Cold has my spirits on ice

My energy level has a tendency to hit rock bottom at this time of year.

It’s cold outside. The days are short. And let’s face it, many of us have been hunting since early October.

Throw in trail camera season, summer scouting and hanging stands, and it’s a six-month hunting season.

So, by time Christmas rolls around, my excitement for the chase is dipping downward. I’ve had a good year, at least one where I can walk away satisfied knowing I gave it my best shot.

In the six-week early archery season, I many have hunted between 20-25 days. By the time Nov. 12 rolled around, I was running on empty.

The rifle season and bear seasons were active, and I killed my first black bear this fall, which was exciting. But as usual, my mind is always looking ahead to next season.

It happens all the time. I create this wish list, the plan for next year … new stand locations, plans to get in and out of the woods, and all that fun stuff.

I’m also tempted this time of year to get a camera in the woods to see what survived the season. If you are a late archery hunter or muzzleloader, I wish you well. You’ve got an extra gear that some of us just don’t have.

And if I had it, getting outside on a 10-degree morning would wilt it pretty quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My little yellow reminder

Every time I go hunting I can’t help but look.

On the side of my backpack is my untouched tag. Multiple tags actually. Buck tag. Doe tag. Bear tag. All untouched and perfectly folded in my license holder.

It’s like an ugly zit that won’t go away.

In the early archery season, I had some opportunities. Once I was picky and let a young 6-point buck walk in the hopes of a bigger deer. I also passed on a doe.

Of course Nov. 7 was the day I had a fantastic buck only to blow the shot like Shaquille O’Neal at the free throw line. I’m going to be sore about that shot for a while, as I find myself quite often reliving that moment.

The week before the bear season, my wife and I saw five bears in one morning. You know what happened during the actual bear season … zilch.

So now I’m left with these tags to fill. I’m growing desperate. This morning I saw a buck, but seeing a buck and getting a shot on one are completely different deals.

At 90-to-100 yards, the buck I saw had no intentions of slowing down for my grunt call as he was on the move. I keep telling myself I’m in the right area. I’ve seen deer. I see deer sign. And, this has been a good area in the past.

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. Right? I’m keeping positive thoughts as the days wind down, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to ignore that pouch with the little yellow tag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Look out for yourself first

Some days I feel like I should have my head examined.

If you’re a hunter, or a fisherman for that matter, we’ve all asked ourselves, “why did I do that?.”

There’s days where you drag yourself out of bed, or rush home from work early to get a few hours in the woods before dark. Or maybe it’s raining and you decide to give it a shot. Snow? Sure, why not?

I don’t care what you hunt, it takes an effort to have a successful hunt. You just don’t walk in the woods, or to the nearest stream or duck pond, and fire away. You’ve got to have a plan.

And if you don’t have a plan, then yes, you need to seek therapy.

That’s how I felt this morning – 26 degrees mind you –  as I headed to my tree a half mile away with 30 pounds of gear on my back. I had a plan, sorta, but I discovered this morning that after walking 20 minutes and then climbing 20 feet, I didn’t feel all that warm.

My hunting plan was OK. My self-survival plan was not. It was a little chilly. It was what I call a two-hat morning, and I had only one hat. Not good.

It was also a good morning for some hand warmers. Mine were cleverly tucked away in a bin in my basement. Not good.

It was probably a good day for a sweatshirt under my camo coat. Mr. Tough Guy went with two long-sleeve t-shirts. Definitely not good.

All of this lack of planning left me quite uncomfortable after four hours in a tree. Don’t be like me, have a better plan for the conditions, albeit cold, snow or rain and enjoy your hunt in the woods.

You’ll be glad you did.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A shot at High Flier

It was Monday morning and I hopped out of bed with a little enthusiasm.

OK, it was 4:20 am, so hopped may be a stretch. Needless to say, I was anxious to hit the woods.

It’s Nov. 7 and my trail cameras are showing some daytime movement for the last week. My wife and I are hunting a pair of stands 200 yards apart on this 27 degree morning, and the rut is in full swing.

As she climbs into her stand I wish her good luck and start my trek downhill to my position. I’m dragging Code Blue estrous in the hopes that may attract a giant.

I make it to my tree and climb just like I have 10 times before, but this day is going to be different. As it starts to get light I can’t help but notice how still the air is. It’s dead quiet. You know those days.

I quietly take my bottle of Buck Bomb and give a quick blast.

I text my wife that I’m safely up the tree and the wait starts. My good buddy Jason sends me a text: ‘Don’t miss,’ it reads.

Within 30 seconds I can hear him, a buck I call High Flier lets out a grunt that sounds like a cross between a bull and a bear growl. I slowly reach for my bow and as I focus on the area of the grunt all I see are antlers.

For the second time this year I’ve seen High Flier on the hoof.

I see where he’s walking, and range an opening at 45 yards. It’s a long shot but I can make it. He hits the spot, and I let out a grunt to stop him and release the arrow.

