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Compound Bows

The Misadventures of Miss Adventure

The Misadventures of Miss Adventure

by Janice Baer
Field Staff Coordinator, Minnesota


What hunting season would be complete
without some misadventures?

Certainly not mine!

Read more: The Misadventures of Miss Adventure

Archery Hunt 2011

Archery Hunt 2011

by Julie Hughes, ProStaff, Nevada

This four-week hunt represents a typical hunt season for me in Northeastern Nevada...

{jcomments off}

Read more: Archery Hunt 2011

Gettin’ Ready For Spring Turkey Hunting

Now that we are deep into winter, it’s time to start thinking about spring turkey hunting. It’ll make these “cabin fever” days seem a little more bearable.

Have you received your catalogs from Cabela’s, Bass Pro, or other such companies yet? If you have, it’s time to see if there are any new turkey hunting goodies that you think you might want or need.
Has your turkey vest seen better days? Could you use a new slate call after losing the companion striker? Have you always gun hunted turkeys sitting under a tree and now wish to try a bow from the confines of a ground blind? Perhaps a jake turkey decoy to go along with your hen decoy could be on your next sales receipt. Now is the time to dream... and buy.

Are all your turkey hunting clothes in good repair? Are they the correct size? Maybe you were diligent in your New Years resolution and you’ve lost weight. Perfect excuse to get a new outfit! Or if you’ve indulged a little more than you should have this past fall and winter, and your existing clothing doesn’t fit you, then it’s still a great excuse to buy a new outfit! In my view, either way it’s a win-win situation.
I personally hunt turkeys with a bow from my ground blind, so I am only concerned about wearing black clothing on my upper body, including a black facemask and black camo paint and black gloves. Your pants will not be seen in any way from inside a blind. And since turkeys can’t smell you, keeping your clothing scent-free is not an issue.
You will soon need to make sure all your gear is together (clothing, weapon, knife, etc) so that when you depart for the hunting grounds, you know you’ll not be forgetting anything. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget your license!

Now is also the time to begin to track the turkeys’ daily movements so you know what their travel route is on any given day. What trees do they tend to roost in?

Take a drive around your hunting area before dawn and at dusk to hear or see where they may be roosting. Sound out an owl or bird call or other such call, to get a shock gobble from a close by tom. Even slamming a car door will produce a shock gobble so you can pinpoint what tree they might be in.

Is their first stop the neighbor’s cut cornfield for grasshoppers? Is their next stop another neighbor’s barren garden used for dusting? Do they then move on to the nearest oak savannah to search for last year’s acorn drop?

It’s a good idea to know where they might be on any given day in your hunting territory, this way you’ll have a good idea where you could set up.

I like to not only drive around the vicinity of my hunt, but to ask the people that live around the area if they’ve seen turkeys and if so, where and at what time of day. Any info I can get is greatly appreciated help.

Hopefully this has stoked your enthusiasm so you have a leg up come turkey hunting time this spring. Happy hunting!


Do you mind if i "super size" that?

Do you Mind if I "Super Size" that?

by Tammy Koenig, Staff Writer, Wisconsin

Giant hogs criss-crossed the forest floor of my dreams while my eyes searched for the perfect shot on a bristled razorback boar...          

Read more: Do you mind if i "super size" that?

Coyote Buck: A lesson in predator management

An intrusive buzzing interrupted my deep sleep as the green glow of the alarm clock filled the cabin’s dark bedroom. Mid November not only brings early mornings in Wisconsin, but it’s typically the heart of the rut which will get any avid bowhunter’s heart pounding.

After surveying an arial map of the property, my Dad and I along with 4 other hunting buddies, selected our stands and headed out agreeing to meet back at the cabin for lunch and a “deer report”. Sitting on a small water hole on the north end of the woods, I felt confident that a big bruiser would come in for a much needed drink. Three long hours into the sit I spotted movement off to my left. I watched as an 8 pointer meandered through the downfalls, working his way towards my stand. The two year old buck needed another year’s growth so I wasn’t disappointed when he simply turned and slowly walked away from me, more interested in acorns than the water hole.

Climbing down at noon, I was puzzled with the lack of action in the woods, but it turned out to be the consensus. Three days of long, lonely sits left us all a bit bewildered. Where had all of the deer gone? It wasn’t uncommon to see over a dozen deer per sit just a couple of years ago. All of my hunting partners were reporting the same disheartening intel- the woods were very quiet this year.

After a hardy bowl of venison chili for lunch, I headed to the south end of the property to sit in a spot we call the ‘hard-to-find’ stand, situated among some thick brush and oaks. Three long hours had passed with only one forked horn buck spotted. With only 30 minutes of light remaining, I stood at the ready with my release clipped to the string. A slight crunch of leaves suddenly grabbed my attention. A brown body of a deer moved quickly through the thick brush as I pulled back my bow in case it was a buck.

Antlers appeared as the 8 pointer stepped into a small opening at 25 yards and I sent my arrow flying. My broadhead made a resounding thump, hitting the buck at a slightly quartering angle. The shot was a few inches further back than I had intended, but I felt confident the shuttle T broadhead would do its job as the buck went crashing through the trees. I waited the standard 20 minutes until climbing down and rushing back to the cabin to share my exciting news.

