1. BE PREPARED If you go on a drop-camp hunt in the wilderness, do your homework first. Find out if the camp has adequate cookware and utensils. Make sure there’s a camp axe if you’ll have to split wood, as well as a lantern, a working stove and adequate fuel. Bring extra mantles for the lantern.
2. SADDLE UP When you’re planning a horseback hunt, bring an extra set of long johns to wear when riding. They’ll eliminate chafing from the saddle. If possible, wear hunting boots that aren’t extra wide, so they’ll slip easily in and out of stirrups.
3. CHOOSE A BANKER If several hunters carpool on a long-distance trip, one person should be designated the “banker.” Each hunter gives him $100 for trip expenses; when the money runs out, an equal amount from each hunter is added. Use the money for gas, oil, tolls, etc.
4. KEEP QUIET When picking a tree on which to hang a deer stand, make sure you can access it easily and silently. Try to set up within 100 yards or so of a remote logging road, field edge, etc.
5 Move on Moose To avoid competition from other hunters on public-land moose hunts, scout at least two days before the hunt. Unless it’s during the rut (late September to early October), bull moose tend to stay in one area. Don’t just look from roads. Walk into willow marshes and check out beaver ponds and stream drainages, where big moose like to hide.
6. ROLL ON Use a wheeled carrier to transport big-game meat over rough terrain. One-wheeled carriers work much better than two-wheeled models. The latter snag easily on rocks, stumps and brush and require a wider path on which to travel. Be sure the carrier has brakes if you’re hunting in steep country.
7. GET VOCAL A big buck chasing a doe is apt to make all sorts of loud, weird sounds. Play off that in the rut. Blow urrrp, urrrp, urrrp or urrrg, urrrg, urrrg on your call. Sound throaty and gurgling. Five- to ten-second sets are realistic, but anything goes.
8. WATCH YOUR LEAD Though many wing-shooters find it hard to get ahead of fast-flying game birds, waterfowlers often shoot ahead of ducks simply because they’ve had more time to watch their approach and overanticipate the shot. Most incoming or escaping ducks at 25 to 30 yards do not require a 4- or 5-foot lead. Often the muzzle need only be aimed just in front of the duck’s bill.
9 Get Real Go for realistic-looking over sheer numbers when setting up decoys for Canada geese. Also, a goose spread should have a look of contentment, not wariness. Seven out of ten full-body decoys should be feeders (heads down), making it appear there are far fewer birds looking for danger.
10. SCOPE OUT BEARS If you’re spot-and-stalk hunting for black bears, a spotting scope will help you identify them at long distances. A sow might have cubs, but they might not be easily seen through binoculars. Sows with cubs are illegal to hunt; if you can identify them first you could save yourself a long hike. Spotting scopes are also handy for locating distant bears in old burns.
11 Set Your Sights Low Old bucks typically like to bed up high, where they can smell rising thermals and see through the woods below. But when the rut blows up, don’t overlook a monster lying low in a woodlot or near a field where he can keep close tabs on the local does. Glass for a big rack in fallen treetops, weedy ditches, clumps of brush and other likely spots.
12. TAKE A STAND A hunter’s first instinct when a tom unexpectedly gobbles is to sit by the nearest tree and get ready. Instead, quickly eye the terrain first. If there are hills or low brush that could obstruct your view of a turkey as it walks into range, stand tight against a tree and aim the shotgun in the direction of the approaching bird. As soon as it walks into range, you’ll be able to see it and fire.
13. READ A BUCK If a buck strolls along with his head down and hindquarters swaying, he’s cool and collected. But when a big deer stops, starts, bobs his head and looks all around, he’s wired and spooky. Make a wrong move and he’ll bust you.
14. LOOK LOW FOR MULEYS Mule deer often hide in cover that looks like it could barely conceal a fox. Many hunters seek muleys high in the mountains, driving by lower expanses of sagebrush where these animals are apt to hide. Mule deer also seek shelter in brushy draws or small, dense thickets. Heave rocks into those draws to bust muleys out of their lairs.
