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Long-Range Shooting For Coyote & Other Varmits

coyote1edit

Much of the excitement of hunting coyotes comes from calling them close, but predators are wary by nature, especially when they’ve been called to, and shot at, before. On more than a few occasions we’ve watched a coyote come from a quarter-mile only to stop just out of what some people might call reasonable range. But with the right setup and some practice under your belt, you can push the limits of reasonable and put that long-distance dog down. Here’s where to start.

The Right Rig

coyote gun

The .22-caliber center fire cartridges – the .223 and .22-250 – are standard carry for most coyote hunters, but both can get a bit squirrely when playing the long-range game. Instead, opt for a caliber with a bit more oomph behind it, such as the .243. Stick with a polymer-tipped varmint bullet with a ballistic co-efficient topping .300. This will require a bullet weight of at least 70 grains. Remington’s 75-grain Accu-Tip V comes screeching out of the muzzle at 3,375 fps and retains enough energy past 400 yards to kill a coyote without punching a gaping hole through the pelt. Hornady’s venerable V-Max and the Federal V-Shok both offer similar ballistics.

When manufacturers tack the word “varmint” on to a rifle they are usually compelled to do one of two things: chop off the barrel to 22 inches and mill it full of flutes or they slap it into a wide, beavertail stock designed to be stable when shot from a bench. Neither is ideal for long-range coyote hunting. Of .243-caliber varmint guns on the market, few are offered in a 26-inch barrel – the Remington 700 SPS Varmint (pictured above) is one; Savage makes another. For a walk-and-stalk hunt in the wide-open West, I’d concede to a rifle with a moderately lighter 24-inch barrel. Either way, a mounted bipod, quality optics, and a good laser rangefinder are mandatory.

The Proper Setup
If a coyote can’t hear you calling, it doesn’t matter how good the spot is. On windy days, stay home or plan on calling multiple, short sets. However, on calm days, a coyote can hear a mouth-blown call more than a mile away, but it might take him 30 minutes are more to come that far, so stick out your sets as long as you can.

For maximum visibility stake out the highest point around, but remember, if you can see a coyote from a quarter-mile, he can spot movement from just as far. Stay still and only move when an approaching dog is obscured from view. Consider an electronic caller with a user-friendly remote to further minimize movement.

One final point: Don’t think the long-distance game will get you out of playing the wind as coyotes live, and die, by their nose. It does give you an advantage, however. Get the breeze in your face, quartering slightly onto your right side (for right-handed shooters), so you’ll be in the perfect position to bust him as he tries to circle downwind.

Hit Your Mark
A coyote’s vitals are the size of a grapefruit and to be successful you have to be able to hit that 5-inch circle. To do that consistently requires a rock-solid rest, accurate elevation and windage adjustments, and at least a bit of luck.

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Prone Out
At these ranges, you’re essentially a sniper, so take a tip from their kit and get as close to the ground as you can, with your legs spread and feet laid out flat. Remember, you might have to lay there for 30 minutes or more, so remove any sticks, rocks or other obstructions before you start calling. Dress warm and get comfortable.

Think There, Not Here
Sure the wind may appear consistent where you’re sitting, but coulees, breaks, valleys, or even the smallest hillock can affect wind direction and cause a miss downrange. Before pulling the trigger, assess what the wind is doing at your potential target ranges and compensate accordingly.

Watch The Impact
The best shooting advice is to watch the animal go down in the scope. By concentrating on the impact, you’ll forget about flinching as your mind almost sub-consciously causes your finger to pull the trigger. Also, you should be able to deliver a follow-up shot with a more precise hold (if necessary) when you see where your first bullet hit.

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How to Judge Your Shooting Distance

 A great article by Kevin Wilson

Accurately judging distance is the first step toward proper shot placement. Instinctive or calculated, bowhunters rely on it for close range shooting. Gun hunters count on their ability to estimate longer distances. Over time we all learn our own tricks for calculating distance but with the advent of laser rangefinders many of us won’t leave home without them. Regardless of how you go about it, determining yardage can make or break your hunt.

I will remember one hunt as long as I live. The outcome was downright depressing all because I misjudged the distance. It happened 16 years ago. I was a neophyte bowhunter at the time. I’d set up a treestand in a small block of trees that I knew held several bucks and does. The previous winter I’d picked up some huge sheds that taped out at 183 Boone & Crockett inches. Knowing that the gigantic buck had survived the winter, my hopes ran high and I knew there was always a chance he’d show up in the timber I was hunting. As luck would have it 45 minutes after climbing into my stand I heard leaves crunching underfoot. Straining to look through the trees, sure enough a smaller basket rack buck was making his way toward my stand. Always an impressive sight I enjoyed the view as he walked 10 yards from me. Then I heard more rustling in the leaves and looked over to see him. He was nothing short of magnificent! Based on his sheds, it looked like he’d grown at least another 15 inches putting him well into the high 190’s – a buck of a lifetime in anyone’s books! He walked 12 yards from my stand but I couldn’t get to full draw with him in plain view. As soon as he turned I capitalized. At full-draw, I locked my 20 yard pin on his body as he continued to amble forward. Walking straight away there was no shot opportunity at all! By the time he stopped, I estimated he was standing at 30 yards. With all the concentration I could muster, I focused and released. The arrow flew where I’d aimed, in perfect alignment with his chest, but literally inches high splitting the hair on his back! Completely awestruck and in total disbelief, that gut-wrenching feeling overcame me as I watched my world-class archery whitetail bound away never to be seen again… and all because I’d misjudged the distance!