After dinner we donned our headlamps and began the search. Entering the woods at 7:30pm, we shined the leaves and quickly found a great blood trail where the buck had crossed an opening. Excited about the sign, we followed the trail for an hour before it started to lessen. Coming across a huge downfall, we searched left and right but the trail seemed to vanish. Backing out of the woods, we decided to resume our search in the early morning.
Resuming the search in the morning light Finding good sign
In the bright morning light we were able to pick up the trail where we left off. Scanning the downfalls, my boyfriend Jim spotted the 8 pointer’s rack lying among the branches. “There he is!” he shouted. Sprinting over to the buck, my excitement quickly turned to disgust as I realized the coyotes found my buck before we did.
A gruesome discovery Jana and half of the Wisconsin 8 pointer

From the amount of destruction, it was obvious that a pack of coyotes had dined on what was to be my year's venison. Elated to have found the beautiful buck, I couldn’t help but also feel disappointed in the waste. The answer to our question “What happened to all the deer?” was obvious. Along with back-to-back harsh winters, it was likely we were losing a large number of fawns to coyotes and other predators that have gone unmanaged on our property.
Happy to have recovered her archery kill, Jana poses with her 2010 Wisconsin 8 pointer.

Salvaging a portion of the backstraps, we fired up the grill that evening and enjoyed a wonderful venison dinner at the cabin. Raising our glasses in thanks for the harvest, we made plans for next month's hunt: a hunt that included a coyote call and a 17HMR.


Due Diligence

I stood there in what should have been a Kodak moment:  a brilliantly colored fall woods, the angled mid-day sun glinting through the trees, a walk in the woods for several hours, thanking God for strength and health and my many blessings and dragging a deer back to camp.  I had seen dozens of amazing looking mushrooms including a new growth of sulphur shelf on a large, dead oak tree that I later harvested.   Instead of feeling that euphoria of fall, I was feeling dejected.  I felt my eyes starting to water up but stuffed it back.  I hung my head looking at my bow against a backdrop of the mosaic of leaves on the forest floor.   I looked upward.  “Why?  Why, when given this passion for archery and hunting, and why when I prepare 110% for it, and why when everything goes right, does it end up like this?”

I’ve asked that question a hundred times about various things over my lifetime.  Today’s “Why” was not as grave as past queries, but I am serious about my bowhunting.  I come to it ready and confident.  I teach others about being fully prepared.   I have been blessed with harvests each year, but not today.

The evening before, I sat on the “black squirrel” tree stand.  I had been taunted by this wee black rodent for several days.  I have arrowed squirrels before, but ever since I saw my first black squirrel in Alabama, I have wanted to get one and have it mounted by my taxidermist.  They are very unique.  I had never seen a black squirrel in my ten years of owning my land.  The oak ridge was the black squirrel’s range and it seemed the center of that range was the oak tree in which my tree stand hung.  The critter never got closer than 30 yards, and I was not confident to shoot something that tiny at that distance.  And now there he was again.  I had debated whether to harvest him if given the opportunity, or let him procreate so I could have a herd of black squirrels and hence, better odds at killing one in the future.  That evening, the squirrel appeared, did his lap around me tree at 30-40 yards and was gone. 

Later, as I was glassing the swamp edge, I saw a very large doe approaching, as large as many bucks I’ve arrowed.   I readied my bow for the shooting window before me at 27 yards and held at full draw.  I was practiced and prepared to 50 yards this year so 27 seemed like a “gimme” shot.  Everything was going perfectly.  She stopped in the distance, I let the arrow fly, she 180’d and did the death run back north on the swamp trail.  I slumped in my stand as the flush of adrenalin consumed me head to toe.   I pulled out my binoculars and saw my arrow in the leaves just beyond where the doe stood.  “A pass-through!” I thought to myself.  Most of my shots are pass-throughs.  I knew I had hit at the center of the lung area so finding her was academic.  I waited 15 minutes for good measure, descended from my stand, strode to my arrow and then, got the “uh oh” feeling.  The arrow had no blood on the fletching so it had NOT gone through the animal.  There was no way I missed however.  I pulled the arrow out of the leaves and saw a bowhunter’s worst nightmare:  it was half an arrow with bright red blood and hair on the broken stub end.  I looked around and saw a small tree near where I shot the doe.  She must have sheared the arrow off as she spun around.   The broadhead and other half of the arrow were still in the deer.

This meant no exit wound, a plugged entry wound and no blood trail.   It also meant, the doe was dead somewhere and I might not be able to find her.  I went up the deer trail along the swamp where I saw her run.  No blood.  I went another 25 yards up the trail, and saw blood on leaves and some drops on the ground.  I was jubilant, and decided since it was getting dark, I would just go up the deer trail and surely I find her piled up nearby.   No such luck.  I decided to go back to camp, change into lighter weight clothes, drive back on the ATV with my sidearm since this was bear territory, and look again.

By now it was dark.  I returned and walked back up the deer trail and discovered a huge bear scat, bear prints and a bear trail.  If the bear had found my dead doe, he might be territorial about it.  I decided to come back in the morning instead.  Since the low would be 43 degrees that night, the doe would not spoil.

Back at 8am, I began my search at last blood.  I found 60 yards of blood trail on leaves and branches at my mid-hip level which made the wound a double lung like I thought.  She had stopped once and there was blood on the ground.  After 60 yards, the blood trail just stopped.   I backtracked in case she had back tracked to go another route.  No luck.  I marked the blood trail with florescent trail ribbon to determine her trajectory.  No luck.  I went back to last blood and noticed there were four distinct routes she could have taken.  There were many deer tracks so discerning which were hers was impossible.  One trail went west to a pocket swamp; one straight ahead north; one went on the deer trail around the tag alder swamp; and the last one went right into the thick of the swamp which was full of water and impregnable by any human.   When deer do their death run, they mostly run down hill as their life energy dissipates, and often run toward or into in a swamp.   I did concentric circles around last blood, but there was no more trail to follow.  I did a grid search of my entire north 40.  I followed every deer trail that led to thick cover areas and searched every one.   I have arrowed dozens of deer on my land, and I know where they hide, and I know where they go on their death runs.   I knew she was dead somewhere, and if I didn’t find her she would be bear and raccoon food by day’s end.  I spent 5-1/2 hours searching for the animal.