15. DON’T GET SHAFTED Carbon arrows are long on strength and accuracy, but their black shafts make it hard to spot blood on an arrow to determine where your shot hit. Crest arrows with light colors and fletch with white or yellow vanes. Light colors make reading shafts simple.
16. AMBUSH A BULL If you spot elk moving into the timber in the morning and aren’t able to reach them, leave them alone for the rest of the day. Using the wind to your advantage, look for an ambush point at the edge of the timber where they disappeared. Stay until the last legal minute of shooting light, since animals might linger until it’s nearly dark before moving into the open.
17. DECOY PRONGHORNS Antelope rut in September, and bucks gather harems and viciously defend them against other males. If you’re bowhunting or after an elusive buck during the rut, use a decoy. It needs to have smallish horns no larger than 11 or 12 inches. The idea is to challenge, not intimidate, the herd buck. Position the decoy where it can be seen and set up nearby, using brush, a rock outcropping or terrain as cover.
18 Watch the Wind If a 5 1/2-year-old buck catches your scent, he might melt into the brush. But an old doe is apt to stamp and blow, freaking out every deer within a half mile. Set up where the wind will push your scent behind your stand and over a place where few or no deer travel. That might be a fallow field, a deep river or a lake or pond.
19. STAY PUT The mere turn of a turkey’s head away from you when it gobbles can make it sound like the tom has walked 20 or 30 yards in the opposite direction. Don’t panic and try to close the distance. The bird is probably still strutting in the same general place. If you move now, you’re likely to send it running away.
20 Wear Your Release You’re trudging to your favorite stand and suddenly find yourself eye-to-eye with a set of giant antlers. After a minute-long stare-down, the buck bounds off. Make it a habit to wear your release when making these treks. You’ll be ready when the shot presents itself.
21. SHOT MANAGEMENT Practice your entire shot sequence–getting into position, nocking your arrow, clipping your release, drawing, setting your feet and executing. Surprisingly, many bowhunters don’t. When an opportunity presents itself, they’re caught fumbling and rushing to launch an ill-prepared shot.
22. STOP ELK IN THEIR TRACKS A cow elk call has many uses, a primary one being the ability to stop elk that are running away. Blow as loudly and sharply as you can, and be prepared for a quick shot when the elk momentarily stop and stare at you.
23. RIDE OUT A STORM There is no better time to turkey hunt fields than right after a downpour. The sound and feel of dripping water in the woods makes turkeys nervous and uncomfortable, so they often flock to open areas where they can dry out and better watch for danger.
24. AVOID HANG-UPS Learn to hunt from your tree stand with an arrow nocked and your bow in your lap. Bow hooks are great for hanging quivers and fanny packs, but not for your bow if you want to ground a whitetail. Many a bowhunter has been busted while reaching for a hanging bow.
25. THINK GREEN FOR BLACK BEARS In the spring, black bears will seek out lush vegetation such as grass, clover, dandelions and other plants as soon as they emerge from their winter dens. Start hunting high, where bears follow the receding snowfields to find food. Check out areas that look greener than others, and look for fresh droppings. If you find fresh sign, make sure to be there late in the afternoon, when bears are most active.
26. LANDMARK DECISION Use your range finder to mark the distances to prominent landmarks–trees, rocks, bushes–within a comfortable shooting range of your stand. Do it for every direction in which a shot might be possible and remember the distances to each object. Then put the device away. When a deer strolls by one of the landmarks, you’ll already know exactly how far away it is.
27 Close to the Vest TRY THIS: HOLD ONE rattling antler still and tight to your body and bang and grind it with the other “horn.” You’ll mimic the thuds of two heavyweights fighting, and you’ll cut down on your movement to boot.
28. DOVE FUNNELS If you can’t get permission to hunt a hot feeding field or roosting woodlot, maybe you can get the birds in between. Look for land features that will funnel doves. As they fly from roosting to feeding or watering areas, doves will often follow a fence, creek, field edge or other natural corridor. Also look for a prominent feature, such as a lone tree, in otherwise featureless terrain along their route.
