The Do-It-All Gun – .270 Winchester

The Do-It-All Gun – .270 Winchester

Written by: James House

For about 115 years, the .30-06 Springfield has been the favorite caliber for many hunters and target shooters. In more recent years, the .308 Winchester and several other calibers have achieved great popularity. Growing up as I did I read all the gun literature that I could find (or afford) and one of the magazines that I read most was Outdoor Life. The shooting editor for that
magazine was none other than Jack O’Connor, perhaps the most famous gun writer of all time.

Although he wrote about numerous topics and calibers, for many years O’Connor’s writing dealt heavily with the .270 Winchester. Introduced in 1925, the .270 Winchester might be considered to be an “old” cartridge, but with a working pressure as high as 65,000 psi the .270 can be loaded to drive a 130-grain bullet over 3000 ft/sec or a 150-grain bullet about 2900 ft/sec.
Such ballistics means that the .270 shoots flat and hits hard. Certainly, the boar that I shot in Tennessee and other animals have responded appropriately. When I was growing up in the middle of nowhere, there was a furniture store in the nearby small town. At one time, the front window of the store displayed a large grizzly that was taken in Alaska by a prominent citizen.
The rifle he used, a Winchester Model 70, and a cartridge, a .270 Winchester, were also on display. Thus began my affection for the rifle and cartridge.

My .270 Winchester is a Model 770 Winchester, a sort of economy grade Model 70, with which I am celebrating a 50 th Anniversary this year. The Model 770, produced from 1969 to 1971, was a “post ’64 Model 70” so it is a push feed model that has a blind magazine. Thus, it is sort of the Winchester equivalent of the Remington 700 ADL. I have never had a problem with
cartridge feeding, firing, or extraction with the rifle, and it gives very good accuracy for a factory rifle.

The factory stock on my Winchester 770 has good proportions and pressed checkering. However, it is not an elegant stock by any means. To celebrate my 50-year relationship with the rifle, it has been fitted with a Boyds Platinum stock of Claro XX walnut with fleur de lis checkering and black grip, and fore-end caps. The performance of my Model 770 has always been quite good and now with the Boyds stock that rifle could vie for the title of Safe Queen with many of today’s much more expensive models.

The Boyds Platinum stock converted this Winchester 770 into a classic sporter.

Current ammunition listings (note that with the current ammunition situation as it is, I did not say availability) in .270 Winchester caliber include loads from every major and many smaller producers. Virtually all list a 130-grain load having a muzzle velocity of 3060 ft/sec with corresponding energy of approximately 2700 ft-lbs. Bullets styles vary from traditional soft points to a polymer-tipped lead-free version from Swift that is described as having a muzzle velocity of 3151 ft/sec and an energy of 2867 ft-lbs. Swift also lists a load utilizing a 150 Swift A-Frame bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2986 ft/sec and an energy of 2971 ft-lbs. Browning produces a load that utilizes a 140-grain bullet that has a nominal muzzle velocity of 2970 ft/sec giving an energy of 2742 ft lbs.

For those who desire the ultimate performance from a .270 Winchester, Hornady offers two loads in the Superformance ® line. One features a 130-grain SST bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3200 ft/sec and an energy of 2955 ft lbs whereas the other utilizes a 140-grain SST bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3090 ft/sec and an energy of 2968 ft-lbs. These loads wring out
as much capability as can be expected for a .270 rifle. There are simply too many factory loadings for the .270 Winchester to list them all, but those described show the general parameters Although the recoil of a .270 Winchester is not really severe, some shooters may wish to avoid part of the recoil associated with full power loads. Reduced recoil loads are available from
Federal (with a 140-grain bullet having a velocity of 2200 ft/sec and energy of 1560 ft-lbs) and HSM (130-grain bullet with a velocity of 2318 ft/sec and energy of 1537 ft-lbs). Such loads are certainly adequate for use on animals the size of deer as long as the range is kept within reason.

Handloaded ammunition can bring out even more versatility from a .270. For example, bullets are readily available in weights from 90 to 180 grains. In the ‘heavy” category are the 170-grain Berger Elite Hunter, the 175-grain Sierra GameChanger, and the 180-grain Woodleigh. For me, such bullets are not of much interest because I have rifles of larger caliber if I need to prepare to hunt a large animal.

In addition, to use on medium game, it has always been the use of my .270 as a varmint rifle that has interested me. For such work, bullets of light weight are appropriate and there are some excellent choices. My first choice has always been the Sierra 90-grain Varminter hollow point because it gives excellent accuracy in my rifle. Much to my dismay, it appears that the
bullet has recently been discontinued as has the 100 Hornady 100 grain soft point. However, other good choices are the 90-grain Speer TNT and Gold Dot, the Speer 100-grain hollow point, and the 110-grain Hornady V-Max.

When it comes to powders for loading .270 ammunition, I have had very good results with IMR 4064 with lighter bullets and with IMR 4350, Winchester 760, and Alliant Reloder 17 with most bullet weights. In particular, the 90-grain Sierra Varminter gives five-shot groups smaller than one inch with appropriate charges of both IMR4350 and Alliant Power Pro 2000MR. The 100-grain Hornady soft point has shown excellent accuracy when propelled by a suitable charge of Alliant Reloder 17.

Having the Winchester 770, I never felt the need for a different .270 on the basis of performance and now I certainly don’t on the basis of appearance. The rifle has shown good accuracy with factory loads and excellent accuracy with certain hand loads. Although relegated to the safe for considerable periods by a .223 Remington and a .243 Winchester, my hope is now to
load up some special .270 ammunition and go after some large predators with the dressed-up Model 770. The rifle will never be offered for sale or trade, and I hope we can celebrate many more anniversaries.

Written by: James House

Protecting Yourself from Ticks

Ticks can pose a threat to outdoor enthusiasts, as they are carriers of tick-borne diseases. Knowing how to protect yourself from ticks is crucial for enjoying the great outdoors safely. This comprehensive guide will provide you with effective preventive measures and tips to minimize the risk of tick bites and the potential health complications they may bring.

  1. Understand Tick Habitats and Behavior:
    • Recognize common tick habitats, such as wooded areas, brushy and grassy areas, and leaf litter.
    • Stay on well-defined trails and avoid close contact with tall grasses and brushy areas.
    • Be aware of the tick species prevalent in your region, including the black-legged tick, lone star tick, American dog tick, and western black-legged tick.
  2. Dress Appropriately:
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize exposed skin.
    • Tuck pants into socks or boots to create a barrier.
    • Opt for light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible.
    • Consider treating clothing with permethrin or using insect repellent containing permethrin.
  3. Use Tick Repellents:
    • Apply an EPA-approved insect repellent to exposed skin, especially on ankles, wrists, and neck.
    • Look for products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or other recommended ingredients.
    • Follow the instructions on the repellent label for safe and effective use.
  4. Perform Daily Tick Checks:
    • Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors, paying special attention to hidden areas like the scalp, behind the ears, underarms, belly button, and groin.
    • Use a mirror or ask a family member or friend to help check hard-to-see areas.
    • Examine clothing and gear for any unattached ticks.
  5. Proper Tick Removal:
    • If you find an attached tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible.
    • Pull upward with steady, even pressure to remove the tick.
    • Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick, as this may increase the risk of infection.
    • Clean the bite area with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or an iodine scrub.
  6. Environmental Control Measures:
    • Keep your yard well-maintained by mowing the lawn, removing leaf litter, and creating a tick-safe zone.
    • Consider using a tick repellent for your pets and consulting a healthcare provider or a Tricare-authorized provider for preventive measures for your family members.
  7. Recognize Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases:
    • Be familiar with common tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).
    • Look out for symptoms such as rash, joint pain, fever, fatigue, or flu-like symptoms.
    • If you experience any concerning symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  8. Additional Preventive Measures:
    • Use permethrin-treated clothing or insect-repellent-treated gear for added protection.
    • Perform a thorough tick check on pets before they enter your home.
    • Consider using insect shield clothing or applying essential oils that may repel ticks.

