Don’t overlook deer’s sense of hearing

We’ve all been busted in the deer woods at some time in our lives.

There’s nothing worse than having a deer snort at you. I did this year – 100 yards away straight downwind I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer alarming the forest that something wasn’t right. Of all the senses, beating a deer’s sense of smell can be the toughest.

And then there’s sight. I’ve been pegged in my tree plenty of times, too. Slight movements, or what I thought were slight movements, turn into a deer raising his tail and bounding away. With all the specialized camo on the market, one would think we could hide just about anywhere – snow drift, hay field, swamp edge, you get the point. But if a hunter moves at the wrong time – it’s game over.

The sense that sometimes gets overlooked is hearing.

Some noises in the woods are perfectly normal. The sounds of a hunter walking through leaves, while not an ideal situation, is perfectly normal to some deer.

But what’s isn’t normal? First in my book is anything metal. Years ago I had a safety harness which clipped between my legs. As I walked a small ticking sound could be heard. I might as well have been playing the trumpet.

I wrapped the clips with duct tap and I was set to go.

I’m also careful with my release against my climber or ladder stands. These stands are also being designed with deadening metals which kill sound. I don’t own one of these stands yet, but I may someday. They also make a sound-deadening tape. Go figure.

A little noise at the wrong time can send that shooter buck in the opposite direction pretty easily.

So if you want to better your chances in the woods, look at all three senses. But in particular, ask yourself if you’re being as quiet as you should be? If not, you may be hurting your chances before you even get to your stand.






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Hunters need to stand united

Why do we hunt?

Chances are if you ask multiple hunters that question, you may get various responses.

Fun. Challenge. Food. Exercise. Friendship. Comradery. Tradition. The list may go on and on. We all have our reasons of why we hunt.

But hunters have a little ongoing battle with one another these days. Maybe it’s fueled by social media. Maybe we are watching too many hunting TV shows. Whatever the reason, the battle and conversation over whitetail deer – what to shoot and how many deer to shoot – continues to be a sore subject amongst Pennsylvania hunters.

Let me start with the subject of what to shoot. Your idea of a deer to harvest and mine may not be the same. You may be a meat hunter, while I may be a trophy hunter. Either way, we both share the same woods.

But social media has created this idea that hunters can devalue someone’s kill because “it needed another year” or because “too many does are being shot.” If a hunter has the proper tags, they have a right to take whatever deer they like without being shamed by anyone.

Who cares if a buck is two years old or five years old, if it’s legal for that hunter it can be taken.

It saddens me that our hunting traditions are being tested by men who came from men who stood for hunting traditions. Those men of prior generations shot spike bucks and weren’t shamed into anything by doing it.

Today we have less hunters and more regulations to follow, many of those laws which have improved hunting in Pennsylvania in my opinion. But if hunters refuse to stand united in a sport where the reasoning behind participation varies, fewer people in the future will be exposed to hunting. That’s a sad thought because none of us will be here forever.

I’d like to see the next generations continue what I’ve been able to experience in my lifetime. There’s nothing better than watching a flock of turkeys at sunrise or a whitetail make a scrape.

I refuse to judge a fellow hunter on his/her passion and why they hunt or what they decide to harvest. We all have our reasons – and whether we agree or not, we should find a way to support one another. The future of the sport depends on it.





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Learning from our mistakes

The terms “expert” or “professional” can be thrown around quite a bit in the world of hunting.

The fact is, even the best hunters fail. Yes, soak that in, Michael Waddell has been unsuccessful at calling a turkey a time or two I’m sure.

At some point, all hunters fail. We miss shots. We jump deer. We flat out make mistakes in the woods.

It’s hard to think like a wild animal. How does a hunter determine which corn field is going to hold more pheasants? All one can do is prepare the best you can and then hope that your skills and equipment hold up to expectations.

That said, guns misfire, shells get jammed, hunters – dare I say – get a little excited at inopportune times. It happens!

Now, as we find ourselves in the midst of the two week rifle season, here’s my Top 5 personal quick list of why we fail.

No. 5 – Lack of preparation

Hunters who don’t prepare hinder their chances of success. When was the last time you shot that gun? A year? Two? Longer?

Oh my, you’re on a collision course for failure. Have an idea of what your equipment can do before you lug it into the woods.

No. 4 – Movement

Sounds simple, but the woods is not the time for any drastic movements. You’ve got an itch, scratch it, but don’t flail around like you’ve got a swarm of bees in your shorts. Slower is always better.

If a deer spots you before you spot him, your chances of success have already taken a hit.

No. 3 – Scent

What’s that smell? If your clothing still smells like last night’s poker game, there’s a problem. If you think deer won’t notice the stench of Marlboro or the t-shirt you’ve worn the last two days, you’ve got another thing coming.

No. 2 Internal battle

We’ve all heard the term of one being mentally tough. Hunting is the same battle. Hunters have to push through the inner battle of giving up or cutting a day short when things don’t work out. Trusting your gut is a battle all of us face at some point.

No. 1 Learn from mistakes

We all make mistakes afield. Some are minor, some major. The key is to not make the same mistake twice and adapt to errors. After a while, the mistakes list shortens and the success list grows.

Mike Kuhns with his archery buck Nov. 7, 2018



















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It’s time to stop Saw Creek cull

I’ve sat quietly on the sideline so far.

I’ve seen small groups form with the help of social media and a cause they deem worth speaking out against. I’ve done my best to understand both sides – those who support the deer cull in Saw Creek Estates and those who oppose it.

Today, there is no doubt in my mind, that the future culling of deer in Saw Creek must be stopped. Enough is enough.

Three culls in four years has decimated the deer population not only in Saw Creek, but the surrounding forests. In three of the last four years, Saw Creek has received permits from the state to cull deer in the early spring. Does, bucks, fawns – as the saying goes, if it’s brown it’s down – over 500 deer. Dead.

Deer have been killed in three of the last four years. Prior to the first cull four years ago in which 300 deer were killed, a statement was released saying does would be targeted. That was a lie. I saw the list of deer killed that year and it included deer of both sexes and all ages.

During this year’s cull which began Feb. 12 and ran through March 27, approximately 125 deer were killed. Of those deer, eight were bucks 31/2 years or older. Several 21/2 year old bucks were killed as well. One hundred and twenty five deer may not sound like much, but when you factor in the year’s prior deer kill – now we have a generation block of deer not reproducing offspring.

I’m no biologist, but I don’t think it takes much to understand that killing hundreds of deer in a specific area over four year’s time will have an impact on the herd in that area. I’m witnessing it first-hand. Neighboring Saw Creek Estates is private property, Saw Creek Hunting Club, and the Delaware State Forest.

All of the neighbors which I have spoken to have witnessed the same thing –  a severe decline in deer. Why?

The common thought is the cull. During the early spring, sharpshooters are luring in deer around Saw Creek with piles of corn. When food is at its minimum for deer survival, deer on surrounding properties are flocking to the corn piles and the awaiting sharpshooters. So while those sharpshooters are killing deer that live in Saw Creek, they’re also killing deer which have traveled searching for food.

And like many animals, once deer find a food source, they’re not going to leave.

I write this not to change the minds of those on the Saw Creek board – they have their own agenda. I have another.

I believe it’s the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Game Commission supplying the culling permits, and those in the Department of Agriculture who oversee the cull, to take a closer look at how surrounding properties are being impacted. It’s not good. In fact, the deer population has been decimated by the cull.

Something must change and it starts with people standing up and saying something with this is not right. Today, I stand with those people because culling deer around Saw Creek Estates is not right and needs to stop.


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An experiment with a positive reaction

We’ve all heard the saying, for every action there is a reaction.

It’s true for hunting tactics as well.

Yes, sometimes we hope the reactions come sooner – we use grunt tubes and rattle horns in hopes of luring a buck to investigate. We use scents to attract deer, camo to hide from them and spend endless dollars to keep us warm.

This week I did a little experiment in the hopes that my action would create a reaction. Here’s a little backstory.

Each year I hunt an area of the woods that looks outstanding. We all probably have favorite areas to hunt. My area has acorns, water, cover and open woods combined. My problem is I rarely see deer on camera in this area and I can’t understand why.

It’s not overhunted. There’s not one item to say this area is a reg flag.