29 Watch Your Step If you use screw-in tree steps, spend the extra cash and buy six more pegs. Scrimping on steps can lead to a bad fall. Install steps higher than your stand so you have a firm handhold when climbing in and out.
30. AVOID THE HIGH RISE Wisdom has it that the higher you are, the harder it is for a deer to see or smell you. But remember, the higher you climb, the tougher the shot. Acute downward shooting angles shrink the vital strike zone and increase shot distances.
31. TAKE A NUMBER Before leaving on an out-of-state bowhunt, check to find out where the nearest bow shop is in the area you’ll be hunting and keep the phone number in your wallet. That way, should something break on your bow in transit, you’ll know where to go for help.
32. DON’T BE FOOLED Find a fat, fresh rub in early October and there’s a great chance a shooter blazed it. But that’s not always the case. Smaller deer have been observed shredding a pine as thick as a man’s calf. Don’t be fooled during the rut.
33. DRESS GRAY When hunting in the West, choose a camo pattern that has a lot of gray. The drab color fits in nicely with the abundant sagebrush.
34. GO THE DISTANCE Before the season opener, practice shots to distances 20 yards farther than the longest shot you’re comfortable taking in the woods. You’ll find your accuracy at shorter distances and confidence in the woods will improve.
35 Consider a Spaniel If you’re looking for a new pup, consider an English springer or English cocker spaniel. American upland hunters have always been pointing-dog fans, but most would find spaniels easier to train and better suited to small hunting tracts and urban lifestyles. Verify with the breeder that the dog is field-bred, and look for field trial prefixes (AFC, FC, FTC) in its pedigree.
36. TAKE TIME OUT TO SCOUT If you’re getting skunked during deer season, sacrifice a day or two of hunting to scout some more. Move around your land, glass like crazy, find where a big boy feeds or beds and move in for an ambush.
37. KEY ON HOT SIGN Four or five bucks might dig and pee in one set of scrapes while scrapes 200 to 300 yards away go stale. If you scrape-hunt two days without spotting a nice rack, stop wasting your time. Pull your stand, expand your range, scout and rehang the stand in a place where the sign is hotter.
38. GIVE YOURSELF SPACE Instead of burying your deer stand in a thicket, set up at the head or foot of it, or along an edge where the wind is right. When you can see a brute coming for 70 yards or so through the woods, you’ll have time to calm your nerves and set up a good shot.
39. MUDDY IT UP When hunting flooded fields or other shallow areas of water, make sure you muddy the water around your decoys, the same way it would be if real ducks were feeding.
40 Bust a Flock If you encounter a flock of spring turkeys that just won’t come to the call, break a trick out of the fall playbook and ease close enough to charge the birds and bust them up. Watch which way one of the longbeards goes, then set up between him and the other turkeys. Give it about 20 minutes and start calling.
41. MAKE THE MOST OF THE MORNING For a good morning hunt, remember these two rules: 1) Sneak in and hang a tree stand 100 to 150 yards downwind of a bedding cover. 2) The next morning, sneak back in from downwind and climb quietly into the perch a good hour before daybreak. If an old buck comes by a few hours later to scent-check the cover before he enters it, you’ll be ready.
42. BE A CUT-UP One of the most useful items a hunter can place in his turkey vest is a pair of ratchet cutters. They can be used to quickly and quietly clear away limbs and small saplings that might obstruct a clear shot or the arc of your gun.
43. WAIT FOR THE SUN In the flat, gray light of dawn on the plains, whitetails are impossible to see, even with an expensive binocular. Wait until the sun comes up to go hunting. When it hits the hills and sage flats and fills the coulees, the hides and antlers of 20 or more whitetails will shine like new pennies.
44 Keep Bugling Most firearms elk hunts are held after the rut, when hunters assume bugling is a waste of time. Bring along a bugle and use it in the morning as a locator. Although most communication between elk is over, a bull might still answer. And though you might not be able to call him in, you should be able to determine his position.