Conclusion: Protecting yourself from ticks is the best defense against tick-borne diseases. By implementing these preventive measures, including proper clothing, effective use of repellents, regular tick checks, and environmental control, you can reduce the risk of tick bites and enjoy your outdoor activities with greater peace of mind. Remember to seek medical attention promptly if you experience any concerning symptoms after a tick bite or potential exposure to ticks. Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors responsibly!

Defining Hunting:  Sport, Pastime, or Hobby?

Defining Hunting: Sport, Pastime, or Hobby?

How do you define hunting when you’re trying to explain the concept to someone who doesn’t partake in it?

When you look in Webster’s Dictionary, hunting is defined as the act of pursuing game for food or sport.  The definition of hunting sounds simple enough, yet we often struggle to find the words that define what hunting truly means to us.  We understand the feeling that it gives us, the adrenaline rush and respect for God’s creation.  Most days we are just happy to be outdoors and are grateful to have the opportunity to take part in it.

Oftentimes, I hear hunting being called a sport, hobby, pastime, or even a way of life.  But what is hunting really?

Is hunting a sport?  Well, let’s check Webster’s Dictionary and define exactly what a sport is.  According to the dictionary, a sport is a physical activity engaged in for pleasure.  This would certainly fit the definition of hunting for some.  Hunting gives me pleasure and provides a sense of release from the outside world and a way to connect with the wildlife around me.  When you think of hunting as a sport, you probably think of practicing with your equipment and training your bodies to scale tall mountains or climb tall trees in search of wild game.  So hunting could be a sport.

Is hunting a hobby?  How does Webster define a hobby?  A hobby is a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.  Ok, I can see how this could fit the mold.  We spend our hard-earned money on expensive gear pursuing game each fall and we hope to have success in the field also.  All of the work that we put in during the off-season brings us to the opening day of the season and we find ourselves perched in a treestand as the sunrises, thanking God for all that he’s blessed us with.  Hunting could be defined as a hobby.  But when we turn on our TVs we see people hunting as their occupation and as a result, they make money in advertising certain products or for companies.  For some of us, hunting could be a hobby.  So could sewing too.

Is hunting a pastime?  Back to Webster’s, we go.  A pastime is an activity that you enjoy doing during your free time.  Wow, isn’t that a broad definition that involves multiple activities?  I could think of a million things that fit the definition of a pastime but defining hunting by such a broad definition doesn’t seem right to me.  Some people enjoy mowing their lawns during their free time or, if you’re like me, you like to watch UFC fights.  I can’t define hunting as just a pastime.  Hunting means too much to me.

Is hunting a way of life?  I’ll take it from here Webster!  For many of us, hunting isn’t just a pastime that we partake in only a couple of days a year.  For some, it’s a 365-day-a-year process that blends experience, education, ethics, love, and devotion toward one goal, pursuing game.  Whether you enjoy chasing mule deer in the west or you choose to hunt whitetails from a treestand, you have to admit, there’s something magical about the sport of hunting.  The connection you feel with nature isn’t by mistake.  We’ve evolved as a society to a time where the majority of mankind will never be as connected to mother nature as you are when you’re sitting on top of a mountain, as the sun peaks over the horizon, and listening for the first gobble of the morning!  It’s these experiences that encapsulate us into coming back each season and devoting our lives and our free time to perfecting our craft, whether it be with archery equipment or a firearm, we are HUNTERS, we are CONSERVATIONISTS!

However you define hunting, know this.  Hunting is killing!  Yes, it is the unfortunate side effect of a successful hunt.  Whether you are pursuing deer, bear, or squirrels, the result is still the same if you are successful, you must take one of God’s beautiful creatures from the earth in order to fill your tag.  This is how hunting is defined by a society that doesn’t partake in it.  However, we must find ways to share our hunting experiences with the rest of the world on a positive note and learn to truly define what hunting means to us.

Once we can define hunting for ourselves, only then can we help others connect the benefits of hunting to the act of killing.  When we do this, it will help us recruit new hunters and hopefully convince the anti-hunting community that hunting has its place in our society and is a proven conservation method that we can use to ensure the success of our wildlife for generations to come.


The Night Before Bow Season

The Night Before Bow Season

‘Twas the night before bow season, when all through the house;

Not a hunter was sleeping, not even their spouse.

Anticipation is building for the morning hunt;

The only thing that would make it better is to wake up to a cold front.

You’ve practiced all summer with your recurve, compound, or crossbow;

In hopes that a big buck would show up tomorrow.

Post-season scouting revealed those big buck beds;

And maybe you even got lucky and scored his sheds.

You rise from the bed before the sound of your alarm;

In hopes that the wind is blowing perfectly on your favorite farm.

A quick scent-free shower and you’re ready to roll

But not before you give FaceBook a quick scroll.

Today’s weather forecast should give you a hint;

And help you lay out the perfect blueprint.

You dash out the door and into the truck;

But not before your wife whispers “Good luck!”

Don’t forget all of your gear as you race out the door;

Because opening day has finally arrived once more!

You hurry to the truck while the sky is still dark;

And your favorite podcast is playing before you’re out of park.

The voice of Mark Kenyon helps set the mood;

And before you know it, your drive is about to conclude.

Don’t slam the door when you exit the truck;

The last thing you want to do is scare off that big buck!

Slide on your boots and grab your gear;

Because the morning sun grows near.

Access routes are the key if you want to succeed;

Don’t forget to check the wind with your trusty milkweed.

Sneak quietly through the woods toward your destination;

Go slow, stay calm, and show respect for God’s great creation.

Slip into the blind or climb up a tree;

Either way, you’ve never felt more free!

The morning sun is only moments away;

But don’t forget to stop and pray!

And as you ponder upon what opening day has in store;

Don’t forget to say thank you for the opportunity to hunt once more!

Happy hunting to all, and to all a good season!

How to Use AmmoSquared to Increase Your Ammo Stash

How to Use AmmoSquared to Increase Your Ammo Stash

AmmoSquared Inc. is transforming the way gun owners accumulate and manage their ammunition inventory with innovative and convenient online-based storage solutions. The service provides gun owners with the ability to set up automatic ammunition replenishments, ensuring that customers never run out of ammunition. Integral to the process is also secure off-site storage of accumulated ammunition until it is shipped.

Understanding the challenges faced by gun owners in maintaining a consistent supply of ammunition, AmmoSquared offers a seamless and hassle-free solution. The company’s automatic inventory replenishment service allows customers to set up personalized recurring “reloads” based on their preferred caliber, use, and budget. Once established, customers have the option to accumulate ammunition over time and then receive regular shipments of their accumulated ammunition, ensuring they are always prepared for their target shooting, defensive, and hunting needs.