The sound of the arrow hitting the deer has my heart pounding as he runs for 30 yards and then walks off.

I’m shaking like a 15-year-old dancing with the prom queen.

After 30 minutes I check my arrow and my heart sinks – white hair and fat. I decide to back out and wait 4 hours.

When I return I find blood, really good blood at first, but then it slows. After following 400 yards I’m forced to call it a day as the blood is tougher to find as I go.

I call in reinforcements the next day and return to the last spot of blood. We’re able to find more and before we know it, we’ve tracked nearly a mile from where the buck was hit.

He’s gone up and down hills, bedded once, but he’s moving.

After hours of searching, the trail finally stops. There’s no more sign. We circle out again, each taking a different direction, but the trail has gone cold.

My heart sinks. Not only have I lost the buck I wanted most, I’ve injured him.

This is a part of hunting no hunter likes. It makes us sick. It makes us struggle to find a way to get back to the woods and do it again.

In the worst of times I’ve heard the expression, the sun will rise again tomorrow. It will, and I’ll hope to make a better shot if I get the chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s OK to dream big in November

If you are a hunter in northeastern Pennsylvania, the last two weeks of the deer archery season can bring some of the highest expectations.

And when those expectations aren’t met, well, that’s another feeling altogether.

Yes, the rut is in full swing here and with it comes dreams of big-racked bucks marching through swamps, forests, fields and food plots in search of a doe. A rutting buck with the right attitude can be as hard-headed as they come, ignoring every warning it has ever known in search of love.

It easy for archery hunters this time of year to get excited even after the sighting of a doe. There’s a good chance, after all, that a doe on the move in early November is walking for a reason – she’s got a buck pushing her.

You can imagine my disappointment this week when I spotted a doe sneaking up a swamp edge all by herself. Behind her I scanned, eager to pick out a buck trailing her every step. It wasn’t to be.

This time of year is also my favorite to trick a buck into thinking there’s a doe ready to mate. Hunters use estrous scents to lure in bucks, and when used properly with a drag rope, a trail can be left behind for a buck to follow. It worked perfectly for me this week, only to have a young buck following my lure left behind.

Better luck next time.

So, yes, the expectations of a November day can be some of the highest of the season. There’s a good reason for that, and it falls on the dreams of many hunters that someday they’ll cross paths with a fantastic buck seeking a doe.

I can tell you that the dream can become a reality pretty quickly, especially if you consider a buck can cover a long distance in a day of searching for a mate. So for that I say keep dreaming, keep hunting, and good luck.

Mature bucks like this one become easier to kill during the November rut as they search for a mate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tough to keep emotions in check

Emotions get the best of us sometimes.

It’s hard to control anger or frustration in everyday situations, but in the woods the same holds true. On Tuesday morning, I had one of those days that will stick with me the entire year.

It was one of the coldest mornings of the year with lows in the low 30s. Conditions were perfect. As I made my way to the area I was hunting, I kept thinking to myself how perfect the cold air felt. Certainly not your typical Oct. 11 morning.

And as the sun rose the excitement for me started with the first glimpse of antlers coming up the hill. This was no ordinary buck, this was High Flier, one of three bucks I’ve targeted in the area I’m hunting. He’s a tall-tined 8-pointer -12 inch G2s, and at least 10 inch G3s if I had to guess.

He’s certainly one of the biggest bucks I’ve seen on the hoof.

High Flier was traveling up the hill towards me with a smaller buck, feeding on acorns as they came. Seventy-five yards, 70, 60, and then he stopped. The mature buck stood at 60 yards just off to my right and downhill and waited. One minute. Two minutes. Three minutes! He didn’t budge.

And just like that he relaxed.

The smaller buck decided to bed down. High Flier didn’t. He’s angling up the hill right toward my stand. Fifty-five yards, 50, and I’m thinking this is really going to happen. My heart is beating and I’m doing my best to keep it under control.

And then the deer had a change of heart. High Flier decided he was going to bed up as well.

He took a 5-minute rest, his antlers glimmering in the morning sun like bone-white daggers. He’s bigger than I imagined from his summer trail camera photos I have of him.

And after a brief rest, he and the smaller buck worked their way back down the hill the direction they came. My heart sank as my body shivered from excitement.

It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had with a big buck in a long time. I hope we get to meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s just a matter of time

We’ve all had friends who are able to get out of work a couple hours early for a late-day hunt.

Me? No chance. I’m a morning guy.

My work schedule has me pegged in the late-day hours, but it got me thinking about what’s the best time to hunt? Are you a morning hunter or are afternoons your thing?

Plenty of hunters are sold on evenings. Hunters can sneak into their stands without the need for lights and wait alongside a favorite food plot or farmer’s field. You want action, hit a cold front near a corn or soybean field and watch the deer pile in for dinner.

