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.









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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.











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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.






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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.






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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.


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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.





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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.











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2016! Here I come … soon

Pennsylvania’s early archery season is less than a month away.

A part of me says daily, I want the season to start tomorrow. The other part says, I’m not ready.

It’s the never ending tug-o-war that goes on with many hunters I suppose. My first battle of the hunting season usually starts over the summer during my target practice. Getting my pins dialed in always seems to give me fits. Knock on wood, this year I seem to be shooting the best I’ve shot in some time.

The last couple years I’ve started shooting some odd ranges in preparation to the season – shooting between pin distances at 15-25-35 yards. In my mind, the chances of a deer hitting that exact 20-yard mark is just about never. So I’d like to know how my arrow acts with my 20-yard-pin at 25 yards. And today when I was shooting, I was about an inch low.

I also like to shoot during any weird weather or time of day. I would challenge any hunter to shoot at dusk or on a windy day or rain, whatever weather condition you suspect you may be hunting in. Make the situation as realistic as possible.

Today during my target practice I was also trying to cut down my aiming time. Have you ever had just three or four seconds to draw and release an arrow? If you’ve ever had that situation, you know those four seconds can tick off quick. So that’s what I practiced today, counting down in my head and trying to shoot accurately in a short amount of time.

Before we know it, the Oct. 1 opener will be upon us. Do your best to be ready to be successful. Good luck!








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Keep mid-morning and afternoon options open

I’m hearing the frustration.

I got an email the other day from a turkey hunter, which in part summed up what many are feeling: “where are they hiding?”

Another message: “they’re super henned up.”

Whatever the reason, finding a spring gobbler in the middle of May is no easy chore. There is nothing worse than finally finding a gobbling bird just to have him either, 1. gobble back and not close the distance, or 2. clam up totally.

Filling that tag can involve a little luck and finding the right bird willing to investigate.

If you are not on a bird at first light, this is the time of year where the mid-morning can be your best friend. Many times those toms with hens will split up at some point later in the day. When you get your chance at a gobbling bird, don’t hesitate to use a hen decoy to draw him in closer.

I nearly blew my opportunity last week when I quickly scrambled to set up my decoy. I set out only a jake decoy, and when my tom saw the jake with no hen nearby, he nearly checked out. Luckily for me he was within range and my aim was on target.

So keep mid-morning in the back of your mind then next time you head out. It’s now legal to hunt in the afternoons as well for spring gobbler. That gobbler you’ve been searching for just may be searching for you on the next ridge or treeline just when you least expect it.

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No such thing as perfect spring gobbler plan

To be honest, my Thursday morning did not go as planned.

Such is spring gobbler hunting.
There are times each spring where I find myself wandering. A half hour later I’m left scratching my head, wondering if I’m hunting or just taking my shotgun for a walk.

I’m not afraid to walk, although my friends would tell you I curse a little at hills. So when I heard a gobble off in the distance on Thursday morning, I started to walk. An hour later, I had walked far enough because that gobble I heard at daybreak was clearly much further than I had anticipated.

So, I turned around.

It felt like the scene in Forrest Gump when Gump, who had been running for weeks across the country, decided to go home. I wasn’t going home, but I most certainly wasn’t going any further.

My feet were happy. My ego, bruised.

So, I walked a mile or so into an area where I thought turkeys liked to go. It’s a grassy area in the woods — a storm years ago had ripped down some trees and what was once woods was now a three-acre greenery in the forest.

I called. Nothing. I called again. Nothing.

Determined to give it a shot anyway, I set up a jake and a hen decoy, and snuggled up to the nearest tree.

And then it happened —  a gobble just down the hillside maybe 150 yards. I readjusted my position, set my jake decoy and called. After just a couple of calls, it’s obvious this bird has some interest and is closing the gap.

Within minutes a tom appears into view at 40 yards and he’s glued on my jake. This may actually happen, I’m thinking.

He may not have been in the mood to fight, but he certainly was in the mood to investigate. With two putts from my mouth call, I was given the perfect shot and took it.

What a morning, I thought. But that’s the nature of turkey hunting, a sport that can change in an instant.

All you need is an imperfect plan, and the will to take a walk.



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    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
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