Since that day I have made it my lifelong mission to learn how to accurately judge distance. From capitalizing on today’s technologically advanced laser range finding devices to using topographic characteristics to assist in calculating distance, and understanding the influences of terrain, it is an ongoing practice in my world. Regardless of whether you’re an archer or a rifleman, here are a few considerations that might help you as you learn to accurately judge distances.

The Technological Solution
Today’s technology is a saving grace for hunters. Many of us won’t leave home without our laser rangefinder. Portable and easy to use, we simply identify our target, adjust the setting, point, hit the button and, voila! … distance is displayed on the screen. With yardage confirmed, all that remains is the shot itself.

When I began bowhunting nearly two decades ago rangefinders had a simple dial that brought the target image into focus when the dial was turned. Wherever the dial ended up, that was your yardage. Today, thanks to innovation, laser rangefinders are readily available and relatively affordable. In fact today there is really no reason not to use a rangefinder. Many manufacturers have their own versions, but in my opinion, one of the latest and greatest inventions is Bushnell’s Laser Arc. I’ve got the Elite 1500 model. The ARC stands for Angle Range Compensation. While traditional rangefinders are precision optical instruments designed to be used on a level plain (line of sight), the ARC rangefinder compensates for angles from a treestand for instance, or up or down a mountain slope. I have owned and used several different kinds of rangefinders over the years. The Laser ARC is my absolute favorite. Using digital technology, it has a built-in inclinometer that displays the exact slope angle from +/- 60º of elevation with +/- 1.0 degree accuracy. Hunters have always struggled with extreme uphill and downhill angles. These severe angles alter true horizontal distance to the target. The ARC solves this problem. It has three primary settings: bow mode, rifle mode, and a regular mode (for line of sight distance calculation only).

It has a bow mode that displays line of site distance, degree of elevation, and true horizontal distance from 5-99 yards (or meters). For longer range shooters, it also has a rifle mode that calculates and displays the amount of bullet drop, at the target in inches (or centimeters). In the rifle mode, the amount of bullet drop is determined by the line of sight distance to the target, degree of elevation, along with the specific ballistic characteristics of the caliber and ammunition. As the hunter ranges the target, the line of sight, degree of elevation, and bullet-drop/holdover in inches or centimeters is displayed from 100-800 yards (or meters). Here’s where the technology shines ballistically. In the start-up menu, one of eight ballistic groups can be selected by the user, with each formula representing a given combination of caliber and loads.

Laser rangefinding technology, and the ARC system in particular, is invaluable but what if we don’t have one? Then it comes down to a matter of practice and estimation to determine our downrange distances.

Practice
For most of us, learning to judge distance takes considerable practice. Only by doing it a lot, and under variable conditions, can we become competent at it. Shooting is a lot like golf. Understanding how your bow or gun works (i.e., trajectory and ballistics) and interpreting the size of the target animal relative to the terrain can only be learned through firsthand repetitive experience. So how do we get all this supposed experience when we can only take a finite number of animals each year? The answer lies in visiting the gun or archery range.

For bowhunters, nothing beats practice on the 3D course. Today’s 3D targets, like those made by MacKenzie, are very lifelike and offer as realistic practice as you’re likely to get anywhere. Most are made to scale and can be strategically placed in any range situation to simulate realistic hunting scenarios. On my local 3D course, our club uses everything from coyote targets to whitetailed deer, mountain goat, elk, moose, wild hog, turkey and more. Some are set at long distances over 60 yards through wide open clearings while others are placed in the trees, often with very small shooting windows at closer distances like 20 or 30 yards. Most 3D ranges have a good assortment of field scenarios to allow practicing archers to hone their skills.

Likewise, rifle and muzzleloader hunters should visit the range regularly to hone shooting skills. Unfortunately due to the expansive nature of bullets today’s 3D targets aren’t an option. Alternatively silhouettes are. Most rifle ranges offer variable range distances from 100 to 400 yards. At my club our furthest distance is 600 yards. Unless you’re really into the long range thing 400 yards is a stretch for most big game hunters. By shooting repeatedly at 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards, we grow accustomed to what those distances look and feel like. By taking note of the size of target in our scope at specified magnifications we can also learn to estimate distances. For example, at 10x zoom on my Leupold scope, I know that a deer will fill a certain percentage of the field of view. By acknowledging how much of the animal is in the field of view, I can guess the approximate yardage with relative accuracy. Likewise, at 200 and 300 yards, that deer will appear smaller respectively.