Now as it neared  2pm, I knew I was out of options.  “Why?” I had asked myself.  I would have done nothing differently with the preparation and events of these two days.  Everything went right.  I am obsessive about being prepared and practiced.   I questioned if I didn’t pull enough poundage on my bow and hence the kinetic energy was not great enough for a pass-through at distances greater than 20 yards?   I wondered if my arrow had hit a rib so it had not passed through.  It didn’t seem fair.  That’s when I got a little upset with God and had a chat with Him.

I take the harvest of an animal quite seriously.  Oh, I get excited and do the yippee yell and the happy dance with a successful harvest, but I also offer up thanks for it.    I regard bowhunting, and my expertise for doing it, as a privilege.   And I have a due diligence when taking the life of an animal, to do so humanely and to recover that animal at all costs.  I hate to give up, but in this case, I was out of options.

Too often over the years, I see hunters who are not prepared, who shoot everything that moves, who are cavalier about killing and who don’t look longer than a few minutes for an animal after they shoot one.  When we teach Firearm Safety, we call them “slob hunters.”    Some give up looking for an animal after the shot, because they are afraid of the ‘boogie man’ out there in the woods.  Some can’t find or read a blood trail, or are just too lazy to look.  There is no excuse for lack of due diligence in searching for that which you’ve shot or killed.   We all want to find what we worked so hard to get.  It’s a matter of ethics.

I had to go home empty-handed this time, which is unsettling.  Each time I’ve been in that area of my land since, I have looked again, hoping to find the other half of my arrow, or a deer skull.  The ones that get away seem to be the ones we remember the most.


Bear Hunt

September 1, 2010

It is with great anticipation that I await the fall season, because to me, it isn’t about the falling leaves, the changing colors, the beauty of the mountains and the bugling of the elk, although they all pump my blood.  To me, it is about pulling my quiver out and finding out which tag I get to hunt.  I shoot year-round with my Hoyt, so being prepared and accurate isn’t a problem.  I have 12 Robin Hoods (an arrow shot inside an arrow)! I’ve also taken a buffalo, big bull, deer and mountain lion to my credit.  But being a good shot and getting a good shot at a critter are two different things.

This past year, I had two tags.  I was fortunate to draw a deer tag and a bear tag.  I wanted to fill my deer tag first so I could concentrate on my bear tag.

On the opening weekend, we pulled the camper up to the top of the canyon and camped.  My husband and I hunt public land.  There were people everywhere.  I’ve never seen so many people!  I have a few favorite places that I like to walk.  So bright and early, we drove the four-wheeler even higher and Robert let me off the bike.  I hiked up and over the top.  I like to peek into the spots where deer frequent.  I saw a couple of does.  The other side was really steep.  My boots were killing me.  My toes were crammed and it felt and if I would have been better off with two-by-fours strapped to my feet.  I felt clumsy and noisy.  I kept falling down.  I didn’t see anything on the other side.  When I made it to the wheeler trail, I was there before Robert, so I started walking down the trail, but at least it was easier to be sneaky.  Robert got there a short time later and I got on the bike.  No sooner had I gotten on the bike when I spotted two really nice 4x4 deer only 30 yards away!  I jumped off the bike and went backwards down the trail.  The deer didn’t seem to notice.  Robert and I made a plan and we parked the bike and split up.  We made a stalk on the deer.  Two hours later, we joined up at camp. We went back a couple of times over the weekend, but we never did see those deer again.

We both had to go back to work on Monday.  We hunted hard after work.  I would come home from work and switch out from my dress and skirt and put on my camo in record time and be hunting within 15 minutes!  It was like that on my lucky day.  We spotted a nice 4x4 just east of our little town, and I was trying to get a shot at him.  There was another nice deer that was more unique than he was big.  He had a spike on one side that looked like an elk and the other side was a three point.  I had decided I would take whichever buck presented the shot.  It happened to be the three-point.  He was 40 yards away.  He was with another very small buck.  He finally presented a quartering away shot and I let my arrow fly.  SMACK!  He took off running hard.  It was the run that makes you think you hit him in the heart.  But I heard the string hit my jacket.  I waited for a couple hours before I started to track him out.  I could see eyes in my flash light and I started running toward them.  I got really close and found out it was a skunk!  All of a sudden, I was the one being chased!  I was really lucky that I didn’t get spayed!  I had to go back to the blood trail and start over.  I was able to recover my buck and took some pictures.  When I went to clean him, I discovered that when my string had hit my jacket, the arrow went right and hit his leg.  It had also severed both his testicles and his femoral artery.  My husband said, “No wonders he ran like you hit him in the heart!” I got lucky.  We loaded him up and took him home.  I made a mental note to make sure that didn’t happen again.

The bear hunt started one week after the deer hunt.  During the summer, I had already started my “stink” bait.  I took a bucket and put some meat into it.  I put a lid on it and let it sit out in the hot sun and ferment.  I knew that it would stink by now.  Opening morning, I took a burlap sack and the bucket of stink and went up the mountain with my first bag of donuts.  I had my COR permit from the division with all the proper bait station signage.  I arrived at the site where I planned to put my first bait station.  I got off the wheeler and packed the supplies through the dark timber to the perfect place.  I spent some time to gather some logs and build a “V” around a tree so that the bear would present me a shot.  Then I put the donuts inside the “V”.  I put my trail tracker camera on the tree.  I dumped the stinky goo into the burlap sack and tied it shut and then pulled it high into a tree.  Yes!  It stunk!!  I wanted to throw up!  It should draw bears from 100 miles!   Lastly, I stapled the sign on the tree and then left.  

