November 8, 2012
When a date stands as large on the Michigan outdoor calendar as November 15 does, it’s easy to overlook the opportunities of the days on either side of it.
Whether bowhunting as the firearm deer season opener approaches, or firearm hunting in its afterglow, your odds of success might be much better than you imagine.
“Just make sure to tell them,” urged my deer-fanatic friend Rick Craig when asked for tips to pass along, “to sit all day for a couple of days before and after November 15.”
From now until dawn on November 15 it’s madness: love-struck bucks pursue estrous does. Small game hunters tromp woods and fields for last shots at grouse and pheasants. Firearm hunters test guns, scout spots and pitch camps. Bowhunters, meanwhile, watch their hunting clocks tick down.
Those archery hunters may grumble at the ruckus in their deer woods, but most bowhunters with a few seasons on them will admit if pressed that they’ve seen some dandy bucks in this hectic period.
Okay, maybe they give up on that last day, November 14. “Too many chuckleheads,” one friend told me of the eve of gun season, “out there on quads, cutting shooting lanes with chainsaws, sighting in rifles.”
You’d think that would be the death of deer hunting.
But, the first buck at which I ever launched an arrow followed a scent line to a scrape 20 yards from my public land ground blind in the last five minutes of shooting time one November 14…
I missed him.
A couple of hours into the new firearm season, it’s easy to feel that the season’s over, odds too long, prospects too bleak.
I remember the surprise I felt one year when I studied some DNR deer hunting statistics. Sure, it showed a big percentage of the firearm harvest taking place on the first day or so of the season. But it also showed that roughly the same share of the season’s hunting taking place on these days, too.
Reversing the math, it became apparent that deer tagged per individual hunting day remained strong all season long.
It gets much better yet if you adjust your hunting strategy.
My friend Rick Craig has two chunks of Midland County land he manages for family hunting. And while opening day has its magic (nobody misses out on the chili, the stories, the fun), the hunting actually gets more serious and often more successful as the season unfolds.
One reason is that on each piece of property, Craig maintains an inviolable refuge section. Nobody but deer go in, the only exception being pursuit of a wounded animal and that at night.
The secure areas seem to fill with deer pushed in from other areas as the season deepens, and those deer wander in and out. My best Michigan buck fell just outside Craig’s piney refuge at mid-morning on the eighth day of a gun season, as it returned from some night-time foray.
You say you’re a public land owner, and can’t control the mayhem in your hunting spot? Reap similar benefits by taking a hard look at your hunting spot, and finding places so thick, distant and difficult that no one would want to go there.
That’s just what hassled deer would look for.
And although bucks are famous for hunkering down for long stays in thick cover, they do emerge.
So, whether before next Thursday’s opening of firearm season or after it, pack some extra clothes and a filling lunch. Get in early. And stay late.
Read and join the discussion on Taking Off the “Opening Day Blinders” for Michigan Deer Hunting at OutdoorHub.com.
October 23, 2012
One cause for a hunter or huntress to not succeed in harvesting their animal is lack of practice. In hunters’ education, they teach us the four basic shooting positions, but it seems when we go to the range we sit at the bench and “sight in”. It is not often that you will find a shooting bench and stool while you are on a New Mexico big game hunt. When you head to the range, practice more than just sighting in your rifle at 100 yards.
Practice the four basic shooting positions. Always remember the rules of shooting safety.
Lying on your stomach, using your arms, bi-pod or pack to support the weight of your rifle, this is the most steady of the basic shooting positions. Practice bringing your rifle to your shoulder and getting your target into your sights. Prone is an excellent position when you are making long distance shots and ideal if you have relatively flat ground and nothing to obstruct your view. In the woods it can be hard to find optimal locations for a prone position. Inevitably you are stalking a bull or a buck and you are in the tall timber or thick scrub oak. There are lots of down trees, rocks and thick grass that may block the view of your target as you lay on your belly. Because of this, you should always practice the other basic shooting positions.
Sit on the ground with your legs either crossed or apart in front of you creating a triangle (as pictured). Support each elbow on a knee. Pull your position in tight so your arms form a solid support beneath the rifle. In this position a hunter can be accurate at long as well as short distances due to the tri-pod of surface area and anchor points. There is not always time to get down to a seated position. You should practice kneeling and standing positions as well.