The biggest hurdle for late-day hunters is getting out of the woods. Yes, while they may have snuck in during the daylight, the walk out can be tricky after sundown. If a hunter sounds like a dump truck walking out of the woods, good luck getting a mature buck into that field anytime soon.

Some of the same challenges arise for morning hunters. For me, I need a headlamp to make my way into the forest. It’s my hope that I can keep the light to a minimum and not shine it all over the forest.

It’s always my goal to get in as early as possible and let the woods “wake up” on its own. There’s nothing like an October sunrise on a 30-something degree morning in the deer woods.

I also like the fact that I can call it quits anytime I’m ready on a morning hunt, and if I want to stick it out until noon, I can do that too. Of course if I don’t see anything that day, I always feel a little empty and wanting to head to another spot that night.

The life of a hunter is trial and error I suppose, with plenty of ‘errors and almosts’ whether you hunt in the mornings or evenings.

Here's a photo of a buck captured on trail camera this summer I call Fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey Mr. hunter, You stink!

I read the magazines. I watch the TV shows. I hear the chatter from buddies who know more about hunting then I’ll ever know.

People can talk about hunting, how fast their bows are, how good their camo is, how they love their new treestands — but one thing remains clear to me after years of hunting whitetails, you’ve gotta beat a deer’s

If you want to bag a mature buck like this one, you'll have to beat his nose first.

nose first.

People have 5 million olfactory receptors in our noses. Deer have 297 million. You get the idea about how important being scent-free can be.

For some reason, though, being scent free for some hunters gets pushed to the back burner when they prepare for the season. And I have no idea why. We all know that beating a deer’s nose is the first objective if you have any shot at being successful.

Just this past week I started on my scent-free wash — three loads in all of everything from coats, bibs, liners, hats, gloves, bags and shirts. If I wanted it to be scent-free, in the washer it went with Scent Killer Autumn detergent. What’s the Autumn secret? I have no idea, but it looked good on the shelf I suppose.

So, while you are busy gathering up your gear for the season, and checking last minute equipment, don’t forget to do some laundry. You may be glad you did.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Too many choices? Trust your gut

There has been a discussion for some time among archery hunters regarding broad heads.

Specifically, fixed blades or expandable blades.

My input to the discussion is pretty simple – go with what gives you the most confidence.

There are quality companies on both sides which make fantastic and fatal broad heads. Personally, I have killed deer with both fixed and expandable blades. When I first started hunting, I hunted with fixed blades.

I killed my first 8-point buck with a Thunderhead 100-grain fixed broad head. It was quite a moment for myself as that deer fell within 60 yards of where the arrow impacted him.

A few years later, I killed my third 8-point buck with an expandable T3 from G5. Again, he fell at 60 yards.

While I got a pass-through shot with both arrows, I had problems with expandable blades. Expandable blades became loose for me and I found myself constantly adjusting clips in the stand. I never had a problem with the performance of the blades, but I couldn’t stand what became a constant problem I didn’t want to contend with anymore.

Today I’m shooting a Muzzy fixed-blade broad head. While Muzzy is a fine maker and well-known for quality broad heads, it’s the mental comfort of trusting the arrow that means the world to me.

So, if you are reading magazines about broad heads and don’t know which way to turn, go with your gut and trust it. Until that arrowhead gives you a reason to change, believe in it and trust it as you pull the trigger this fall.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Food plot frustrations

I have a new-found respect for farmers.

I always knew it was a tough job. Early mornings, hot afternoons and long days in general are just some of the things posted in the “job description.” Nobody said anything about failure.

With little rain the last three weeks, my plot has not grown very well this fall.

That’s the boat I’m in as a rookie “farmer.”

For the first time, I have attempted to grow a food plot. I knew it would be tough. Everyone told me that the soil in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania isn’t very good. I limed the soil. I fertilized the soil. I sprayed weed killer this summer to prep my little quarter-acre clover plot.

I talked to people who grew food plots before. I read. I read again. I may have even said a prayer or two in the hopes that I wasn’t wasting my time.

I fear I may have. After planting around Aug. 22, I feel victim to a drought. It didn’t rain a drop for nearly three weeks. Once a week I’d walk in the woods to check my food plot only to find dirt.

With each passing week I wrote it off as a complete failure. But then this week it rained and now there’s some sign of life. Not much to get my hopes up, but there they were this morning, little green clover sprouts coming up in places.

I bought some more seed, knowing that I’m on the very tail end of the planting season for clover, but I am desperate at this point. As I picked more rocks and tossed them aside I couldn’t help of think of the farmers who do this for a living, planting crops in Pennsylvania.

My hat’s off to you. And if any of you have any pull with Mother Nature, I’d like it to rain at some point in the next week please. That would be nice and may give me a shot at success with my first food plot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  • Blog Authors

    Mike Kuhns

    I'm a lifelong hunter, who in the last 10 years, has found a reborn passion for archery hunting. In general, when it comes to hunting I like to listen and learn, and I think many of us can learn from one another. Hope you like the blog. Feel free to ... Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives