent, there is still plenty of scientific work to be done. As a hunter, you must understand how scent works whether you use a canine partner or not.  Whether hunting birds or bear, scent is always there.

Keep the wind on your face, the sun to your back and hunt like a predator!

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Tips On How to Shoot Fast

by David E. Petzal

How_to_Shoot_Fast

The sign of a first-rate intelligence, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in the mind and still function. So it is with fast rifle work. Riflery is a sport of deliberation and precision, but the demands of the real world very often make deliberation and precision impossible. Gunsite Academy sums it up to a T: “A good fast shot is better than a slow perfect shot because you won’t get time for the perfect shot.”

What follows is about shooting quickly after you have positively identified your target. It’s not about blazing away at sounds or snap-shooting at what you think is an animal.

Develop Your Mental Clock
The first step in shooting fast has nothing to do with shooting. It involves learning how much time you have to shoot, and whether you have to shoot fast at all. Much of this can be acquired by watching critters and reading their body language. A whitetail aware of evil nearby does not act like a whitetail whose greatest worry is where he’ll find a date that evening. An animal that’s 400 yards away does not act at all like the animal right under your tree stand.

On occasion, I’ve given the hunters with me heart failure because I waited and waited for a critter to move just a little bit to give me the exact shot I wanted. And I always got it because I knew that animals never stand still, and I knew that whatever I was about to drop the hammer on had no idea anything was amiss.

Eschew Perfection
Unlike shot gunners, who send out hundreds of pellets with every pull of the trigger and are happy if one or two of them get the job done, riflemen have it dinned into them that they have to be precise. It’s not enough to get a bullet in the 10-ring; you want to get it in the X-ring. If you’re shooting groups, you want to shave off every tenth of an inch you possibly can. And the way you do this is by being deliberate and getting everything perfect before you pop a cap.

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This is exactly the opposite of how a good game shot operates. Animals have not evolved with 10-rings or X-rings. What they have are hearts and lungs, and a hit anywhere in either counts. Modern hunting bullets are so destructive that catching a distant corner of a lung will result in as certain a kill as a shot right through the middle of said organ.

Don’t Forget to Aim

On the other hand, you still have to aim. Many misses occur because hunters panic, get the crosshairs somewhere in what they think is the general vicinity of the beast, and yank the trigger. (The closer the critter, the more this seems to happen.) A little while back I listened to a Wyoming outfitter recounting in disbelief how a client, resting his rifle on shooting sticks, had managed to shoot an elk in the buttocks at 60 yards. “How do you hit an 800-pound animal in the ass at 60 yards?” he asked me, still indignant. (He tracked the poor creature for two days and eventually lost it.)

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The answer is simple. When the moment comes, most hunters can only think: “OMG, this is the only chance I’m going to get!” Everything else, such as the fundamentals of riflery, goes right out of their heads.

Furthermore, too many hunters don’t practice. For them, the mechanics of mounting the gun, acquiring the sight picture, and pulling the trigger are about as familiar as those of piloting a space capsule.

What to Do?

I can’t tell you how to acquire cold blood. Jerry Fisher, the great custom gun maker, once told me that after you take about 300 head of big game you calm down. That sounds about right.

Short of that, the way to learn to shoot fast is roughly this: First, know your animal. There is no shortage of game-critter anatomical charts that you can study. Know where the lungs are. That’s always the percentage shot.

Second, when it comes time to shoot for real, envision an aiming point on the beast and hold for that. And the nanosecond the cross hairs are even close to it—not precisely on it—shoot. Fast, good shots, remember?

To practice shooting fast, you need a .22 rifle and a whole bunch of NRA 50-Yard Slow Fire Pistol targets. These have an 8-inch bull that’s just about the size of an animal’s boiler room. Set your scope at its lowest power and, at 20 yards, fire a five-shot string, lowering the gun from your shoulder between shots. What you’re trying to do is get that round off the instant the cross hairs are anywhere in the bull’s-eye. If the bullet hits in the bull, it counts. If it doesn’t, you missed.

sighting-rifle-deer-hunting

It takes me about 1.7 seconds to mount the rifle, aim, and get the shot off. Since my skill with a gun is legendary, bordering on mythical, this is a good time for you to try to match. When you can get all five rounds in the black, every time, back up 5 yards. Eventually you will be shooting from 100 yards, and if you can put 20 out of 20 shots into the bull at that distance, shooting fast, I will buy you a cigar. Or you can buy me one for telling you this stuff.

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Bargain vs. Premium Ammo

You get what you pay for. That’s an adage we generally believe in. But does it hold up with respect to ammunition? We set out to answer that question by testing the accuracy of a variety of value-priced .308 hunting ammo against more costly stuff.

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Methodology
Using three .308 rifles in the test—one hunting rig and two precision rifles that we knew would be ringers.

We put a number of budget and premium loads through all three rifles over the course of one day, ensuring the results wouldn’t be influenced by different environmental conditions. We also used a standard 5-shot-group protocol, and shot two groups with each load at 100 yards. As a control to establish a baseline level of accuracy for each rifle, we also shot 5-shot groups using Federal’s Gold Medal load with 175-grain Sierra BTHPs.

Using the baseline match load to calculate a ratio for each hunting load by dividing the size of the hunting-load groups into the size of the match-load groups. The closer to 1 that ratio is, the better the hunting load performed. None of the hunting loads outshot the match load, so all these ratios were greater than one.

Results
The outcome was interesting. The best hunting ammo was Hornady’s American Whitetail 150-grain Interlock SP. Compared to the baseline groups with the match ammo, this budget-priced load ($19.29 for a box of 20) shot nearly as well as the match ammo in all three rifles and had an impressive 1.41 average ratio. Federal’s Fusion, another bargain ammo ($21.49 for a box of 20) was second best among the loads, with an average ratio of 2.02.

The only expensive load that delivered consistent performance in all three rifles was Federal’s 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip ($34.49 per box), The two Winchester loads had nearly identical levels of performance, though again, the less expensive 180-grain BST (2.11 ratio average) outshot the more expensive 150-gr. XP3 (2.81 ratio average).

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It’s worth noting when purchasing premium ammo that the promise of greater accuracy is certainly implied because it uses better quality components, but that much of its benefit is based on the idea that it will perform better on game.

Conclusion
It pays to try different loads in several different bullet weights in your rifles. Investing money to find an accurate load is the cheapest way to get the most from your rig.

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