The kneeling position lacks the solid steadiness of the sitting or prone positions due to the decrease in support of the arms, but this position will be easy to get to in a hurry. Practice dropping to a knee, resting your support arm on the knee and acquiring your sight quickly. With practice you can become steady as well as accurate in this position. It is an important position to practice because sometimes animals come in fast. It will be more steady than the standing position.
The standing position is the least steady so it deserves a lot of practice. In a high pressure situation such as when a bull elk comes running in there may not be time to lie or sit down. This is a magnificent animal so you want to make a good shot. Practice control, acquiring your target in your sights, trigger control and finishing your shot. In a standing position your support arm will be held beneath the rifle and the trigger arm out from your body (as pictured). If you are wavering, move your support arm into your body for added stability. If you are not able to hold steady on your target, do not take the shot.
There are many other devices and objects you can use to support your rifle while in the field. Think about having a mono-pod or bi-pod with you. If you have one, practice shooting with it. Practice sitting, kneeling and standing positions with your shooting sticks. In the field you may be able to use a branch or stump for support. Keep an eye out for things to help you get a good steady shot. Keep in mind the more surface area of your body you have on the ground, the more stable you will be. The more stable you are, the more accurate your shot will be.
Lastly, while you are practicing finishing your shot, practice re-loading. Know the action of your rifle. Quickly lift and jerk the bolt back chambering another round. reacquire your target so you are prepared to shoot again. This is very important in the instance you do not make a good first shot. If you practice good habits at the range, they will show when you are in an exciting position in the field.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Read and join the discussion on The Key to a Successful Hunt: Practice Shooting Positions at OutdoorHub.com.
September 10, 2012
On September 23rd , the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) will be hosting a free sight in day activity at the South East Idaho Practical Shooters (SEIPS) range. This will be a chance for new hunters to sight in their hunting rifles in preparation for the hunting season. Several members of the SEIPS organization will be providing one on one training on how to accurately sight in. Training and sighting in will take approximately 1 hour and there will be no additional cost or membership fees required. There are 4 time slots available beginning at 10:00am and going until 2:00pm. All participants must preregister and pick up an equipment list at the IDFG office located on 4279 Commerce Circle in Idaho Falls.
Space is limited and walk ins will not be accepted. For questions contact James Brower at (208) 525-7290 or through the Idaho Relay Service at 1-800-377-3529 (TDD) or by email at email@example.com.
We look forward to meeting you and sharing Idaho’s hunting heritage.
Read and join the discussion on Idaho DFG to Offer Free Opportunity to Sight in Hunting Rifles at OutdoorHub.com.
May 8, 2012
This article comes courtesy of John M. Buol, Jr. of FirearmUserNetwork.com. Check out his site for more articles like this.
The effective range of the .30-30 is about 150-170 yards. Some of the wizzy new Magnums can outperform this by roughly 300 percent, at least on paper. But can the hunter outperform the .30-30? Can you?
The .30-30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) was a hot little number when first debuted in 1895 but today’s hunters complain about this “obsolete” antique. Standard wisdom states this cartridge is best contained within a range of 100-175 yards. A .30-30 will push a 150-170 grain bullet out at approximately 2200 fps or so. With a 150 yard zero, the bullet will be about two inches above line of sight at 100 yards and around five inches low at 200.
Few hunters possess enough shooting skill that warrants better performance than this. Are you one of them? Find out with the .30-30 Drill.
Begin by getting a good 150 yard zero for that anemic .30-30 (or whatever your favorite hunting rifle is chambered in). Set up a Y-ring steel target at 150 yards. If you don’t have a quality, self-resetting steel target that is about 8-10 inches in diameter, a paper dinner plate at 150 yards makes an ersatz substitute. Get a shooting timer, or a buddy with a whistle and stop watch, to record the time.
Start from standing up. On the start signal adopt a sitting position and fire one aimed shot at the plate. Stand back up and repeat the drill for a total of three shots. After completing this three string/three round sequence from the sitting position, do it again adopting and shooting from prone.
We are shooting at the distance we zeroed giving point-of-impact at point-of-aim on a nice, level playing field with no intervening brush, trees, etc. All the shooting is done from the two most stable positions available in the field. Furthermore, the target is presented whole, as opposed to a large animal with the vital zone hidden somewhere inside, thus eliminating the need to estimate target angle. Just hold center and let ‘er rip!