Break Distances into Increments
Whether we’re hunting remote regions or in farmland things like trees, rocks, fence posts, and power poles can be used to aid in judging distances. As an archer I’ve learned to make a mental note of things like trees, shrubs, rocks or other physical land-based objects at 10 yard increments out to a distance of 50 yards from where I’m sitting. By burning those objects into my memory I’m better able to make quick decisions when an animal steps into a shooting lane. I’m guessing it may be the same throughout North America but where I do much of my hunting I’ve learned that power poles are set at a standard distance of 100 yards apart. Any time I’m hunting a wide open power line or in farm country I can use those power poles as markers to estimate yardage. As a rule, regardless of what kind of weapon you’re hunting with, breaking distances down into increments simplifies things. Remember, if you’re sitting in a stationary stand or ground blind there is always the option of setting out yardage markers at desirable increments, e.g., every 10 yards.

Consider Where and What You’re Shooting
Judging distances on the open prairies is a very different game than judging distance in the dense forest. Likewise, estimating the distance of a large target like a moose can be tricky if you’re more accustomed to looking at antelope. Dense cover and the size of the animal can play tricks on your mind.

As an archer, I spend most of my time hunting heavy mixed forest areas comprised of aspens and evergreens. Rarely do I see deer, moose or elk at distances further than 80 yards unless its down a long open cutline or across a clear cut. So, whenever I head out to different states or provinces to hunt smaller species like pronghorn antelope, it usually takes some time to acclimatize and recalibrate my brain to accurately judge distances. In my experience, smaller big game species in open terrain tend to appear further away while larger species under heavy cover often look closer than they really are. Unfortunately there are no set rules here; you just need to figure out what works best for you under variable conditions.

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Bow Hunting – Packing Tips

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Over the past two decades hunting backpacks have grown in popularity and size. Not only cubic inches, but number of pockets and where we can strap things. Don’t be sucked into the thought that you have to fill each and every pocket or empty space with something. Instead, make a list of items you think you’ll need for your outing by reviewing the possible scenarios that may occur. For example, if you are just planning a day hunt you may jot down a considerably short list, whereas if you are hunting for a few days you will be carrying a bit more gear.

Years ago a simple camouflage backpack was used with a large holding area and one pocket. Some hunters went out in the field with just a bow, a peanut butter sandwich in their pocket and a knife. Nowadays it’s good policy to prepare a couple packs that to utilize for different hunts. The following is what goes into these packs on a hunting trip, but,  keep in mind that you should customize your pack essentials according to what your adventure will be. You will be surprised at how much extra ‘stuff’ you really don’t need.The first is the Badlands Hybrid pack that is used on most of short day trips like small game or turkey hunts. Pack calls and essentials and you’ll still have room left over. On longer hunts pack a Badlands 2200 which allows more room for extra clothing or food for longer excursions.  Making sure the essentials are in your pack for a bow hunting adventure can be rather simple. In order to bow hunt, you have to find an area where you can take a quality shot.

You have to find a good area to hunt and you need to get there. You also have to have a pack that is tough, not too heavy, and has ample space to pack out an animal should you be fortunate enough to harvest one. Some areas can be thick vegetation so you need to be aware of the terrain and weather of where you will be headed. Pack your gear for each and every trip to be sure you have everything you might need and a little extra should you find yourself stranded. You should do some research and find a good pack that will fit your needs and more importantly fit you.  Here are the essentials that you should take on every hunt.

These essentials should be a constant each time you venture into the forest.

Al_1Water – Always plan to have enough to drink throughout the day. Also plan on sipping, not guzzling so you don’t waste the resource. Before you leave on your hike, locate a water source on a map and prepare to refill along the way.  Put an extra bottle in the bottom of your pack in case your hydration system runs out. Then you know you at least have one bottle left. Also, leave a 2 liter bottle of water in your vehicle (preferably in a cooler) so you have something cool to drink when you reach it.

Food/Snacks – Have fun with what you eat on the trail!  Take almonds, some energy gel, trail bars like Granola bars, and, be sure to pack a sandwich. For some, and, for those who like it, there is something about eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich on top of a peak that just makes it that much better. Try to stay away from most other sweets on the trail like candy bars or snacks that could leave you feeling sluggish.

First-Aid Kit – Pack a kit yourself or better yet, buy one of the Adventure Medical Kits Sportsmans Kit available at most stores. It is a great kit and the one you should carry on each and every trip. A word of advice to everyone is to open the kit and know what is in there before you leave your house check it over. If you think something is missing, add it. One of the items you should always sure to pack is moleskin. You can never tell when it might be needed to cushion a blister or protect your feet. Having that moleskin was invaluable.  Be sure to include other items like QuikClot and a tick remover. You may never needed them and they could’ve been left at home, but  don’t mind a little extra weight when it comes to safety.

SPOT Locator – Having a locator beacon on your in case in the event you might get lost is added security.  It allows your family to track you via computer when your on a hunt. They can see exactly where you are, the terrain, and if you are stationary or moving. The best part is that is if you get lost or need medical assistance you can press a button and have them dispatched to your location. It is highly recommended to review the features to see if you plan on hiking more than a couple miles in or if you plan to be out for a few days.  Having a space blanket is a great idea in case you get stranded and need to keep warm. If you need to use it you will probably be miserable, but it will help keep you alive.