45. HOW FRESH IS THAT TRACK? Don’t let sandy soil along a river or creek fool you. Tracks and trails in sand are almost always fresher than they look.
46. PUT IT IN THE HOLE Nothing is more frustrating than trying to pick the right pinhole on your climbing stand in the dark. When scouting, find a tree you plan to use, adjust your stand on it and take a climb to make sure the platform is sloping the right way. If you hunt from that tree the next day, replace the pins in the appropriate holes. If you select multiple trees prior to the season, jot down the pin positions for each so you’ll know exactly where they need to be set each time.
47 Foul-Weather Pheasants When possible, get out and hunt pheasants in nasty weather. Spectacular hunts are possible even in sleet, snow and driving rain. The birds concentrate in thick cover and are more reluctant to run or flush wild.
48. PUBLIC-LAND POINTER If you see three or four trucks parked near a good-looking public-land tract during archery deer season, you can figure those guys and twice as many more will be back when gun season opens. Pull out your maps and start looking for a secluded spot to hunt a mile or more away.
49. HUNT CLOSE TO HOME As developers carve new roads and home sites into farms and woodlands, focus on any edge cover they leave standing–a strip of hardwood trees, a windrow of pines, a swath of swampy ground that won’t drain. Whitetails love to walk and browse those edges, so set stands there.
50. MAKE YOUR MOVE When a strutting gobbler refuses to break from his zone, listen for the turkey to move away from you, then, using trees and terrain for cover, take a step or two toward him each time he gobbles. Do this until you’ve worked your way near the end of the strut zone that is closest to you. When the gobbler walks back in your direction, you might be able to coax him a few extra yards for a clean shot.
51 Walk in Water Anytime you can wade knee-deep in a creek or river to get to a stand, do it. Go slowly and you’ll make little noise and leave behind no human scent.
52. WAIT FOR THE FOLLOW-UP SHOT You’re still-hunting and bump a couple of does. Freeze beside a tree and get your bow or gun up. If the animals don’t wind you, they won’t run far before stopping. There’s a decent chance a buck will get up from his bed, wonder what’s up, follow the does and give you a shot.
53. THINK BIG A 30-inch mule deer buck is a lofty goal, but if that’s what you’re set on, check the recent history of the unit you plan to hunt. The key word is “recent.” Many big bucks were taken in the ’50s and ’60s. If you hunt where you are seeing a lot of deer but no oversized bucks, change your strategy and go where there are fewer deer. Unless it’s the rut, big bucks avoid herds of mixed deer and often hang out in bachelor groups.
54. FLIP IT Multi-reed turkey diaphragms are designed to be placed in your mouth with the longest reed on top to achieve the tone–usually raspy–the call was intended to make. To make it sound like a second hen, flip the call over in your mouth to make clear, higher-pitched yelps and kee kees.
55. DO-IT-YOURSELF SHEEP It’s commonly believed that it costs a fortune to hunt sheep, but you can do it yourself without paying an outfitter. Most sheep live on public land, where you can hunt unguided. Do some research before applying for a unit and determine the availability of sheep close to roads. In many units, you can spot rams from highways. If you draw a tag, prepare to do plenty of scouting. Visit the area before the season if possible. Plan several days of scouting just before opening day.
56. GO NUTS If you find piles of ripe acorns littering the ridges in October, it’s a good bet that’s also where you’ll find the most rubs and scrapes when the rut kicks in a few weeks later. Hunt there.
57 Work the Flank We’ve all set our decoys with the wind, blind and landing spot in mind, only to have ducks keep landing just out of shooting range. After the third group of birds lands in the same place, don’t change the setup. Instead, slip into the water with your waders and ease behind cover that will put you closer to where the ducks are landing.
58. GET AWAY When a turkey hangs up out of sight and refuses to come closer, ease away from the bird, calling as you do. Walk about 100 yards from where you started and lay the calls on thick, maybe even hitting a gobbler shaker. Then dash back in the direction of the bird about 30 or 40 yards, set up and shut up. It’s a good bet the tom, convinced the hen is leaving, will come looking.