Regardless of elapsed time, a hunter claiming to need something better than a .30-30 should get at least 5 hits out of 6 shots (83% hits) or better on this six MOA target every time. If so, our hero can actually make use of the ballistic capability provided by a .30-30 or equivalent for field shooting. If not, their maximum effective range in field shooting is shorter than 150 yards and the capability of a .30-30 rifle exceeds their present level of skill.
A more competent hunter-shooter who can get those same hits in ten seconds per shot or less just might benefit from a “better” rifle. They possess sufficient skill to warrant extended range.
We can repeat this drill out even further. Use the same target and set at 200, 225, 250, 300, or out as far as you dare. Give the shooter an extra three seconds or so for every 50 yards beyond 150. Sight in appropriately and shoot. For example, .308/.30-06 and cartridges of similar ballistics can set their zero to 200-250 yards.
December 16, 2011
For years I have had the privilege of being able to hunt on private land. I guess that some would say that I was spoiled in the eyes of my fellow hunters! I didn’t have a large section of land but I was very familiar with it and knew my favorite places to sit for each species that I pursued. It was nice to be able to always have a place to go and never having to worry about people sitting in your spot, or even people sitting in your tree stand!
This last fall the property that I have hunted for the past seven years became unavailable. The gentleman that owned the property asked us to stay out for a few years, initially it upset me but out of respect for the landowner I agreed to stay off the land. It wasn’t the fact that I was not allowed to hunt it that aggravated me, it was that it was only two weeks until the bow opener here in Missouri which meant I was in a bit of a pickle.
First off I started calling all of my friends to see if they could squeeze me into their plans, and as I expected most of them couldn’t. But when I spoke to one of my friends up in northern Missouri he told me that he had thousands of public land acreage that I could come up and hunt with him on. I was uneasy about bow hunting on unfamiliar land because I had not scouted any land up there and I couldn’t see it paying off for me with stick and string, so I decided to head up for rifle season. I did not go with the intention of killing a trophy deer, I went with an open mind and a desire to fill the freezer.
As in most states, most people will say that the opening day of deer season should be a national holiday. I lost count of the number of vehicles that I saw pulling old campers and ATVs. And the farther north that I went the heavier the traffic became. I still told myself that there are millions of deer in Missouri and all I had to do was find one. As my buddy and I pulled down the gravel roads towards the public access areas, I was astonished with all of the vehicles that I was seeing. Matt told me that this was an every-season sight.
My guide and longtime friend Matt had always hunted public land, and has been rather successful in the many years that he has hunted them. We were hunting Truman Lake Reservoir around Clinton and Harrisonville, Missouri. He kept telling me to keep still and try not to walk the land too much, because in his experience after people sit for the first two hours they get restless and start walking, which in turn will push deer towards me.
The weather we had for opening weekend was horrible for deer hunting, 65 degrees and 15-20 mph hour winds just made it unbearable to sit and keep an open mind on seeing a deer. At first light the mayhem began with the first shot I could hear cracking off just 15 seconds after the legal shooting time. I was literally awe-struck about the number of shots that I was hearing. I could almost feel myself snuggling closer to my tree just for safety!
We sat until noon to no avail. I was not completely upset. Some tenderloin on the grill would have been great to have, but that is why they call it hunting and not killing. All in all I have a few new resources in my know-how book: my top four tips that I can give to a person that has never hunted public land and plans to hunt it in the upcoming year are as followed.
- You cannot be afraid to walk! We walked nearly five miles total just getting into lightly pressured areas, most people see a good patch of timber that is close and easy to get to and decide that place will be their stand spot, only to walk in in the morning and see blaze orange surrounding that very field.
- Pay close attention to boundary lines, many people own land that backs up to corp ground. Not many hunters want the title of a trespasser or poacher.
- Sit it out! I looked at hunting that weekend like hunting the peak of the rut. Even though the weather did not have the deer on their feet, the extreme hunting pressure did.
- Be sure to have plenty of blaze orange on! With so many people with high-powered rifles, you cannot be safe enough! I will not lie, this was a whole new ball game to me, I was not familiar with the land, and had no idea where food sources or water sources were. And sitting there just trying to figure out what I was going to do I couldn’t help but feel grateful for have my private ground back home.