I hunted this area Saturday morning. Sure enough, no deer. When I was done hunting on Saturday I tried something new – I set up an early season mock scrape. I’ve never used an early season mock scrape – my experiments with scrapes have only been during the rut, but I thought why not give it a try.

This rub was made 10 feet from a mock scrape.

With the help of a dripper and some buck urine, I hung the mock scrape in the hopes of getting a reaction. Two days later on Monday I returned to see two fresh rubs. Amazing!

My experiment worked and verified I’m not losing my mind – there really are bucks in this area. Now I only have to find one while I’m on stand.

I share my experience to say that experimenting with anything in the woods can be a positive. It’s the only way we can learn what and what not to do.


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Archery hunting on rise – and it’s no surprise

Archery hunting in Pennsylvania is bucking the trend.

While the sales of general hunting licenses continue to dip at a rate of approximately 10 percent in the last decade, the sales of archery licenses is on the rise.

Surprised? We shouldn’t be.

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Game Commission sold 612,000 licenses. Of those hunters, 327,000 purchased an archery stamp as well – or about 53 percent of hunters.

What’s the big deal?

Compared to 10 years prior in 2006, those numbers looked 681,000 and 256,000 – or about 37 percent.

The PGC has done a tremendous job with recognizing the popularity in archery hunting – invited the use of crossbows, implemented antler restrictions over a decade ago and has created a program where archery hunters can have a fair chance at tagging an animal.

In a time where state-run organizations can frustrate many, the PGC has done its homework. Here are some of the changes I think have made a difference.

1. Bear hunting. In recent years the PGC has implemented a bear archery season. At one time it trailed at the end of the deer archery season, but now overlaps together as one on Oct. 29 through Nov. 3. This week allows hunters with a bear tag to hunt both deer and bear at the same time. It’s a brilliant change by the PGC.

2. Antler restrictions. Once thought by some to be a terrible change, the three-point rule in much of the state has changed the possibilities of tagging larger and mature deer.

3. Crossbows. Another change with came with pushback – and some people still feel crossbows should not be permitted – but it’s clear through sales that crossbows have opened avenues to the field for many with disabilities or age limitations.

4. Veterans Day. Permitting hunting on the final Monday allows some hunters an opportunity time in the woods they would not normally get in years past. Another good move by the PGC.

5. Cost. A resident archery tag costs $16.90. That’s about the price of a pizza. It’s hard to complain given the amount of time allotted for hunters to head to the field in pursuit of their favorite animal to hunt.

The popularity of archery hunting continues to rise in Pennsylvania and there are plenty of good reasons why.








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More to the hunt than the kill

Hobbies, I’ve got a couple.

I fish a little and I play a little golf (not very well, mind you).

But I love to hunt. Some people may think it’s all about the kill – taking down a whitetail buck, a black bear or spring gobbler must be the highlight, right? Well, sorta.

Don’t get me wrong, having a mature gobbler circling a decoy or watching a buck with his nose to-the-ground on a urine line headed my way, is some of the most exciting moments a hunter will ever enjoy. I’ll admit, my heart still jumps at the sound of a gobbler on the roost or a buck grunting while chasing a doe.

But to me, being a hunter is more than the moment of the kill. For me, the preparation to the season is half the fun – finding the right camo, setting a stand in just the right tree or experimenting with different broadheads – that’s the part of the hunt which seldom gets told on TV.

Finding a deer to hunt I find to be some of the most enjoyable moments. Why hunt in an area where there’s few deer to chase? You wouldn’t fish in a puddle at the end of your driveway, right?

Hunters take on many projects during the summer months, too. They build food plots, plant future apple orchards, secure old stands and, maybe most importantly, assist in conservation projects. Hunters are some of the most giving people I know – they volunteer their time for the good of wildlife every year.

So is hunting all about the kill? Hardly. For me, it’s more about the people I get to spend time with in the woods. It brings fathers and sons together, and generations of families have dinners centered around hunting season. They head to camp or drive once a year to their favorite place to hunt with an uncle or neighbor.

The antlers on the wall can be an added bonus to the story. For many, hunting is the ongoing story which is told over and over again. And that’s just fine by me.