Compass – Know how to use it.

Map – A topographical map of the area I am hunting.  Some of the items that should be packed, but not necessary really don’t need an explanation:

Whistle, Lighter, Headlamp/Flashlight, Knife and Paracord.

As mentioned earlier, for different hunts there will be a different set of items you will have in your pack. It may take some testing on your part to see what you need, don’t need, and what weighs the least. No matter what, whatever you pack, get out there and enjoy yourself.

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Know Your Rover, Know Its Range

by 

a chocolate lab, pointing

“Here, Penny. Come here, girl. Whoa. Now Whoa!” The panicked expletives started the minute I turned my brittany, Penny, loose to quarter the covert. The problem was, it wasn’t me shouting the commands. It was my hunting partner who had only hunted upland birds over his labs.

He didn’t understand that the range for a pointing dog was vastly different than that of a flushing dog, (but really shouldn’t have been commanding or cautioning my dog at all).

He was used to a very close working dog and thought that a wider ranging dog was going to bump birds before we got in position to shoot. What he didn’t know was that a pointing dog, unlike a flushing dog, will (or should) hold birds on point until the guns arrives for the flush.

Range is simply the distance a dog can effectively hunt from its master, and this will vary from dog to dog, breed to breed.

To my mind, range is simply the distance a dog can effectively hunt from its master, and this will vary from dog to dog, breed to breed.

A dog’s natural range is first dictated by genetics and then molded by handling and training in the field. Each breed has its own general parameters in which it works effectively.

Being mindful of the differences between breeds makes the potential owners more informed and more likely to be pleased with their hunting companion.

Point or Flush?
Flusher Retrievers
Flushing dogs, such as retrievers and spaniels, do as their name suggests.

Upon scenting game, they chase and ultimately flush birds. In order to be effective, these dogs must work within a distance of typical shotgun range (10 to 25 yards). If the dog pushes the envelope and starts popping birds up at 35 to 40 yards, the number of missed birds will increase.

The way to train a dog to handle within range is to make sure it’s successful at finding birds in range of the gun during training. Planted birds and solid basic obedience training will convince the dog that if it stays close enough to the shooter, a mouthful of feathers and a retrieve are the reward.

Pointers
Pointing dogs on the other hand can, and should, stretch out the field a bit more. As long as the dog is dependably holding birds until the gun-totting hunter arrives, it can be trusted to reach out a little more.

To ensure that a dog remains steady on point and doesn’t flush birds prematurely, never shoot birds that the dog bumps or flushes.

Soon enough the dog will understand that the only way he gets the reward of a mouthful of feathers is to remain still and hold the bird on the ground until the handler flushes the bird.

Best Breed Debate
The debate over which breed is best for a particular game bird has gone on for decades and will certainly continue. With that in mind, I suggest for the rough shooter who expects to shoot both upland and waterfowl on a given hunt, one of the flushing/retrieving breeds might be most appropriate choice, flushing/retrieving breeds might be most appropriate choice — a springer spaniel or Labrador, for example.

With training, these breeds work close to the gun and will also be happy to hunker down in a blind while waiting for waterfowl to pitch into the decoys.

If, on the other hand, you like to keep your boots dry and hunt upland birds exclusively, then pointing breeds are a better fit. Pointing dogs have a style and range that add a unique flavour to the hunt. True pointing breeds, such as setters or English pointers, are specialists — as are those who tend to own them.

For those who don’t want their dog to dictate the kind of game they pursue, there are always the dock-tailed Continental breeds, such as German shorthairs, Hungarian vizsla, pudlepointers and even brittanys. Pointing, tracking, and retrieving of upland birds, waterfowl, and furred game is all in a day’s work for these versatile breeds.

The distance your dog works from you is ultimately a matter of choice. Regardless of what breed you prefer orgame you hunt, it’s important that you recognize the skills your own dog brings to the field and allow it the room he needs to be effective.

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Rhinowire lace review

// When I was at a sport show this past season, I had seen a demonstration for these laces and they truly are amazing and very effective for hunting!  Here is a very well pointed review written by Tim Collins for Rhinowire 🙂  Enjoy!

Article Written By: Tim Collins

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rhinowiresThis review is for the RHINOWIRES boot laces. And no, that is not an error in my typing. I used all capital letters for their company because these “boot laces” are the real deal!

As soon as I received them and took them out of the package I realized I had ahold of a pair of serious laces. The RHINOWIRES feel stiff and you wonder how on earth am I going to tie these up?! I can assure you though that they do tie up. I put mine in a double knot and they hold my entire 12-13 hour day. RHINOWIRES also come with optional lace locks so you don’t have to tie them. I would suggest getting them custom sized and go with the lace locks. Mine are too long to do this and the extra RHINOWIRES length would prove to be a trip and entanglement hazard.