I waited until the next day to sit in the tree stand.  I could hardly stand the anticipation.  Finally, my moment had come!  I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.  As I sat there waiting for the bear to come in, the silence was unnerving.  The chipmunks and squirrels were having a hey-day.  Every time, they dropped a pine cone, my heart rate bumped up another notch!  My daughter sat behind me with the video camera.  We waited five hours and nothing.  We went home empty handed.  The trail tracker camera said the bear came in nine minutes after we left the tree stand!  I waited two days and went back.  This time, my husband sat behind me with the camera.  His plan was to wait until 6:30, if the bear didn’t come in, he was leaving and making a lot of noise.  At precisely 6:30, that is what he did.  He planted the camera on the chair where I had been sitting and aimed it at my donut pile.  I stood up and hid behind the tree and stayed in the tree stand while he left and made a lot of noise.  Almost ten minutes later, here came my bear.  He didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned that I might still be there.  As soon as he slid that front shoulder forward toward the bait, I pulled back to full draw and let the arrow fly.  Perfect hit at ten yards!  He did three somersaults and a back flip and ran from my view.  I heard two humongous deep breaths and then silence.  No death moan. I waited for a while and then called my husband on the cell phone.

We wandered around for a little while and didn’t find any blood. We decided to go back in the morning and look when there was better light.  I couldn’t sleep.  If the $10 lighted nock would have stayed lit, I probably could have seen it from my tree stand, because that bear didn’t go 30 yards and my arrow was standing straight in the air!  What a glorious morning!  What a great bear!


Doubler from a Double Bull Blind

The crisp morning air was charged with the sounds of spring turkey.  From the blind’s pitch-black interior, the calls from a dozen longbeards could be heard echoing throughout the canyon.  Sitting in complete darkness, heightened my senses and my anticipation grew with every amplified gobble.  The eerie feeling of sitting alone in the dark woods was something that I have grown accustomed to from many years of bow hunting whitetail deer. But this hunt was different in many ways.  Not only was I pursuing turkey from a ground blind, but for the first time in two decades of hunting, I had company in the form of a cameraman.  With only the dim glow from our headlamps, we each got situated for our perspective shots.

I had hopes of capturing my first bow hunt for turkey on film among the hills of Nebraska, home to the beautiful Merriam turkey.  I’ve had success with my bow over the last 17 years with deer hunting but only recently did I discover the allure of turkey hunting. Luck has definitely been a friend of mine in the woods of Wisconsin. Three years ago in my first attempt at a Wisconsin Eastern turkey,  I triumphed.  There’s nothing like dropping the hammer on the old 12 gauge within the first 30 minutes of light.   When the exact same scenario occurred during my second spring season opener  I thought, “Wow! Turkey hunting’s a piece of cake!”.  My luck ran dry however when my third year went by without the slightest glimpse of a bird.  So when a friend of mine extended the invitation for a filmed hunt at the Gobble-N-Grunt Outfitters in Nebraska, I couldn’t let the nine-hour car ride stand in my way.

Shadows began to appear as the morning light made its way into the canyon.  We were situated in a Double Bull Blind on the edge of a creek bottom.  Protected by the rolling hills, we were confident that, despite the forecasted windy day, the turkeys would be using our front yard as their strut zone.  After spending the previous evening scouting out this area, we knew that we had set up camp close to their roosts.   Cameraman Jim Kinsey, a professional videographer and the Director of Photography for the Magnum Hunt Club, was ready for any scenario that might come our way.  By using a high-end microphone, Jim could pick up sounds inaudible to the naked ear as he listened to the first of many birds pitch down.

With our realistic Hazel Creek hen decoy, ‘Hazel,’ positioned in front of the blind, I got excited as our first visitor appeared.  A bearded hen walked through and found our decoy interesting as she paraded in circles around ‘Hazel’  making a cooing noise.  At the same time, we spotted a bird in full strut coming in from our left.  My heart began to race as I clipped on my True Fire release and got into position. Just then I heard the whisper, “Stand down.  It’s only a jake.”  The young bird, seemingly curious, came trotting in. Jim recognized his two slightly shorter tail feathers, a sure sign of youth.  We watched the jake contemplate his next move.  After a ten minute stay, he finally decided she just wasn’t his type.

An hour of light had passed and a few distant gobbles could still be heard.  We tried some attempts on the slate call but the woods had quieted down from the earlier concert.  The wind had picked up, possibly causing the longbeards to hunker down.  Another lone hen waltzed in to check out the competition.  She stood right next to the decoy preening her feathers.  Losing interest, she eventually meandered off toward the creek bottom.

It was around 10:00 am when I looked over at Jim behind the camera.  He quickly flew upright in his chair and put his hand on his headset, signaling something exciting.  “Get ready!  I hear drumming!”   Jim peeked out his side of the blind only to see a big tom alongside a hen about 30 yards away.  Being positioned on the left side of the blind, I couldn’t see in that direction but the look on Jim’s face said enough.  This was the one!  With the camera rolling, I pulled back on my new Hoyt Kobalt in hopes of the big bird presenting a shot.  Suddenly, there he was in full strut, dragging his wing tips on the ground and drumming up a storm.  My heart was pounding strong as I had never seen a longbeard in full strut that close before.   Just then a big gust of wind blew up the dust around the old bird and I let my Rage broadhead fly.   We heard to the thud of the arrow and saw feathers fly as he flew up and made a big loop landing 30 yards away by a downfall.  “You got him! We got him!” Jim exclaimed as I sat shaking as if a Pope&Young whitetail just dropped under my stand.  The excitement I felt was obvious as my bow bounced on my knee from sheer adrenaline .  “Are you sure he’s down?  I’ve heard turkeys are really resilient!  Are you sure I got him good?” were all exclamations caught on tape.  The tom was down but we gave him a few minutes to prevent a last, ditch effort escape on his part.  Upon further inspection, my first turkey bow kill was not only a beautiful Merriam hybrid but an old one at that.  He sported a nice, full beard and long, sharp spurs.   I could not have been more excited but we didn’t have much time to celebrate as more gobbles rang out close to our position.