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Cameras work if you don’t pressure them

Around July 4 the photos begin the trickle in. If you’re a hunter in Pennsylvania, you know what I’m talking about. “Look at this one!” or “I wonder if this is the buck from last year?” It’s fun time in the Pennsylvania woods. It’s the time of year when trail cameras begin to shape the story of the hunting season to come. Yes, it’s over two months away, but that’s OK in the eye of a hunter. Anything to get him/her outdoors is reason enough to be excited. It’s hard to ignore the bugs of summer while marching through the woods or an old corn field, but when the photo of a trophy buck walks through the sight of a camera it makes it all worth it. In the era of antler restrictions (hopefully this era is long-lived), hunters are seeing bigger deer than ever before. Some, Pope and Young giants. And the cameras, thanks to technology, have never been better. Many companies have tapped into the business of trail cameras – and depending on how much money you’d like to spend, the wireless capabilities are endless. For me, cameras tend to shape my hunting locations. They also serve as preparation for identifying potential “shooter bucks” and bucks that I’d like to let walk another year. Easier said than done on a November morning.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is avoiding over-checking cameras. It’s very tempting to run out to the camera once a week to check to see what it has captured. The reality is that marching down a trail once a week educates animals that something is there that isn’t normally present, and that in turn will change their pattern at some point.

Again, the practice of being patient with cameras is easier said than done. Especially, once you find a buck you would like to hunt, give it time. My experience is, if you have found deer in the summer and don’t overrun their territory, they won’t go far come October.

Stick a camera in the woods and let it rest. Your result may just pay off greatly when it counts.

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Close isn’t always good enough

As I walked out of the woods on Saturday, I felt like I had done everything I could.

Yes, I wasn’t pulling a whitetail behind me, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

I was close to releasing an arrow on a fine 8-point buck on a chilly 18-degree Saturday morning, but as many archery hunters know, being out of range 10 yards can be all the difference in the world. And as I watched this buck chase a doe off into the distance through the forest, I knew he wasn’t coming back.

Disappointed? Sure. But that’s the nature of the sport I fell in love with long ago. Archery hunters work in close quarters, while branches and wind direction can flub up a hunt fast.

On Saturday morning, I didn’t have anything to blame but bad luck. A buck had chased a doe out of a thicket and the pair stopped to rest about 65 yards in front of me. A few contact grunts had the pair working my direction, so much so that the doe came in to 43 yards. With the buck following by 10 yards off her tail, I thought I had a chance.

He worked a scrape, all while licking his nose as he tried to figure out who was grunting in his territory. At one point he crossed my drag rope line I had laid out that morning. I’m sure he smelled the estrous in the leaves, but he had no interest in following it to far for fear of losing his doe.

He came a few steps inside 50 yards, but when the doe saw a chance to trot off, he was right behind her. And away the pair darted into the timber.

It was fun while it lasted. It was a fantastic encounter with a buck I had on camera a few times this fall. I’ll have to settle for that and wait for rifle season.








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The chase is on for whitetail hunters

Early November – it is arguably the best time of year to hunt whitetails in Pennsylvania.

The start of the rut is in full swing this week – a phase many call the chase phase. It’s a time of year where it’s not uncommon for archery hunters to see bucks, especially young bucks, cruise through a treeline with their noses to the ground in search of a doe.

It’s also a time of year for archery hunters to break out the bag of tricks – scents, rattle bags or antlers, and grunt tubs all go into the hunting bag this week. You never know when you’ll need one or all three of these in a time of need. Personally, I’m a rattling fan, but I also use estrous bombs this time of year. I’ve rattled in a few bucks over the years, but never a giant.

I have seen my share of bucks following my drag line, though, and four or five years ago was lucky enough to make a good shot on an 8-point. It is quite rewarding when a plan comes together. More often than not the plan never fully works out.

Some hunters say they like cold mornings this time of year. A little chill seems to add to the crispness of the air and leaves, making every leaf sound like potato chips under a deer’s hoof.

In early November, my experience tells me it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside – when the time is right the deer will be on the prowl in the wind, snow, whatever the elements. It’s easy to get discouraged sometimes when 9 or 10 a.m. roll around and there isn’t a deer to be seen.

Bad day? There is no such thing in my opinion. You’re in the woods, living the dream, I would say.

It’s early November and there’s a buck cruising just over the next ridge, searching for a receptive doe. Wait him out because chances are a deer is going to cross your path eventually and you will be ready.



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