59. HIRE A PACKER If you’re hunting solo far from roads, consider hiring a packer to get your game out. You can find a packer by calling the state wildlife agency, outfitters association or chamber of commerce. Make arrangements before you hunt so he’ll be available when you need him.
60. YOU BE THE JUDGE Before embarking on a Western big-game hunt, visit taxidermy shops or sporting-goods stores where you can analyze mounted heads of the game you’ll be hunting. Study the antlers and their size in comparison to ear length, the distance between ears at the alert position and the distance between eyes and the tip of the nose. It will make you better prepared to judge a trophy in the field.
61 Keep ‘Em Close Many hunters set their decoys at the perfect patterning distance for their shotgun–usually 25 to 30 yards away. The problem is, toms typically hang up 10 to 20 yards beyond decoys, so your gobbler will be out of range. Set your decoys close, within 10 to 12 yards of where you’re sitting. If a tom hangs up, he’ll be close enough for a shot.
62. TIME IT RIGHT FOR QUAIL Gambel’s, scaled, Mearns and valley quail are best hunted in late season, when shooting is unhindered by dense foliage and cooler weather makes a dog’s life easier. Hunt mountain quail after the opening-day crowds dissipate, but before fall rains scatter the birds.
63. REDUCE SCENT When hunting deer, look around every hour or so to make sure none are coming. Pull out your odor-eliminator and mist your clothes, boots, seat, pack–everything. It’ll cut down on the scent that pools around you.
64. TAKE A LESSON Golfers take lessons. So do competitive shooters. Waterfowlers should be no different. Pay for an hour of calling instruction from a caller who really knows what he’s doing–you’ll find it well worth the cost and effort. You’ll learn cadence, inflection, proper volume and, of course, the various calls that seasoned hunters rely on for different circumstances.
65 Get Fit for Lions If you think a mountain lion hunt is a slam-dunk because you’ll be following the hounds on a snowmobile, think again. Cats will often tree far from the machine, forcing you into what could be one of the most strenuous hunts of your life. Wear layers, so you can shed them as you begin sweating.
66. SHUT UP Overcalling to a roosted gobbler will only keep him in the tree longer, looking for the hen he thinks is nearby to come to him. Offer just a few soft tree yelps and maybe one good flydown cackle to get the tom to respond. Then, shut up until you hear him pitch down. Give him time to seek you out before delivering more yelps and purrs.
67. DON’T IGNORE LATE-SEASON RUBS Gun hunters who see elk rubs in late October and November commonly shrug off their importance, assuming the bull that made them weeks before is long gone. That assumption is a mistake. A bull makes rubs in the core of his territory. The fact that he worked over the trees earlier means he’s likely to be in the same place for the rest of the fall.
68. STAY DRY FOR WOODCOCK Though officially classified as “shore birds,” woodcock aren’t usually found in marshes. Earthworms make up two-thirds of their diet. Look for them on soft, rich soils in areas that flood only occasionally.
69. ROTATE WITH THE CROPS Crop cycles keep whitetails on the move in late summer and early fall, although the deer don’t travel very far. If a farmer bales his alfalfa or cuts his corn, most does and bucks will simply hop over to the next undisturbed field. Move and glass the fields accordingly to keep tabs on deer on the move.
70. PASS UP THE FIRST BUCK If you’re hunting mule deer in the rut, you’re apt to see bucks hanging out with groups of does. Don’t be too quick to shoot a buck that appears to be tending the does. Many times a bigger buck will be loafing just a short distance away, saving up all of his energy until a doe actually comes into estrus. Always check the cover around the herd, looking for the bigger buck.
WHAT WERE WE THINKING?
July 1938 “Waterproofing Boots” To waterproof boots, obtain from a tire repairman a half pint of ordinary rubber cement. Thin this with 50 percent gasoline, then paint the mixture on the shoes with a brush. Give them two coats for best results.