Those of you who are blue collar and perform hard labor for a living would benefit greatly from owning a pair of RHINOWIRES. Outdoor guides, farmers, steel workers, loggers, military, law enforcement, of course firefighters and everyone else who needs to wear steel-toe boots on the job need to get a pair of these RHINOWIRES. Even individuals who spend their time in the great outdoors hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities would be wise to own a pair of RHINOWIRES. They come in a variety of colors and sizes as well as even being reflective. I received a pair of OD green that is reflective. I work as a dry kiln operator at a lumber mill and the reflective laces will actually benefit me since I need to wear a reflective vest in my work environment. Working around 56,650 lbs. forklifts carrying around lumber bundles that weigh from 17,500 lbs. to 35,000 lbs. means that safety is of the up-most importance. That is where having the reflective laces add an additional safety element to my work. Granted, right now I am wearing rubber over-boots for the winter to help with the freezing temperatures and snow, but I am confident that when summer rolls around my RHINOWIRES will not fail me. You will know what I mean as soon as you lay your hands on your very own pair. As you can see from the photo’s below, I took a picture of my Rhinowires without flash and then one with flash to show the degree of reflectiveness they have. Quite impressive if you ask me.

rhinowiresatworkreflectiverhinowires

RHINOWIRES come with a replacement guarantee. That’s right, if they ever break they will replace them no questions asked! If you don’t believe me, just read their RHINOWIRE guarantee.

These RHINOWIRES were invented by 2 fire fighters. They said it best on their website that “$400 boots are only as good as the $3 shoe laces. Once the laces break, your $400 boots are useless!”. They invented a product that we all can benefit from because they understand the need for RHINOWIRES. Right now they are running a kick-starter program to fund their project. I hope that everyone will consider helping them. They have several packages available that will get you a pair of these RHINOWIRES and believe me; they are worth every penny and then some.

rhinoupkick

I am proud to participate in this product review for RHINOWIRES and I assure you that I am also going to invest in the project even though I received a pair for review. It is completely worth it and I hope you feel the same way as well. As they say on their website, I am definately going to Rhino up! Thank you for reading my product review for RHINOWIRES and if you have any questions, comments or even critiques please feel free to contact me.

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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in hunting, hunting equipment

 

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Gearing up: Types of Tree Stands

Fixed Stands

The fixed stand is the type that most people think of when they picture a tree stand in their mind. It consists of a platform that the hunter climbs a tree to set in place, then attaches to the tree trunk with straps, chains, ropes or other methods. Depending on the type and brand of fixed stand, it may have a small rail around the platform that can be used as a rest while shooting a weapon. When using a fixed stand for the first time, it’s a good idea to first attach it to the tree’s trunk at the bottom to ensure that you know how it should be set up, that it quietly holds your weight and to make sure there are no other issues with the stand.

fixed treestand

Permanent Stands

Permanent stands are just what they sound like—they’re stands that stay in the same tree at all times. This type of tree stand is homemade and generally constructed of wood. Depending on the hunter who builds the stand, it can be a simple platform or an elaborate blind that looks like a tree house. If using a permanent stand, you should inspect it often since wear and tear can make them unsafe in a short amount of time.

permenant treestand

Ladder Stands

Ladder stands are platforms that are attached to the top of a ladder. You attach it to the trunk of a tree and then climb the ladder to get to the platform. This type of stand has some distinct pros and cons. It’s a very stable and safe tree stand and much easier to get into than other types of stands. However, this type of stand is big and hard to move from one place to another. It’s hard to conceal so that animals in the area will see it and may become scared and leave the area. If this is the type of stand you will use, it’s best to pick an area where you intend to hunt and erect the stand in the off-season for use during hunting season. This will give the animals of the area time to get used to the stand and they’ll ignore it and not be afraid to come near it.

ladder treestand

Climbing Stands

Climbing stands come in a wide variety of models, but they all operate in basically the same way. This type of stand is built with an upper and lower platform. The hunter will operate the top platform that grips the tree. The hunter then moves the lower platform that releases the tension allowing the hunter to slide further up the tree. This motion is repeated over and over until the desired location in the tree is reached. A hunter climbing a tree with a climbing stand will look like they are imitating the motion of an inchworm. Some styles of climbers can be used from the sitting position and some are used while standing.

climbing treestand

Tower Stands

Tower stands were developed for areas where there aren’t many trees that will support the weight of a typical tree stand. A tower stand is a freestanding platform situated on top of three or more legs. The legs of some models can be adjusted to different heights. This type of stand is large and heavy and has the same pros and cons as a ladder stand, but in certain areas a tower stand may be the only choice.

tower treestand

 

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Tips For More Grouse

trees3Learn to Recognize Good Cover
Some hunters seem to have a sixth sense about where the grouse are. This isn’t magic but rather the culmination of years of experience, observation, and a working knowledge of what the birds need. These guys are constantly reading about grouse habitat and lore; they take note of wherever they hear drumming in the spring. They know that good grouse cover holds food and provides protection from predators — if it is near an evergreen stand or gravel so much the better.