It was my turn to hop behind the camera in hopes of capturing a double kill on film.  With a turkey tag burning a hole in his pocket, Jim gave me a few quick lessons on the video camera as we traded seats.  I knew there were numerous birds still in our area but would a shot present itself; that was the question!

An hour had passed with little action.  The only calls we heard were from inside the blind, as the slate and box call produced no response.  We agreed that a nice, hot lunch back at camp sounded inviting so we stood up, getting ready to head out.  At that very moment the sounds of fighting longbeards could be heard off to our immediate right.  Like two kids playing musical chairs, we flew back down in our seats and scrambled to prepare for a showdown.  From a slit in the blind, I could see a group of five toms headed toward us through the woods.  It was apparent that they were not going to pass right in front of the blind but if they came out into another opening, Jim would have a 25 yard shot.  He pulled back his bow and I focused the camera at the opening just as two toms stepped out.  The arrow flew straight, striking the second bird plum center.   He ran a few yards showing signs of a mortal hit, disappearing into the creek bottom and out of our sight. 

“Follow me!” Jim leapt from the blind with his bow in tow.  The Rage expandable broadhead performed to perfection as we recovered the marinated arrow at the scene of impact.  Standing on the ridge, we scanned the woods for his downed bird.  Suddenly sounds of a brutal fight broke out across the creek.  I was unaware that when a longbeard is wounded, the other competing toms will commence an attack and finish the kill.  We raced down the ridge, through the creek and up the other side as huge pine limbs slapped us in the face.  We followed the sounds of the battle, belly crawling under the pines trying to get close enough to assess the situation.  Knocking another arrow, Jim stood up and drew back.  He spotted his bird laying on the ground as the other toms paraded around the body.  The deal was sealed as the second arrow struck, scattering the attacking gang.  Upon closer inspection of Jim’s bird, it turned out the nail in the coffin was actually the first arrow, causing a mortal wound in his chest.  After catching our breath and many high fives, we headed back to the blind to grab my longbeard and take some pictures of our successful morning.

Pulling up to camp, our big smiles spoke for themselves.  We had successfully gotten our “double” and shared our morning’s hunt over a fantastic home-cooked lunch.  According to James Brion, owner of Gobble-N-Grunt Outfitters, my longbeard was a 4.5 year old bird and the oldest tom taken so far that season.  His spurs measured 1.25 inches.

There are so many times when the shot just doesn’t present itself or the weather interferes with a hunt.  As all hunters know, it rarely happens as one might think it should.  I love the unpredictability of hunting but when it all comes together like it did that Nebraska morning, I couldn’t feel more grateful as luck was on my side once again!  And to be able to relive that amazing ‘doubler’ hunt while watching it on video makes it all the more exciting.

I replayed every minute of the hunt in my mind on the nine hour drive back to Wisconsin.  In my window, a big smile reflected back at me as I pictured the necklace I wanted to make from the impressive spurs I collected.  I laughed out loud while replaying images in my mind’s eye of belly crawling under thick pine trees trying to avoid losing Jim’s bird.  To think I almost didn’t go because of the long drive also made me laugh.  Rest assured, I am already marking my calendar for next year.


Coyotes' Quarry :When the Huntress Becomes the Hunted 2

Chapter 2 of 2

This story is the second part of a 2 part story that documents the events of a difficult encounter that took place during my 2009 fall deer hunting season. Please read chapter 1 before continuing with this final part chapter. Please use caution in allowing a young person to read this recount as it may not be suitable for young children.

On the fourth morning I went back to square one and tried the same stand I had on my first morning. I heard a little noise from the creek farther down and some activity behind me but nothing in front or where I could see what it was. After I got down from my stand that morning I began to do more scouting, trying to solve the mystery of silence that embedded the forest and I was now concerned about the possibility of coyote pressure. Something had disturbed the wildlife or made a negative impact on the population of deer and other animals. I just was not sure what was wrong. Scouting the land I searched for clues, which only could be told by nature itself. I checked several creek areas, to see if they had run dry. I checked the browse of the sumac bushes and tops of grass to see if they showed signs of being nipped. I searched for deer droppings to find if there was much and to check for the age, weather it was old or slightly fresh. I looked for bedding areas to determine if they were still using the same areas to bed. I walked near more trails to find evidence of use. I checked the scent of the air for the musty smell of deer sign. I studied deer prints for age, to see if there were both old and new prints. I checked the size of prints to see if a variety of size existed, representing the young as well as does and bucks.

The results of my research made my heart sink and brought a heavy feeling to my whole being. While exploring the areas upon one of the knobs I found the hillside riddled with coyote dens. All of the trails normally beaten down by deer tracks which normally had overhanging branches snapped off due to their height were now grown over and the trails were somewhat used by obviously used by smaller animals. There were no rub lines, scrapes or bedding sites found on another ridge. Of the few bedding areas and droppings found, most were oddly down near the fields. The area was void of deer scent. As I continued to search the rest of the property I found an unusual pattern suggesting that the deer may be experiencing a lot of hunting pressure. I found just a few areas of dense cover showing signs of deer entering through them, but many of the normal main trails were grown over. It was apparent that the creek crossings had fewer deer prints which in prior years resembled a cattle crossing due to the amount of deer and turkey traffic.

Taking little time for rest that afternoon, I decided to take my climber and go to an area located very deep into the woods where the deer normally go when they have become nocturnal and reclusive. I had a sense that maybe the deer had moved to a different end of the property. I knew I would have to stick it out until after dark, because it would be likely that they would not come out until right at sunset. It had been tough getting in the area without making any noise, so I sat for quite some time before the day began to come to an end. Right at dusk I did hear some movement, but it sounded more like something running, then silence again. Then a few minutes later slight movement that then stopped. That was it for the night. Getting out was even harder, as I had to take my climber back with me again and drop it off at another location where I planned to use it again. Finally I was out in the open and after a while dropped my stand off. Then I just had the long walk back to the truck ahead of me.

After about 40 minutes I was about two-thirds of the way back to the truck. I was very tired and thirsty but did not want to stop to drink anything; I just wanted to keep going. I had never been afraid of the dark and in fact always enjoyed looking up at the dark sky to admire the stars that sparkled above me. Then I heard the sound of some coyotes in a pack off in the distance in a grassy field, which lay on the other side of a creek that separated the harvested bean field I was walking across. In the past I would hear 1 or 2 coyotes howling in a stationary location and it appeared to be calm and content. I had never experienced hearing them as a pack so close before. They all made a variety of sounds all at the same time; yelping , yipping, high pitched yikes and short howling sounds. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I wanted to get back to the truck all that much faster. The only light I had handy was a small pen light that shown in green at a maximum visual distance of about 10 yards ahead of me. I realized I was actually moving in their direction diagonally and started to feel uneasy about this. I could tell from the different voices that there were at least 4 different coyotes in the group. As I continued to walk, I came into an area where the fields gave way and converged into a wooded area that followed either side of the creek. As I started in a parallel direction alongside of the creek I started to hear the coyotes vocals change into primarily short barks. Where at first they had displayed excited howls and yaps, now what I heard was more threatening to me. As this continued intermittently I realized that I was being followed by this pack of coyotes, though they were still on the other side of the creek.

I began to walk briskly but did not run. Then they became silent but I could hear small branches snapping and still an occasional short bark as they began coming closer toward me. By this point I was only about 10 minutes from my truck. Based on their nearness and the creek that separated us, I realized we could possibly reach an intersecting point once I reached the last creek crossing. I would have to cross there to get to my truck though. I gripped my bow as I approached this creek bed, which dropped in elevation. I did not hesitate to cross the creek as I hoped that I had arrived ahead of them. It was hard to tell since I only occasionally heard their barks or yips. I could not tell where they were for sure. I had just come up onto the other side of the bank about 10 feet from the creek when I first heard rustling in the grass from about 8 yards way. When I shined my pen light that direction I saw 4 coyotes. One stared at me while two of them nervously stood on one side of it. A fourth one began to walk around to my side toward the path between me and truck. I made eye contact with it and stomped one foot in its direction while I raised my arms up and yelled at it. It stopped and jumped back a bit but calmly went toward the pack. I knew that it would be useless to try to use my bow, since I could neither see my peep sight or pins in the dark. These animals were not intimidated by me either. The fact that they outnumbered me may have given them more courage. Then without warning I heard something coming toward me at a dead run from behind me, through the CRP grass. I was instantly stricken with fear and felt completely vulnerable. Not sure what was about to happen next, my instincts kicked in and I retreated back to the creek. I decided to put my bow down and pick up a large rock. Holding my light in my mouth I threw it at and hit one of the coyotes nearest to me. It yelped and scrambled about. But the others just sort of stood around. These animals were treating me as prey. They may have been enticed by the smell of doe scent I carried in my backpack, which had spilled on my pants and hands some throughout the course of my hunting. I threw another rock but missed. Then a 5th coyote came bursting into view from the CRP grass, from the position that had been behind me. I began to yell and growl through my teeth and throw more heavy rocks at them as fast as I could pick them up from the creek. Finally the coyotes took enough hits from rocks that they began to back off and look confused. They eventually disappeared from sight. But I could hear them still in the grass about 20 yards away. I decided to try to make it back to my truck. With my bow in one hand and an extra rock in the other I jogged backwards toward my truck, so that I could face their direction. It was uphill and took a lot of energy to do this but my adrenaline was running in full gear. As I started to get closer the truck I could hear them as they began to come back my direction. I assume they sensed my brisk movement. They trailed me all the way back to my truck. Occasionally I would get a glimpse of movement down the trail or the reflection of eyes, but they stayed about 15-20 yards behind me. When I got to my truck I jumped up into the bed, put up the tailgate, got my backpack off and pulled out a larger flashlight. It was brighter so could see better with it. I only got a few glimpses of them after this. But I stayed back there for some time until I heard them walking through the CRP grass the opposite direction and there was no more sign of them. But even after their was silence I was afraid to get down. It was a long time before I got down to open my truck door. I felt like my heart was pounding on the outside of my body still.

I could not believe how persistent they were. I am not sure if this encounter happened because they were curious about what I was or if they had already decided that I smelled like dinner. I use a doe scent that I put on a doused cloth in the areas where I hunt. I keep these in a zip lock baggie and put them in my pack. It's often hard to get that smell off of your hands or clothing if you get some on yourself, which I likely had. While none of them lunged at me, their intent indicated they would not leave. They had used some cunning maneuvers by keeping all but one of the pack together having another one rush in from behind.

Once inside the truck I started up the engine and left, but within a mile had to pull over. I felt cold and began to shake. I sat there until I could get the heater going full blast and managed to cover up with an extra coat from my back seat. When I finally calmed down I drove the rest of the way back to my camper, physically and emotionally exhausted. It took a long time to go to sleep that night and I just could not get warm enough for some reason. I finally had to put in ear plugs, because I could hear some coyotes off in the distance and did not want any reminders of how the evening had turned into a nightmare. While God will not put us in a position that is more than we can bear, for the first time ever I found myself questioning God's will and His presence.

The only other time I had felt such fear for my life was when I was in about 18 years old and had the throttle stick open on my car while I was on the highway. The regular brakes were not strong enough to stop the car and I thought for sure it was the end. I ended up using my emergency brakes which gradually stopped the car after about 2 miles. Once I had it stopped I was able to shut the engine off. But the feeling of having a situation out of your control with eminent danger gave me the same sick- to- my- stomach feeling.

After this incident I was deeply impressed with the need for all women, and all hunters for that matter, to have the right to protect themselves in such given moments of absolute danger and from being attacked when they are bowhunting. I know there are many nationally documented cases of coyote attacks, but I had not heard of any in Kansas. Additionally, hunters which hunt mountainous areas in other states where bears are present have a greater danger of being attacked and have been. While some hunters have the advantage of a rifle while they are hunting, bow hunters do not. And still yet most hunters do not have a second form of protection such as a hand gun. The right to bear arms means that constitutionally we have the right to protect our lives and ensure our survival. Now we are at the mercy of the states we hunt in, to allow us our God-given right for survival.

While I stayed and hunted for 2 more days after this, I did not use any more scent spray or oil. Additionally, a friend ended up coming to hunt with me which made me feel safer, otherwise I may have decided to just pack it up. However our next 2 days of hunting did not produce any success nor sign of deer. While I did not know how severely I had been affected by this incident, 5 days after the occurrence I had what is called a TIA (Mini Stroke) which affected my right side. It is not known if this incident triggered it, as it was also discovered that I had high blood pressure and a heart condition as a result. This of cours, ended my 2009 deer hunting season completely. It has been 6 months and I am just now writing about this for the first time. I went through a period of temporary numbness on my right side which lingered in my face. I had several months of difficulty; not being able to speak clearly and get my thoughts put into words, taking a long time to respond and sometimes responding with words that did not make sense. I am finally able to say that I am mostly recovered, with the exception of my heart condition. I am now exercising regularly, working on getting back into shape and hoping to regain my strength. I have been able to return to work, without assistance and lead a normal life again.

It is my request that if you took the time to read this article that you will take the initiative to contact your state's Wildlife & Conservation legislators to bring up the issue of protection for hunters to defend themselves, much as National Parks now allow.

(I have included a sound track of the type of sounds coyotes in a pack make so you can understand the chills that went up my back when I heard them so close to me.)

Synthia Wilson
WomenHunters, Pro Staff





Coyotes' Quarry :When the Huntress Becomes the Hunted 1

Chapter 1 of 2

This story was first written to its entirety as one, however due to the length of the article I realized it would be easier to read if it were broken down and published in separate chapters. I hope that you will read all parts of the article and understand that because it is a recounting of events there is a lot of detail that takes some time to draw to one main event near the end.

My deer hunting season of 2009 turned out to be brief and memorable, but not for reasons you would want. That year I had several "firsts" in my hunting experiences, even though I had been bow hunting for 15 years by then. I must warn you that the latter part of this story will not be entirely easy to read about and may not be suitable for children. I still have not disclosed the details to my 9 year old daughter because I do not want her to be afraid to go hunting with me in the future, or be fearful for me when I go hunting. It is an event that was difficult to write about because it brought back very intense fears. But it is something that must be told so that other hunters can become aware of certain rights for personal safety that still need to be fought for in many states. This article is a follow up to my series "When the Huntress Becomes the Hunted", which began in February of 2010.

My story began with me being able to take vacation to go hunting for 6 consecutive days, for the first time in since becoming a mother 8 years previously. With some very coordinated planning my husband, mother and sister-in-law all agreed to help watch our two young children while I was on my hunting trip. My destination was our family farm 150 miles away which I knew like the back of my hand, had played on since I was a little girl, hunted on since I received my first bow and cherished spending time at as my little piece of paradise. I had enjoyed several moments of excitement and hunting success here in prior years.

On my first morning out I was excited to spot a decent 150 class buck from about 500 yards away in a lower field coming my direction. I was positioned in a tree stand near the top of a hill and the sound easily echoed down into the field in a lower valley. I hoped to lure this nice buck closer to me and knew if I called the sound would travel quite a distance. I started to use a doe bleat, then after a short while used two different buck grunt calls alternately. After waiting a little I started to rattle. This sequence had worked well for me in the past. I lost sight of him as he went through a creek area still coming in my direction. Then, within about 3 minutes of finishing this call sequence, I heard from the field beyond the "Whack" sound of antlers from two large bucks that had began to fight. The sound was coming from the semi-wooded area on the edge of the field just past the creek bank which was out of my view. I could tell they were large bucks because of the difference in sound that you hear with the various sizes of tines. Larger tines have more of a "tink" sound to them where smaller, shorter tines do not. Thicker tines also have a louder, dense, resonating sound. If you ever fool around and practice with real rattling horns you will find how these differences sound. My heart jumped as I could hear the battle continue and I decided to quickly get down from my tree and get closer. I was no sooner down from my tree headed their direction when suddenly I was surprised by the sound of a coyote that began to bark and yip as it ran in their direction. It was on the same hillside as me and probably only about 100 yards away from me through the trees. I could tell from its vocals that we both had the same idea. So I tried to get through the woods faster, hoping to get at least a view of the two bucks before the coyote spoiled the scene. Soon the coyotes' yip stopped and so did the sound of the fight. By the time I arrived at the edge of the trees the deer had already fled. Only the coyote was there now, frantically pacing through the grassy area as if it hoped to spook something up from the brush. This was likely the area where the bucks had been fighting. The coyote did not prevail at finding anything, so it stopped to urinate there. Then it ran out into the field nearby and defecated. I assume this was some sort of territorial symbol but do not know enough about coyotes' behaviors to say for sure. I was shocked, disgusted, mad and frustrated all at the same time. This incident started the wheels to turning in my head, as I had never seen such aggressive or desperate behavior from a coyote before. About 3 years prior I had seen a coyote chasing after a small doe that had just emerged from the trees into a soybean field. I tried to hunt more that morning since it was still early, but there was nothing but silence in the woods after that.

That afternoon I set up a Wolf Stand ® in a tree line which looked over three fields. (I specifically like this brand of tree stand because they are easy for women to carry and put up or take down, due to how light weight they are.) I hoped this location would give me the opportunity to see more deer movement, though it would not necessarily give me a close shot one unless one came right under my stand. I also did a bit of scouting for tree stand placement. I located a spot for a climber stand.  I placed it near an area where I had found a small doe trail, not far from where the bucks had been that morning. That evening I hunted the climber but I did not see any deer or anything. But I did enjoy the sounds of a hoot owl into the evening.

With the coming of the second morning I put myself up in a different stand that was off of a trail between a bedding and feeding area, intersected by a creek crossing and was 20 yards from a fence line. But for the first time I notice that the creek crossing did not indicate the same sort of dense traffic I had seen in years past. It showed only a few hoof prints from deer, but did show some prints that were coyotes. I assumed that the deer were possibly crossing in a dry part of the stream farther up and more secluded. Early that morning a shy spike buck came by and grazed on the tips of the seeded grass stems from 15 yards away. After that it was a quiet morning with no movement.

That afternoon I worked on cutting open a deer trail that had been previously well-traveled but I  found had become more sparsely used. I hoped to open up more to encourage more traffic again. This was a technique I had learned from a state wildlife biologist. He had explained that contrary to some belief that deer often prefer the path of least resistance, they don’t always. As I was cutting this trail I was stunned to come across some sort of den area, about 10 yards from the trail. At that point I was not sure this trail would be well used by deer at all. Nonetheless, I decided that the next morning I would set up in a tree stand nearby to see what was using this travel route.

Later in the evening, I was up in the Wolf Stand ® and watched for a glimpse of any deer coming into the fields or walking the edges, to get a sense of their travel patterns which I felt had changed. I still do my scouting the old fashioned way and have not yet purchased a game camera, but feel these could be a very valuable tool to use. However, budget being what it is, I had yet to add this to my hunting supplies’ collection. I was surprised that I did not see any movement from deer whatsoever. Towards dusk I heard one turkey gobbling and then at dark I heard the sound of a hoot owl again. I still had a positive attitude about the days to come though.

On the third morning I made my way up to the stand near the trail I had cut the previous afternoon. This had been a main travel corridor located on a hillside, which in years past had typically been heavily used by bucks and does seeking a mate. I have found that unless something changes in their environment or hunting pressure that deer are creatures of habit and will use trails they are accustomed  to and feel secluded and safe in.  I was settled in and waited for light. This time I intended to be mostly silent and use an occasional doe and fawn bleat. By 8:30 there was still no sign of life:  no birds, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and certainly no deer yet. I decided it was time to try to call and first used a fawn bleat, I then waited 15 minutes and used a doe bleat. I then continued with a few more doe bleats about 10 minutes apart. To my surprise it brought in something I had not expected: a coyote. It came sneaking in as though it were stalking something. Once it got closer to me it stopped near a downed tree that had heavy grass growing around it and spent a lot of time sniffing the area over. Then it began to go underneath the cedar trees nearby smelling for fresh signs of a deer, as they will often bed under the protection of a cedar tree. I hoped that it would come closer and give me a chance to shoot. Coyotes can definitely become a nuisance and an over population of them can affect hunting pressure. There was a point that it was only 25 yards away and I pulled back my bow, yet a tree and some ground brush kept me from taking a shot, but I kept hoping for a shot. Then the coyote left from the same direction that it came from, so I let off.  It seemed to follow the trail down that went back down the hill. I decided to wait it out a little longer that morning, but no other animals ever came into the area.

At late morning I decided to go back to my camper for a hot lunch and walked back to the truck. Driving down the road past a nearby rural house I noticed that their dogs were all gone. In years past they had always had up to 3 dogs at a time, so I wondered about this. My first thought was if the coyotes had gotten them, as is common in the country if dogs are not brought in at dusk.

That evening I used a stand in a more secluded area, near a field that had previously been a food plot. Once again I found the woods were silent, though a few times I heard the snapping of a few branches in the distance, yet never saw an animal.  It was a considerable walk of almost an hour back, so I left just before the sun set entirely. My hands were swollen and sore from the hard work I had done in previous days and my body was very tired from the long walk. The combination of exhaustion and lack of deer activity made me discouraged and feeling disappointed. I had never before seen my property so still and without life. That evening as I walked back to my truck in the dark I could hear a couple coyotes calling from different directions off in the distance. It did not bother me, but just was a reminder of their presence.

While disappointed, I tried to keep a positive mindset about how the last few days had gone and hoped the next morning would prove to be a change toward the better.

To be continued: Coyotes' Quarry: When the Huntress Becomes the Hunted. Chapter 2 of 2.

Synthia Wilson
WomenHunters, Pro Staff


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