“Our service ensures that gun owners always have ammunition available when they need it”, states AmmoSquared CEO Dan Morton. “During the ammo shortage which started without warning in 2020, customers that had been building up a backup supply of ammunition inventory at AmmoSquared, had it available with the click of a button while everyone else was running around finding empty store shelves. It just makes sense to have a backup supply because you never know what could happen.” 

Managing ammunition inventory can be time-consuming and inconvenient for gun owners. AmmoSquared’s automatic replenishment service eliminates the hassle, ensuring that its customers always have the ammunition they need when they want it. They can literally “set it and forget it”. Ammunition is built up over time and then delivered automatically on the customers’ pre-set schedule. 

In addition to providing a consistent supply of ammunition, AmmoSquared offers secure storage for customers who prefer not to keep all of their ammunition inventory at their homes. Also, by rotating stored ammunition multiple times a year, AmmoSquared guarantees that clients receive high-quality, reliable rounds from major manufacturers.

This unique service offers customers peace of mind, knowing that their ammo supply is consistently up-to-date and readily available when needed. AmmoSquared is also a practical solution for those with storage limitations such as apartment dwellers or RVers, environmental hazards, such as floods or tornadoes, or gun owners living in states with oppressive ammunition regulations.

AmmoSquared’s platform combines convenience, security, and exceptional customer service, making it an ideal choice for gun owners looking to simplify ammunition ownership and management.

About AmmoSquared Inc.:

AmmoSquared started in 2015 to provide gun owners with a way to simplify their ammunition inventory management. Offering a wide variety of caliber options, the company’s platform allows customers to set up customized reloads for automatic inventory acquisition and access secure storage services for their accumulated ammunition inventory. AmmoSquared is dedicated to providing an exceptional experience for gun owners, revolutionizing the way they manage and maintain their ammunition supply.

Budgeting for Hunting Gear

Budgeting for Hunting Gear

Buying quality hunting gear on a budget may seem like a daunting task but I’m here to help.  Not everyone can afford to buy a new bow every year or chase the latest gear craze that’s sweeping the industry.  However, savvy shoppers know how to maximize their dollars to get high-quality hunting gear at a great price.  In this blog, you’ll learn how and when to save money on hunting, as well as tips and tricks to help your dollar go further.  But first, let me introduce you to to get you started. is your best resource for finding great deals on hunting gear all year long.  Every online retailer is fighting for a piece of your hunting budget each year, except for doesn’t sell hunting gear, they simply help you find the best deals on hunting gear from across the web.  If it’s on sale, you’ll find a link to it there.

Interested in knowing when the best time to buy KUIU is?  Hunting Gear Deals can help with that too.   The goal of is to help you save money and maximize your hard-earned dollars so that you get more gear for the money.  So, if you’re interested in saving money on hunting gear, the first thing you should do is subscribe to the Hunting Gear Deals Daily Deals email so you never miss a deal!

Creating a Hunting Gear Budget

The first thing you should consider when planning for the upcoming hunting season is how much you’re willing to spend.  Setting a hunting gear budget will help you plan ahead for upcoming expenses.  I start with my intended hunting trips for the year and factor in the cost of licenses and tags.  If you’re planning an out-of-state hunt, you’re most likely going to need more money for your trip than you would if you were hunting the back forty or a local piece of public ground.  Consider the cost of hunting licenses and tags a fixed expense that you’re going to need to plan for.

Once you know where you’re hunting and how much tags are going to cost, then you can start planning on purchasing hunting gear. We will touch on this topic in more detail later.

Make a Hunting Gear Wish List

As one season ends, another begins, so keep note of the hunting gear that you need to replace or add throughout the season.  I keep a note on my phone that identifies hunting-related products that I’m looking to add to my hunting arsenal the following year.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I’m the hardest person in the world to buy Christmas Gifts for, so one way to solve this issue is to have a list of items at your disposal that you’re interested in buying for yourself, but don’t tell someone to buy you something for Christmas when you know you’re going to need it two months prior during your next big hunting adventure.

On a side note, if you’re ever having issues on finding a Christmas gift idea for someone that hunts, has plenty of gear lists to guide you in the right direction.

Item’s that you’re likely to find on my hunting gear wish list include easy-to-find items like Energizer Lithium AA batteries.  I spend hundreds of dollars every year on batteries and getting a few here and there for stocking stuffers is a life-saver.   I also keep a list of specific sizes for clothing-related items that I plan on adding to my collection as well.  Attending local hunting trade shows gives me access to new hunting gear that my local pro shop or box store might not have in stock.  So, I keep a running list, a very large and detailed list of the items that I would like to add.

Now, it’s important to know what size you wear in each product and brand because they’re not all the same.  For instance, my Sitka pants range in sizes depending on the style.

More on Creating a Hunting Gear Budget

We talked about the fixed costs, such as licenses and tags and you should have an idea of what you’re looking to add to your hunting arsenal as soon as hunting season ends.  This is essential because you’ll be able to take advantage of sales throughout the year and get more bang for your buck.

Now you have to factor in how much money you’re willing to spend on hunting gear.  This will vary from person to person depending on your financial situation, as well as your needs.  A new hunter might need a bunch of gear to get started, whereas an experienced hunter might be looking to upgrade some additional gear that they already have.  Either way, planning early will save you money.

For example, if you know your hunting license expenditures are going to cost you $800 this year and your hunting budget is only $2,000, you’re going to have to pick and choose your battles.  Don’t get me wrong, you can get a lot of gear for $1,200, but you can also dump $1,200 in the blink of an eye on a new bow as well, so let’s be smart and plan ahead.  Saving up for these expenditures takes discipline.  For some, you might need to create a PayPal account or separate checking account to help you save money for hunting gear.  Others might be willing to stash cash in the safe all season.  Neither option is wrong, but both are right.  In fact, combining all of these options and more will allow you to save money when it’s time to make a purchase.  (More on that later).

Whatever option you choose for setting aside some money for hunting gear, stick to it.  Don’t blow your budget on a shiny new bow when last year’s model is just as good.  Also, don’t be afraid to find other ways to make money as well.  The goal here is to help you become a savvy shopper, not a cheapskate.

Generating Additional Money for Hunting Gear

Making extra money for hunting gear isn’t hard if you’re creative.  The hardest part is probably devoting the time to make the extra cash to invest in your hunting gear.  I feel strongly that everyone needs a side hustle but not everyone is willing to invest the time and money into it to be profitable.  Here are a few quick ideas to generate cash flow to put towards your hunting gear.

Garage Sale

Chances are, you’ve got a bunch of junk lying around the house that you don’t use anymore.  Instead of throwing it away, have a yard sale.  Timing this at the beginning of the month with a couple of neighbors will help you be more successful usually.  Don’t expect to make a fortune having a yard sale, but it’s worth a shot.

Sell Your Old Hunting Gear

Facebook Marketplace is a tough place to sell hunting gear but there are options out there for you to sell your old hunting gear before replacing it with new hunting gear.  Just don’t be that guy that expects to sell your used hunting boots for more than they’re currently on sale for new somewhere.  I used to be big into trading hunting gear on online forums such as ArcheryTalk but I’ve since given that up after a couple of bad apples ruined the trading process.  Sadly, it’s hard to trust people nowadays.  eBay is an option, but thanks to new IRS laws, you’re going to be taxed on that.