Take a page from these hunters. Every time you or your dog move a bird, have a good look around after the smoke has cleared — you’ll see a pattern soon enough. Study grouse biology at home; carry field guides when you hunt; learn to recognize common grouse foods in your area. After a while you’ll develop that sixth sense too.

Keep a Log
Every serious grouse hunter I know keeps a hunting log. Some maintain elaborate leather-bound journals in which they detail particulars of the hunt such as the date, cover, number of flushes, dog work, weather, harvest, and crop contents of the birds. Other keep it simple, by marking covers on their handheld GPS. Either way, the hunter is reminded of the places that produced grouse last season.gps

Do this consistently and it won’t take many seasons before you have a bevy of early, mid, and late season options. The more options you have, the better your chance of having a grouse dinner.

Break Some Clay
Over the course of a season, few of us get enough shots at grouse. So it only stands to reason that a hunter ought to make the most of each opportunity. I do this by honing my shotgunning skills in the off-season. Skeet, trap, or sporting clays keep a hunter sharp so that mounting and swinging his scattergun becomes second nature. You’ll still miss — grouse have a way of humbling everyone — but you’ll also make some shots that you might not have without the off-season practice. It just takes a few of these to turn a mediocre season into a great one.

Don’t Forget the Dog Days
Spring and summer are tailor-made for training your dog. Despite this, few of us take advantage of the opportunity. Instead, we expect our dogs to work flawlessly on opening day and we’re actually surprised when that doesn’t happen.

Does your flushing dog hunt too far ahead and blow cover before you get there? A little “hup training” (teaching your dog to sit on command, no matter how far away) in the off season goes a long way towards remedying this. You might also consider brushing up on retrieving drills or introducing your dog to pigeons or game farm forays prior to the season. Some advanced training, such as steadying to wing and shot (where a dog sits down automatically at each flush) might require the help of a professional dog trainer. If that’s what you want, the off-season is the time to do it.

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Pointing dogs have their own set of training needs, which might include bolstering staunchness, retrieving, hunting range and finding dead birds. Whatever your canine hunting partner’s flaw is, the off-season is the time to address it.

The idea is to learn to handle your dog so that you perform as a well-oiled team during the hunting season. There are plenty of great dog training books and videos — the off-season is when you should benefit from them most.

Follow the Food
Grouse eat hundreds of types of food and each provides a clue as to where the birds are hanging out. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the crop of every bird you shoot. Knowing what grouse are eating helps you understand their habits and tells you where you should focus your hunting efforts. If the last three birds you shot were full of blackberries, for instance, it’s definitely time to hunt any of your covers that hold these shrubs.

Against the Wind
A dog relies on his nose to find birds. So why would you hunt with the wind at its back? We all know that there isn’t any good reason for doing so, but it’s one of the first things excited dog handlers forget when approaching good cover.

If you hunt into the wind, your dog will work closer, scent more game and, hopefully, find more birds. It’s a simple but often overlooked strategy that can make the difference between a full and empty game bag. This is also an important consideration when looking for a lost bird. Take your dog downwind from where you think it fell and let it start hunting from there.

Stop and Start
A good grouse hunting dog provides opportunities that you might not have otherwise had, but that’s not to say that a dog less hunter can’t do well. The key, for a dog less hunter, is to stop and start through likely cover and change direction often. These unpredictable patterns unnerve grouse and invariably pressure them into flushing. Another added bonus is that when you stop you can sometimes hear the put-put-put of a grouse moving just ahead of you. If that’s the case, get the gun up and rush it.

Don’t Hesitate
A good upland shot doesn’t hesitate. He takes the first available shot, even if it’s not a great one.

If you wait for a better chance you’ll rarely get it. Similarly, if you are leading a bird that disappears behind a screen of leaves, follow through, and shoot anyway. You’ll be surprised how often you connect. If not, shells are cheap.

While we’re on the subject of shooting, be ready for the second flush. Often, especially, early in the season when birds are still in their family groups, multiple flushes do occur. If you keep this in mind, they won’t catch you flat-footed — or with an empty gun.

Follow Up
Whenever you flush a bird and don’t fold it, mark where you last saw it. Most times they won’t fly much further than 150 yards. If you marked it well and follow up immediately, you have a good chance of forcing a second flush.

 

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Another advantage of following up on grouse is that they sometimes lead you to new covers. If that’s the case, don’t forget to mark it.

Lastly, never assume that you missed any grouse that you shot at. After the shot, keep quiet and listen. Sometimes you’ll hear a mortally wounded grouse doing its death dance against the ground — that’s the one that you thought you missed.

The Right Tools
A fast-handling 12, 16 or 20 gauge shotgun is ideal for birds. Most gunners like double guns. Some happen to prefer a pump because that’s what they shoot best with.  However, don’t discount the light weight, easy to carry .410 shotgun.  Nice little gun with ever growing in popularity in our neck of the woods.

Whatever, your preference, you can’t go wrong using 2 3/4-inch shells filled with 7.5 shot. Grouse aren’t tough birds and it doesn’t take much to bring them down. Since most shots are within 15 yards, the more open-choked your barrels are, the better.

Other essential grouse hunting tools include a quality blaze orange upland hunting vest with a lined game pouch; brush pants; comfortable, well-supported hunting boots; and a compass and/or GPS. If you are hunting with a dog, a whistle, water bottle, portable dog dish, dog first aid kit, and lead are important too. When working heavy, thorny cover, a pair of shooting glasses that protect your eyes are worth their weight in gold.

Conclusion
No one ever said grouse hunting was complicated. But it does take some planning, know-how and skill. Over the last few years, these strategies have made many a much better grouse hunter. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

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DIY: Easy Odor Absorber

This is a fantastically easy and cost effective de-scenting option for hunting gear 🙂

Odour-Absorber-web
Eons before the advent of scent-control activated charcoal hunting suits, a woman working in a Port Perry convenience store taught me how to capture offensive odors. My children suffered from motion sickness, so when I asked her for a scented air spray to mask the sour smell in the car, she suggested filling a perforated coffee can with charcoal. The results far exceeded all expectations.

Hunting season rolled around and the light bulb went on. I could use the same approach to keep hunting gear scent-free. To this day, all my tote boxes of gear and bags of hunting clothes include a perforated container filled with charcoal. When the charcoal becomes saturated and unable to absorb any more odors, I simply refill the container with new charcoal.

Ensure that the container is first cleaned very well and left to air out for a few days to get any residual coffee odor out.

When purchasing charcoal, be advised not to buy any with any extra additives to ease starting or burning…the cleaner the charcoal the better 🙂

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SAFETY Gun Storage

Modern firearms are powerful tools that experienced shooters understand need to be treated with respect. While a gun is in use, we carefully follow a set of common sense rules to keep everyone safe. But how do we practice firearms safety when the shooting or hunting sessions are over? Most of the guns folks own will spend the majority of their working life at rest, placed in one state of storage or another, until the next shooting event. Since they remain powerful tools between trips to the range, it’s very important to store them properly.

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A wide variety of safe gun storage accessories and containers are currently available. However, there is no universal solution to fill every role, or to fit every budget. Safe storage options are intended to perform one or more of the following tasks, which they do with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how much money you’re willing to spend:

1. Prevent a gun from firing
2. Protect a gun from physical damage
3. Act as a theft deterrent

It’s much easier to consider the pros and cons of each storage system when they can be compared side by side. The following discussion is a walkthrough of the most common safe gun storage options, starting with the least expensive:

Trigger Locks
Trigger locks fulfill a single safe gun storage objective: Prevent the gun from firing. Most new guns now arrive from the manufacturer with a trigger lock of some kind or other in the box. Trigger shoes clamp and lock around the trigger housing to prevent the trigger from being pressed. They should not be engaged on a loaded gun because they come in contact with the trigger as they are installed and removed. Cable locks allow the shooter to run cable through the barrel or action of a firearm. Since the cable blocks the action from being closed, the gun cannot be loaded or fired with the cable lock in place.

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If these two lock options are not available, a simple household padlock can be looped over the trigger guard with the hasp set behind the trigger. This will prevent the trigger from completing a firing cycle. Although trigger locks are inexpensive (or even free), and can successfully prevent a gun from firing, they do nothing to protect the gun’s finish or to deter theft.gunvault-breechvault

Soft-Side and Hard-Side Gun Cases 
Most sporting goods stores have entire aisles dedicated to affordable handgun, rifle, and shotgun cases. The options available range from padded fabric sleeves to rugged foam-lined plastic cases. The primary role of this kind of affordable carry case is to protect guns from physical damage. While they do a good job of preventing dings and scratches, their role as a security device is relatively limited.

s-l1000Most soft and hard side cases can be “legally” locked for transport to and from the shooting range (check your local regulations). This could be a luggage lock through a soft case’s zipper pull, or a padlock through the handles of a hard case. This security system may be enough to keep small children out as well. However, the materials these cases are made of are easily defeated by ordinary edged implements. These low-cost cases also have a low theft deterrence value since they are light and easy to move. They have to be hidden or locked inside of another container to protect them from theft.

Strong Boxes and Metallic Gun Cases 
In an effort to strike a balance between the security offered by a locking gun cabinet and the portability of a gun case, several companies offer portable strong boxes and metallic gun cases. Metal gun cases usually incorporate a reliable locking system or the means to attach heavy padlocks. Strong boxes, usually intended for handguns, offer mounting systems for permanent attachment to a fixed surface. Some boxes are fitted with quick-opening locking mechanisms, including electronic push-button access and fingerprint scanners.

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Strong boxes and metallic gun cases are the first products discussed so far that start to fill all three mandates of a safe gun storage device. They can effectively protect against unauthorized access because of the difficulty in opening these units without a key or lock combination. These containers will effectively protect a gun’s finish from damage. And, if they can be attached or locked to a fixed object or surface, they offer some level of theft deterrence. But with features to fill all three mandates, the price starts to go up. It may be necessary to purchase batteries or extra mounting hardware to take advantage of all the storage device’s available features.

Locking Steel Gun Cabinets
Remember that grand wooden gun display case that your great-uncle had in his den? Looking through the engraved glass panes of the double doors, you could see his beautiful vintage shotgun collection. Sometimes he would retrieve that little brass key to open the doors so you could get a better look. While this kind of locking gun cabinet looks wonderful, it does not offer any truly viable level of safe gun storage, accept against small children. To secure firearms, a locking steel gun cabinet is a more secure choice.

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Cabinets differ from gun safes in several respects. They follow a less-is-more design. The thinner gauge of steel, a simple locking mechanism, and the lack of fire-proofing insulation greatly reduces the cost. Because they are light enough to be safely carried by one or two people, they can be set up in apartment buildings or second-floor rooms where a gun safe would simply be too heavy or difficult to install.

Cabinets are a big step up from metallic gun cases or strong boxes when it comes to storing multiple firearms. They offer a much larger storage capacity and more configuration options. Cabinets can be securely bolted to a wall or to the floor. However, they do not offer the same level of theft deterrence as a gun safe. If you have the cash for a high-end cabinet, and the room to store it, you may want to spend a little more and purchase an economy-line gun safe.

Gun Safes
Simply stated, gun safes are the most secure gun storage option available to the average gun owner. Even the basic units have terrific advantages over any of the other gun storage units described so far. A locked safe will definitely prevent a gun from being handled or loaded. The upholstered interior and built-in gun racks will help to protect the finish of the firearms while allowing air to circulate. And, best of all, they are an effective theft deterrent.

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Much like automobiles or personal computers, gun safes are available with a wide variety of features, locking systems, and finishes, all of which affect the bottom line cost of the unit. These cost-changing features include the gauge (or thickness) of the steel used to construct the safe, the strength and reliability of the locking mechanism, the level of fire resistance (if any), the extent of the warranty, shelf and rack configuration options, as well as the color and quality options for the exterior finish.

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Because all gun safes are relatively expensive (compared to other gun storage options) it makes sense to consider what you want very carefully before you buy. First-time safe buyers should be careful to avoid two common, but serious, mistakes. The first thing to avoid is buying a safe that’s too small. A unit that’s a perfect fit for your collection today may not serve your needs in ten years. A bit more expense up front may save you the trouble of changing out or adding a second safe down the road.

The second mistake is waiting too long to buy one. Yes, gun safes are big, heavy, difficult to install, and expensive to pay for. But they are well worth the trouble if you have a gun collection you care about. How do you know it’s time to invest in a gun safe? If the guns you have are worth more (sentimentally as well as financially) than the cost of the least expensive safe you would be willing to purchase, then it’s time to start shopping for one.

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Types of Tree Stands

Fixed Stands

The fixed stand is the type that most people think of when they picture a tree stand in their mind. It consists of a platform that the hunter climbs a tree to set in place, then attaches to the tree trunk with straps, chains, ropes or other methods. Depending on the type and brand of fixed stand, it may have a small rail around the platform that can be used as a rest while shooting a weapon. When using a fixed stand for the first time, it’s a good idea to first attach it to the tree’s trunk at the bottom to ensure that you know how it should be set up, that it quietly holds your weight and to make sure there are no other issues with the stand.

fixed treestand

Permanent Stands

Permanent stands are just what they sound like—they’re stands that stay in the same tree at all times. This type of tree stand is homemade and generally constructed of wood. Depending on the hunter who builds the stand, it can be a simple platform or an elaborate blind that looks like a tree house. If using a permanent stand, you should inspect it often since wear and tear can make them unsafe in a short amount of time.

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Ladder Stands

Ladder stands are platforms that are attached to the top of a ladder. You attach it to the trunk of a tree and then climb the ladder to get to the platform. This type of stand has some distinct pros and cons. It’s a very stable and safe tree stand and much easier to get into than other types of stands. However, this type of stand is big and hard to move from one place to another. It’s hard to conceal so that animals in the area will see it and may become scared and leave the area. If this is the type of stand you will use, it’s best to pick an area where you intend to hunt and erect the stand in the off-season for use during hunting season. This will give the animals of the area time to get used to the stand and they’ll ignore it and not be afraid to come near it.

ladder treestand

Climbing Stands

Climbing stands come in a wide variety of models, but they all operate in basically the same way. This type of stand is built with an upper and lower platform. The hunter will operate the top platform that grips the tree. The hunter then moves the lower platform that releases the tension allowing the hunter to slide further up the tree. This motion is repeated over and over until the desired location in the tree is reached. A hunter climbing a tree with a climbing stand will look like they are imitating the motion of an inchworm. Some styles of climbers can be used from the sitting position and some are used while standing.

climbing treestand

Tower Stands

Tower stands were developed for areas where there aren’t many trees that will support the weight of a typical tree stand. A tower stand is a freestanding platform situated on top of three or more legs. The legs of some models can be adjusted to different heights. This type of stand is large and heavy and has the same pros and cons as a ladder stand, but in certain areas a tower stand may be the only choice.

tower treestand

 

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