Trade Time and Manual Labor for Money

Who would’ve thought that manual labor could help you make more money?  Cut grass, chop wood, pressure washing, washing cars, and the list goes on and on.  Who knows, a little side hustle like this could replace your day job someday

Sell Your Shed Antlers

Are you a diehard shed hunter?  If so, you could always sell your Antler collection.  Last I heard, $15 per pound was the going rate on antlers that are in good shape.  Big antlers are often sold individually at a higher price.  I’ve never sold my shed antlers but I know people that buy them if you’re interested in selling.

Own land?  

Look into subleasing your land for a week during hunting season.  Maybe you’re not a turkey hunter but your place has turkeys all over it in the spring.  Lease it out.  Just check with your local rules and regulations that pertain to hunting leases in your state first.  A lot of people that I know sublease their hunting leases for a week or two a year to cover the cost of their hunting lease fees each year.

Other ways to make a dollar.

There are a million ways to make money out there but you’re the only one that can decide which option is best for you.  It takes time and effort, but it can be done.  However, if you decide to earn extra money, make sure you do it legally.

Gear Review:  Sitka Fanatic Jacket

Gear Review: Sitka Fanatic Jacket

With my obsession with whitetail deer hunting, I’m always looking for hunting gear that will enhance my hunting experience, especially in the toughest conditions. When the temperature drops below freezing, I grab my Sitka Fanatic jacket and bib to keep warm even though I’m sitting all day.

I’ve been wearing Sitka Gear since their second year of production and I haven’t looked back. I’ve seen many hunting brands and clothing options come and go over the years, but nothing quite like Sitka. I’m excited to share my in-depth and unbiased review of the Sitka Gear Fanatic Jacket and Fanatic Bib with you in a future review. Designed for the coldest days, the Fanatic collection is crafted with the utmost precision. The Fanatic Jacket is a testament to Sitka’s commitment to quality and innovation. Here’s my honest review, the good, the bad, and if you should buy it.

Wind Resistance

Even in the freezing cold, the Fanatic Jacket is a virtually indestructible barrier. It’s windproof and warm thanks to a double-layer Gore-Tex Infinium fabric with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. Warmth isn’t an issue with the Fanatic jacket, but keep in mind it’s not waterproof. If so, you’re missing out on the quiet fleece coating that makes this the ultimate cold-weather bow hunter jacket. Here’s what I’ve noticed: When it’s cold enough to wear a Fanatic jacket, it’s usually too cold to rain. Snow clings to a fleece jacket, and over time moisture seeps into the jacket, but not enough to keep it from snowing.

This jacket is great for keeping out the cold, especially in windy weather. The wind chill factor can greatly affect how cold it gets outside, and the Fanatic Jacket does a great job of protecting the body from those cold winds. High-loft jacquard Berber wool and silver Hi-Loft Ultra insulation work together to provide superior insulation technology and maximum warmth. Even in the harshest conditions, we can rely on the Fanatic Jacket to protect us from biting winds and lock in our body heat.

Built to be Quiet

Silence is our best ally when you’re only moments away from drawing your bow to your target buck. The Sitka Gear Fanatic Jacket effortlessly combines ultra-quiet Gore-Tex Infinium technology with an ultra-quiet high-loft Berber wool finish. This strategic combination ensures that your moves will remain undetected even when fully drawn! The jacket’s body-mapping construction uses state-of-the-art noise-canceling fabrics to eliminate layers of noise from the surrounding environment.

Whitetail-Specific Features:

Sitka Gear understands the specific needs of whitetail hunters. The Fanatic Jacket incorporates burr-resistant textiles in key areas to prevent burr pickup and allows for the convenient placement of critical accessories. However, it’s important to note that the entire jacket is not burr-resistant.

To tackle freezing temperatures, I recommend combining the Fanatic Jacket with other Sitka Gear items, such as the Fanatic Bibs, Fanatic Beanie, and Downpour Gloves, for a comprehensive cold-weather clothing system.

Sitka’s attention to detail shows in every aspect of the Fanatic jacket design. The jacket has a diagonal YKK zippered pocket strategically placed to provide easy access to essential gear and ensure we can focus on the field. Low-profile hand warmers and hand warmer pockets provide much-needed warmth on chilly mornings, while the jacket’s raised position allows for comfort and freedom of movement. Plus, integrated harness ports allow for easy integration of key Whitetail accessories for safety and convenience.

Product Improvements Ideas:

While the Fanatic Jacket offers exceptional performance, there are areas for improvement. The price may deter some, and the lack of a hood. The lack of a hood as a built-in feature is a notable drawback of the Fanatic Jacket. Adding a detachable or integrated hood would enhance its functionality, especially in extreme weather conditions. Additionally, incorporating additional ventilation options, such as pit zips, could provide better temperature regulation during periods of physical exertion.

Should You Buy the Sitka Fanatic Jacket?

Overall, the Sitka Gear Fanatic Jacket is a top-tier choice for hunters seeking reliable and warm apparel for cold-weather expeditions. Its innovative design, sound-suppressing fabric, and strategic features make it a worthy investment. While there is room for improvement, particularly in terms of pricing and the inclusion of a hood, the Fanatic Jacket remains an excellent option for serious hunters looking to maximize their comfort and stealth in frigid conditions.

SITKA’S New Mountain Evo Jacket is Made for the Most Extreme Hunting Adventures

SITKA’S New Mountain Evo Jacket is Made for the Most Extreme Hunting Adventures

SITKA Gear, the leading producer of high-performance hunting clothing, has unveiled its groundbreaking Mountain Evo Jacket. This innovative jacket is specifically designed for demanding backcountry activities in varying climates and sweat-inducing conditions. It incorporates strategically positioned windproof materials in areas that are most crucial for active hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Additionally, the jacket features flexible stretch panels in key body areas, such as under the arms and on the back, to enhance breathability.

The Mountain Evo Jacket is available in black as well as OPTIFADE Open Country and Subalpine patterns, catering to a wide range of outdoor pursuits that require a pack, including hunting, mountain biking, backpacking, and backcountry skiing. As a recent addition to SITKA’s technical apparel line, this jacket ensures optimal comfort during any outdoor adventure, offering ample freedom of movement and breathability.

John Barklow, Senior Product Manager at SITKA Gear, described the versatile Gore WINDSTOPPER® jacket as suitable for year-round active endeavors. The WINDSTOPPER panels integrated into the Mountain Evo Jacket effectively shield against convective cooling and light precipitation. Meanwhile, the breathable 4-way stretch panels minimize the need for pit zips, allowing unrestricted movement and keeping adventurers dry and comfortable throughout their pursuits. The ultrasonically welded and taped seams eliminate bulk, reduce weight, and effectively block out wind.

Key Features:

  • WINDSTOPPER by Gore-Tex Labs technology provides 100 percent wind protection while remaining lightweight and breathable.
  • Body-mapped 4-way stretch panels maximize breathability and mobility in crucial areas.
  • Ultrasonic welded seams minimize weight and bulk.
  • Contoured hood offers wind protection and concealment without compromising peripheral vision.
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Game over

Game over

Man I have never had so much optimism hunting one buck, then had so many first hand encounters with him but have him walk away unscathed every single time. I named him Lucky and he seems to live a charmed life. On Saturday evening, my last night, I went back to my stand on the north end where he has been appearing every day. The wind was southwest and it was predicted to be that direction all evening. Anything with south in it is a bad wind for the stand on the south end, but SW is good for my north stand. I hoped this time he would come out within shooting range on the north end, and hopefully come down the trail at the stand for an easy shot.

p1010155At 5:30 I heard a doe snort down at the south end of the field so I stood up and put my binoculars to my eyes. Lo and behold there stands a 10-pointer at the southeast corner of the field, a place where I had never seen him before. My heart sank. Then I got to looking at the deer closely and I became convinced it was not him. This deer looked like a 3-year-old and wouldn’t score nearly as high.

So with my optimism back up, I held my vigil until about 6:30 when inexplicably, the wind changed to the southeast. Horrible for this stand I was in. In any other situation, I would have immediately gotten out and left, but it was my last day and I had no where to go, so I just sat it out with the faint hope that maybe it was my turn to get lucky. I did not. In fact, he didn’t show at all so I suspect he winded me and left. Lucky once again.

That deer down in the southeast corner of the field walked south right up into Tom’s yard where Tom took a few photos of him out of the picture window and from the front door as he walked across the yard. This is a buck for next year.

What a fun hunt even though it was incredibly frustrating. I came so close to getting that big deer so many times, but it was simply not meant to be. I learned that Tom’s property has a lot of nice deer on it, even though I hardly scratched the surface. I found three mature target bucks yet I only thoroughly scouted about a third of his 1600 acres. I’m definitely going back to do this again. He tells me what I saw was nothing compared to what shows up during the rut, because he has a large herd of resident does on his property. He guides a small number of muzzleloader and rifle hunters each year and the shoot quite a few 170 and 180 class bucks. I’m definitely not done deer hunting here.

Four Generations Succeed in Harvesting Bucks from the Same Blind

Four Generations Succeed in Harvesting Bucks from the Same Blind

Author: Steve Reed

I would be surprised if this has ever happened before but 4 generations got whitetail bucks in Muskingum County, Ohio from the same elevated blind during the 2019-2020 season. The generations are as follows: my grandson, Easton Reed (5) harvest date 10/11/19, my son, Matt Reed (42) harvest date 10/17/19, myself, Steve Reed (69) harvest date 1/7/20 and my father, Dean Reed (89) harvest date 1/26/20. We had hoped to do the same with turkeys but my father developed liver cancer and passed away in May of 2021. 

It was not by design but it just happened that they were harvested in order of our ages. Once Easton and Matt (who runs a deer outfitting business in Muskingum County, Ohio) got their bucks Matt thought it would be neat if 4 generations could get bucks from the same blind so the effort began. When Matt sets a goal nothing keeps him from reaching it. Once I got a buck the pressure was really on my dad. It was not easy for him to climb up into the 8’ elevated blind, even with help, but he got a buck the fifth time he hunted. I was in the blind with Dad when he shot his. 

I don’t have specifics on Matt’s hunt but he did get the largest buck. Matt filmed Easton’s hunt which was his first kill. I was alone when they retrieved it the following morning. What an excited 5-year-old.

The buck I shot was one Dad missed earlier during gun season hunting with Matt. I don’t hunt much anymore but Matt pushed me to hunt for his “goal” and even bought a muzzleloader for me to use. The first afternoon I hunted I saw 2 bucks running down through a field approximately 100 yards away. I shot at the biggest one and when the smoke cleared I saw them both running full speed down over the hill and out of site. I assumed I had missed but when I got out of the blind later to leave I decided to go take a look just in case. To my surprise, just as I could see down over the hill, there he lay dead about 20 yards away.

Now my dad was the only one left to meet Matt’s goal of a 4 generation slam. Matt called me one afternoon telling me he was really tired and asked if I would set with Dad that evening. It was his 5th hunt and he had already missed with a shotgun. He said he would help get Dad up in the blind and get him set up with the crossbow on a shooting rail then leave. He told me to take the safety off if Dad decides to shoot. Matt just wanted him to get a buck and didn’t care how big it was but I knew Dad didn’t want to shoot a spike. Just before we were thinking about getting out I saw a small buck running up the hill straight at us. I looked in my binoculars and saw it was a 4-point. I told Dad it was up to him if he wanted to shoot it or not and it didn’t matter to me one way or the other. Next came the first funny comment from Dad. He said in kind of a cocky voice, “Turn ‘er on” (meaning take the safety off). He aimed for what seemed like an eternity then put the bolt right through the boiler. Mission accomplished! He kind of jumped when he shot and then came to his second funny comment. He asked me where the fire came from. He said he didn’t think fire came out of crossbows. I said, “Dad it’s a lighted nock. You saw it because it’s a little dusky outside.”

Easton, Matt, and Dad shot their bucks with a crossbow and I shot mine with a muzzleloader. They were all free-range harvests and will all cherish the memories of this unusual event for the rest of our lives.

Four generations kill bucks from the same hunting blind
So You Think Your Gun is Accurate, eh?

So You Think Your Gun is Accurate, eh?

So, you’ve invested $700 in a nice bolt-action rifle, $800 on a decent scope, and thousands more on clothing, hunting license, ammo, lodging accommodations, and who knows all what. So now you’re ready to take a week off from work and go hunt the elusive whitetail or bull elk, right? Not so fast. You may not be as ready as you think you are. That gun of yours may need a little more of your attention, and here’s why.

Well, you’ve heard it said that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, right? Well, let’s take a look at those links. If you bought an old, used gun from some guy on the internet, your gun might be your weakest link. If you bought a no-name brand of optic you’ve never heard of because it was cheap, your optic may be your weakest link. If you bought no-name ammo, that might be your weakest link. But, if your gun has a plastic stock, there’s a good chance that right there is your weakest link. But replacing that hollow plastic stock is a fairly easy fix. All you need is a Boyds hardwood laminate gunstock and you’ll be back in business.

The gun, the ammo, the optic, the stock, they all are part of a unit, and they all need to work together beautifully to give you the accuracy, the results of that bagged buck or bull that you’re looking for. Let’s start with the gun. How do you know if you’ve got yourself a really accurate shooting gun? Truth is, you really don’t know until you shoot it. Oh, sure, it may be a very expensive, very popular brand, and it may look beautiful and the action seems to function well, but you don’t know what you’ve got until the bullets leave the barrel. Just like any good-looking car that has a great paint job, it may look good, but how it will perform in your hands and out on the road is a whole different story.

First, does the gun fit you? Does it fit your body? Does it slide right into your shoulder, into that sweet spot where you can instantly get a sight picture? Does it feel good in your hands? In the gun store, you’ll often see the older guys snapping the gun up and tucking the butt into their shoulders in smooth, lightning-quick movements. Do you know why they do that Experience, my friend, they’ve had a lot of years of misses. Those older guys know the importance of gun fit. A gun that doesn’t fit you right isn’t going to help you bag your buck; it could do nothing but frustrate you. I speak from experience on this one.

My father gave me a Remington WingMaster shotgun for my 12th birthday. I was in heaven. I snapped that thing to my shoulder so perfectly, it was like the gun was made just for me. And when I went to shoot trap, as new and green to the sport of hunting and shooting as I was, I was hitting 22 out of 25 right out of the chute, and later 23 out of 25 And this was with a naked barrel; no ventilated rib, no 3-inch magnum chamber, just a plain pump shotgun. It was that gun that I got so darn good with while duck hunting. There seemed to be nothing that I could not hit. In later years I traded my Remington WingMaster in for a Remington 870 with vented rib and 3-inch chamber so that I could hit those real high-flying ducks and geese. I lived to regret trading in that WingMaster. That Remington 870 just didn’t fit me as the WingMaster did, and my trap scores dropped to a dismal 14 and 16 out of 25. I learned the hard way; if your gun doesn’t fit, then you won’t hit.

The next component is your ammunition. I learned that the type and brand of ammunition can make a big difference in your accuracy, particularly when it comes to long-distance shooting. Apparently, your barrel has a vibration frequency at which it functions optimally, and different ammo can produce different vibration frequencies in your barrel. Find the right ammo load that your barrel likes and your barrel will spit those bullets out more accurately. Now I won’t get too deep into the details on the technical aspect of this – mostly because it’s mostly Greek to me – but I’ve been around professional target shooters enough to have learned that what they do when they sight in their rifles, they usually buy 4 to 6 different brands of the same load and bullet weight of ammunition. They sight in their gun with one brand of ammo, then start shooting the next brand and see if their point of impact changes. Trust me when I say this, each brand of ammo can shoot a little differently in your gun. It’s actually amazing to see how much that impact point can change with each ammo brand.

The next, and arguably the most important, detail you need to look at is your gunstock. After all, your gunstock is the very foundation of your entire gun, it’s the foundation for what your barreled action sits in, right? So, you’ll want your barreled action to have the strongest, most- sturdy foundation possible in order to avoid unwanted flex and vibration that could affect your bullet’s impact point. It makes sense. Just like when you build a house, you’ll want to build it on solid ground, and not on a loose sandy hillside where the house could move or slide on you in a heavy rainstorm.

Take a close look at what your gunstock is made of. Is it hollow plastic? If so, then that is probably not the best foundation you could possibly have for your barreled action. Plastic flexes, it bends, but worst of all it can grow and expand in warm temps and shrink in cold temps, which can change your bullet’s point of impact with each swing in temperature. Solid wood stocks are a great option, particularly since the finishes applied to them these days seals the wood from moisture variations. Wood is strong and quite stable when sealed properly. What makes an even better gunstock is a hardwood laminate stock. The residential construction trades have been using Glulam beams for many years now. These glulam beams consist of several thin layers of wood glued together with the grain of the wood all going in the same direction. And according to The Engineered Wood Association, who says, “Pound for pound, glulam is stronger than steel and has greater strength and stiffness than comparably-sized dimensional lumber.” And this is why the hardwood laminate stock from Boyds Gunstocks consists of 37 layers of hardwood; the more layers of hardwood you have, the stronger and more rigid the gunstock. And that’s just what you want in your gunstock; strength and rigidity.

It’s no secret that plastic grows in size with heat and shrinks in size with cold, so when you have a hollow plastic stock, the point of impact you’ve set at sea level in 80-degree weather with a plastic stock is not necessarily going to be your point of impact at 26 degrees up on a mountain, and, believe me, that won’t be a good thing when that trophy bull elk finally walks into view. The nice thing about a Boyds hardwood laminate stock is that it is far more stable in all temperatures than plastic; it will not be expanding in heat or shrinking in cold. And the 37 layers of hardwood laminate is stronger than steel, pound for pound, and won’t flex like plastic does. And all this works together for you to keep your point of impact consistent, just where you set it.

So, replacing your hollow plastic stock with a Boyds Hardwood Laminate stock will give you a stronger, more rigid, and more durable foundation for your barreled action, and that stiffness and rigidity is going to give you better accuracy, an accuracy that your gun deserves, an accuracy that you need when it comes time to bag your big trophy.

If you want to give yourself the best chance for success in hunting, then take a look at your gunstock, it just might be time you upgraded to a Boyds Hardwood Laminate to get the most consistent bullet placement your gun can give you. And that change in gunstocks could give you the thrill of a lifetime when that trophy animal walks into view. Better Accuracy; Better with Boyds.

By Richard Hoffarth

Bowhunting Success Starts in the Bow Shop

Bowhunting Success Starts in the Bow Shop

Author: Eddie Webb, Real Deal Outdoors

Thoughts for success in the field.

So much time and effort go into chasing the mature whitetails, only to get one short window of opportunity. Let’s map out a few keys to success that are easily overlooked.

Accessing land is the first step in any pursuit, which can be a challenge. Once you have land to hunt, it’s time to put the boots on the ground. Hours of scouting, planning, mapping, running cameras, selecting stand locations, and hanging stands. are just part of the process. Now, we must deal with wind, weather, moon phases, and many other obstacles that can always affect the hunt. Let’s be honest, the best hunters put in the work that probably months before they ever take their weapon into the woods.

When spending months of prepping and planning, one can easily overlook their equipment. When the short window of opportunity finally presents itself on that buck of a lifetime, a well-tuned bow gives you the confidence needed to make the shot. For the past several years, hunters that frequent Real Deal Outdoors have had a lot of success, including FIVE world-class bucks in 2021 over 200 inches.

When I look at what they all had in common it’s a quality pro shop that makes sure their equipment is tuned and ready for the season ahead. It doesn’t matter what pro shop you use but find one you have confidence in and invest in your equipment and hunt. Properly tuned equipment, proper form, and practice will increase your odds at the moment of truth.

Many archers can set up their bow by installing arrow rests, sights, quivers, and assembling arrows. Tuning the bow starts with paper tuning as we look for the sweet spot, a perfect bullet hole! However, when it’s time to dial in your sights with broadheads, an improperly tuned bow will throw arrows all over the place.

So much more goes into that perfect tune; for instance, do you have the right spine arrow, does the bow have cam lean is the tiller correct? That’s just a few things that need to be looked at on the bow before you start adjusting your sights or arrow rest. Now let’s think about the sight you hit the orange aiming dot standing in the yard on flat ground. What some may not consider is if your 2nd and 3rd axis are off you miss that same dot by as much as a foot if you’re in a tree shooting at 35-45 degrees up or downhill.

The debate over expendables vs. fixed-blade broadheads may never cease but why is there a debate in the first place? Both broadheads serve a purpose and both will kill deer when the arrow finds its mark, Expandable are only designed if you have the right kinetic energy coming out of your setup. They will not do their job if you do not have enough kinetic energy to push them through a deer. Going to your local archery pro shop will help you find the correct draw weight, arrow spine and weight to help you find the best broadhead for your setup.

Fixed broadheads will not fly correctly if the wrong arrow was selected and or the bow is not perfectly tuned. This is where cam lean will play a huge factor. Many times, I will adjust the cam to get the perfect arrow flight, not move the rest.

My best tip for success is to find yourself a local pro shop that you have confidence in and that takes the extra time to help you fine-tune your bow and your form. There are a lot of good ones and a few bad ones, but once you find a good one, support them so they will always be there when you need them.

Never Mess with Muskox Bulls in the Rut!

Never Mess with Muskox Bulls in the Rut!

Author: Dennis Dunn

When I invited my son, Bryant, to join me for the last week of August 2022, on a “do-it-ourselves,” Alaskan caribou hunt, I could never have guessed that the biggest excitement of our time together would revolve around a bull muskox, rather than a bull caribou!

Thanks to a friendly airboat transporter, we were able to pitch our camp on the far side of the Sag River, opposite the haul road, and about 40 miles south of Prudhoe Bay. While setting up our tents near the edge of the bluff above the river, we noticed a few stray caribou here and there — as well as three muskoxen out on the river plain below us. We’d been told we might see some, but that there would be no open season on them until 2023. Several days of hiking and glassing turned up a few more muskoxen in different places, but no mature caribou bulls worthy of hanging on a wall.

The fourth day, however, produced an adrenaline rush for me that I will never forget — neither in this life nor the next. I was sitting that afternoon on the edge of a little draw, upslope about 200 yards from the edge of the river plain. I suddenly heard the sound of hooves on gravel directly underneath me, and I quickly realized a muskox bull was headed straight up the little game trail I was seated right at the top of. Having my cell phone handy in an open jacket pocket, I managed to snap a picture of the beast as he reached a point just five or six yards below my still-sedentary posterior. The click of the camera lens turned him around, and — after spending about 15 seconds sparring with some nearby willow branches, much like a caribou bull in the velvet — he moseyed back down the trail, then turned and started walking further up the little canyon.

The bull muskox approaches renowned author Dennis.

The thought immediately struck me that I might be able to get some really great video of the bull, if I kept out of sight and quickly scurried after him, being careful to stay out of sight until I figured I was probably more or less right above him again. My calculation proved to be on the money, but I’d NOT imagined he might head directly up the steep 45-degree slope to meet me!  Only steps away from the edge of the bluff, I had just pushed the video record-button, when suddenly the big fellow popped up over the top, right in front of me — no more than 10 or 12 feet away. The camera was rolling, so to speak, but all of a sudden I was no longer focused on filming my “quarry.” I was focused like a laser beam on reviewing what options might be available to me, in the event of a full-on charge.

Escaping death or serious injury was now foremost on my mind. If the charge did come, I knew that running straight away from him out into the flat, wide-open tundra would very likely result in an ugly outcome. The thought occurred to me that, since his rear hooves were still below the edge of the bluff on the steep gravelly slope he had just ascended, the bull would probably not be able to launch his charge quite as quickly as if all four hooves had been resting on the same level terrain I was standing on.  Hoping to defuse the situation, I made my best imitation of a dog bark. Showing no reaction whatsoever, the animal just stood there glowering at me. I thought of backing away from him slowly but then realized that my only real escape route — catapulting myself off the bluff, by shooting just past the side of his oncoming head — would no longer be a possibility. I realized I was on the horns of a dilemma, but the last thing I wanted to be on was the horns of an enraged muskox.

Since the dog bark had left my antagonist unimpressed and unwilling to turn around, I waved my arms over my head and let out as loud a yell as I could muster. With that, the bull lowered his head, and the charge was on. I believe he tried to hook me with his horns as I sailed past him into the void, but I felt nothing — other than a huge sense of relief as I landed about 30 feet below, lost my balance, and tumbled the rest of the way to the bottom of the ravine. Totally unhurt (by God’s Almighty grace), I popped to my feet and turned to look up at him. There he stood, fully silhouetted against the sky, staring down at me, just daring me to come to mess with him again.

Dennis looks at the bull muskox from below after narrowly escaping with his life.

As the reader can imagine, he didn’t need to teach me a second lesson. The muskox mating season was in full swing, and I had just been reminded that this was precisely the time for it. Later that evening, as my son and I were preparing and enjoying a Mountain House dinner outside our tent, two muskox bulls showed up and put on a fully half-hour-long rutting spectacle just 250 yards away. There was no doubt in my mind that one of the two protagonists was the one I’d become acquainted with earlier that day.

Charging each other again and again, the pair put on a display of rutting violence and ferocity exceeding anything either of us had ever witnessed before — even from the other horned or antlered species of North American big game. Needless to say, my cellphone video captured many segments of that awesome drama. Such film footage will forever remind me of the lesson I almost had to learn “the hard way.”

Baiting:  Tools of the Trade from a Master Deer Baiter

Baiting: Tools of the Trade from a Master Deer Baiter

Author: Ross Mellinger

The world we live in has become so filled with hate and judgment that it seems that truly nothing is off-limits anymore. The level of butthurt over success in anything is at an all-time high. People as individuals and others as part of platforms will stop at nothing to dissect a winner’s success, and furthermore, find some way to publicly shame or otherwise piss and moan about the level of that particular success versus their own inability to achieve the same themselves. The hunting world is no different. However, I’m going to break it down as nobody has before, so let’s dive right into it.

The greatest debate I see in the world of whitetail hunting is that of “Baiting.” I often times hunt using feed, but I certainly have no issue with those that don’t either. I also have my theories as to why there is so much hate towards those that use feed as a tool to hunt. Here is where this is likely to upset a lot of non-feeding hunters, but if those of you are man enough to fuss and gripe about it behind a keyboard or smartphone, then you can be man enough to listen to an intelligent counter-argument. Aside from the logical and obvious legal arguments in states where it is, my theories fall into three main categories….hear me out. If you complain about “Baiting” and are not legitimately a purist or naturalist of the sport, then you likely fall into AT LEAST one of the three following categories: 1) You’re just flat-out lazy. There, I said it!!! Just rip that band-aid right off!!! 2) You’re too cheap to spend the money, but have no problem pissing away your money on life’s other frivolous things such as alcohol, tobacco, video games, tattoos, fancy TVs, high-dollar clothing, restaurants, concerts, or anything else of life’s “Luxuries.” 3) You lack true dedication to a program such as feeding or “Baiting” to give it the attention to detail and devotion that it requires to be effective. Now many of you non-believers have just finished that last sentence and become immediately defensive or angry. Again, bear with me here, and let’s dive into this with a bit more detailed microscope.

I’m going to lay out my feeding/baiting regimen before we go any further, just so you have a solid understanding of where I come from in my argument. I’m not here to say that my approach is any better than anyone else’s, but before you begin to digest the magnitude of this, I know I am an extremist on the topic. Not everyone will experience the level of funding or dedication as me. I understand that. I target specifically mature animals that are known on a particular farm or region and this allows me to study and take inventory all year round. Having said that, my wife and I have taken a combined 29 Pope & Young whitetails in the last 10 years alone, and continue to do it primarily in a state that isn’t really recognized for that level of consistency. We aren’t special and we aren’t even what I consider “Gold standard” whitetail hunters, but we certainly have shared some success with what we do. I feed between 18-25 tons of feed per year and have done so for the majority of my adult life. I am 46 years old now. You read that correctly….18-25 TONS!!!! I also drop annually an additional 1500-2000 pounds of minerals. I also till and seed between 4-8 acres of food plots, but I also don’t ever hunt them anymore either. They are done solely for sanctuary reasons. Many of you will read that in disbelief. Yep, I DO NOT hunt my food plots. It’s a lot of work knowing I will NEVER hunt them each year. All this requires roughly 25 trail cameras to monitor this activity. It is a YEAR ROUND program, not just for a couple of weeks in the Fall of the year. I burn nearly all of my vacation from work dedicated to this as well as the actual hunting part of things. I sacrifice nearly every weekend as well to ensure it all gets done. I study maps weekly on identifying new areas and the potential access to minimize human intrusion. I access each spot ONLY between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm…EXCLUSIVELY….even in the Summer heat! After driving the side x side a reasonable distance, I physically carry the 100-pound feed bags to each site the last 50-100 yards of each setup – oftentimes several bags at once (whatever I feel will adequately last a 7-day period there, based on known activity). If it requires 500 pounds at one site, then that’s 500 pounds I physically put on my shoulders and carry in, bag after bag after bag….only after I previously loaded it by hand the first time into the side x side. I may do this for 6-10 different sites at a time on 3-5 different farms. Most of us can adequately do the math there to know that this is no easy task…and because of my level of commitment to it, it isn’t cheap either. A reasonable man can also see that it isn’t a hobby or fad, but rather a dedication to a lifestyle. In the end, I still have to know where to run my sites and how to access them while playing the wind and how to hang my stands in the right spot. It also allows me to know which deer in the area are mature and which are not and furthermore take inventory of new deer that move into or out of the areas. This program specifically is how I can firmly and legitimately make my claims to the aforementioned three main theories, as most of you will see just how involved my program is. Now, sit tight…I’m just getting started.

I hear the cries all the time, “That’s not REAL hunting!” That couldn’t be further from the truth, folks! Some of the world’s greatest apex predators use the same ambush-style method at known feeding areas as the preferred way to hunt. Do you know why they do??? BECAUSE IT WORKS!!! Think I’m wrong? Let’s examine how a coyote searches for prey. Bobcats? Yep…them too. Mountain lions? Grizzlies? Gators? You betcha! The ambush/feeding method has been around since the beginning of time. Let’s look at why baiting is no different than any other tool in a hunter’s bag of tricks. I use the term “tool” because that is EXACTLY what it is, and here is why I am correct:

Do you hunt from a treestand? It’s a tool, yet we don’t hear anyone fussing about that now, do we? Why do we hunt from a treestand??? Because it gives us an advantage over our prey. It gives us the upper hand as the predator.

Do you use a rifle with a scope? It too is a tool meant exclusively to give us an advantage…yet nobody cries over that as well. It’s a tool meant solely to give us the upper hand over our targeted animal.

Oh….and you use trail cameras? I have one word for you…..TOOL!

How about that side x side or 4-wheeler that’s sitting in your garage? Do you really expect me to believe that’s for recreation or yard work purposes only or for your kids or grandkids to ride around on the lawn? Listen carefully here when I say this…..TOOL!!!!

In my opinion, the baiting tool is an even more fair and more sincere approach than all the previously mentioned technologies because it requires WORK in addition to funding. I think we can all agree that work ethic is something this generation oftentimes lacks on many levels. This argument is no different.

I’ve seen time and time again that some of the world’s most successful hunters, regardless of their preferred style or method, were successful in life looooooong before we dissected and examined their way of hunting. Do you know why that’s the case? It’s all because of that same level of commitment, work, and financial dedication to be great at their craft. They worked a little harder…often times ALOT harder. They spent more money and time on that craft or job than their competitors did. In a nutshell, THEY JUST WANTED IT MORE!!! It’s that same level of success in life that fuels the hate fire in non-hunting-related activities, just as it doesn’t in this baiting topic. This world has become just a bunch of jealous haters that can’t stand the success of others.

When you look at it in its entirety, everyone has a platform and foundation for their own argument on the topic. However, in the end, it’s all about preference and dedication, whether it be financial or physical dedication. Hell, it’s even the PREFERRED method in bear hunting every Spring, yet here we are fussing daily on social media about feeding or baiting whitetail deer. I don’t even try to hide it. I’m proud of the work I put in. I know that with every bloody arrow, much sweat and backache have come long before the smile and success. I earned it. Luck had very little, if any, to do with it.

I can go on and on and on – forever arguing over the topic of tools, ie: scent-blocking clothing, fancy engineered broadheads, ground blinds, mapping apps for cell phones, etc. Let’s also not forget about the engineering marvels of our archery, crossbow, and firearms themselves! Now, ask yourself this….tell me which of those above-listed items brings out the hate and butthurt of social media hunters more than the topic of “Baiting.” Which one of those items or topics also requires the level of work and dedication that of a premier year-round feeding program? Now….having read all this, let’s be honest here…TRULY HONEST. If you are still upset that folks such as me and others bait and you don’t or won’t, which of the three aforementioned categories do YOU fall under???

Late-October is prime time to hunt scrapes and rubs

Late-October is prime time to hunt scrapes and rubs

Most of October is an overlooked time for gathering information that will be valuable later on, and Late October is the one time of the year when focusing on scrapes and rubs can pay off big.

By Bernie Barringer

The month of October is maligned by bowhunters everywhere as the months where the bucks disappear into thin air. It’s a transition period between the time when they are in the visible, predictable patterns of September, and the rutting chaos of November. During October, the bucks are largely nocturnal, the bachelor groups have broken up and the food sources are changing. Farm crops are being harvested; acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts are available for short periods as they fall and are cleaned up. Living is easy for the deer and their movements are minimal and erratic.

Should you stay home during October? Absolutely not. There are times when being in a stand can be very productive, and there are other projects that can be done during this month that will increase your odds of bagging a buck later on.

The first half of October is a time when bucks are doing a lot of rubbing. These rubs provide important clues to their travel and preferred bedding areas. As a buck rises in late afternoon, he stretches and gets his juices flowing by chafing up a couple trees nearby. He may hit several trees on his way to feed. These can provide clues to help you find his beds because rubs are directional. Follow a line of rubs backwards and you will eventually end up where the buck likes to seclude himself during the daylight hours.

You might find a great place to set up and waylay that buck, but at least you will find some places to set scouting cameras and get a look at him. The information gathered will also help you learn more about the timing and direction of his movements. You can put a marker on each of the rubs using your Scoutlook weather app. A pattern will emerge right on your screen.

October is the month of scraping. New scrapes appear every day as the bucks’ testosterone levels rise. The last two weeks of October is peak time for scraping. Primary scrapes can be found under overhanging branches on the edges of open areas. These will have fresh tracks in them most every day. It’s a great time to inventory the bucks in your area with a camera.

I like to put scrape drippers on these scrapes and arm them with a Covert scouting camera. Bucks cannot resist visiting these scrapes when there is fresh new scent in them. Within three days, you are likely to have a photo of most every buck in the area. If you see daylight activity, make your move immediately.

If I find an area all torn up with rubs and scrapes during late October, you can be sure I will be hanging a stand nearby. By the time the rut is in full swing, these scrapes will get little attention, so I want to take advantage while the getting is good.

Interestingly, many studies have been done by biologists in an effort to learn how and when bucks use scrapes. They have found that by putting cameras covering the scrapes, they get photos of bucks mostly under cover of darkness. In fact some studies have shown that visits to scrapes by mature bucks will be as much as 90% at night.

I have found a flaw in these studies; however, I am convinced that the bucks are scent checking these scrapes during the daylight, but they aren’t having they picture taken. Mature bucks do not like to expose themselves on the open edge of a field—which is where most of the scrapes are found—during the daylight. So if the wind allows, they scent-check the scrape from downwind 10-30 yards, depending on the cover. Only if they smell something that arouses their urges or their curiosity will they move right onto the scrape.

This offers the hunter a unique opportunity to set up and take advantage of this behavior. Set up your stand downwind of the scrape. Additionally, adding some fresh scent to the scrape while hunting it can make a big difference. The buck may move to the scrape rather than skirting it. Use your Scoutlook weather app to mark the scrape locations, then look at the scent cone to determine the best tree for a stand.

I have fallen in love with the last week of October for hunting over scrapes and rubs, While most of my DIY road trips for whitetails have focused on the first two weeks of November, these days, I find myself leaving home to be in position to hunt a day or two before Halloween. It allows me to scout quickly and find an area that reeks of rutting activity and get right into a tree to hunt. This is something I wouldn’t do during November.

The last week of the month is also the best time of the year for calling and rattling in my opinion. Bucks in the Midwestern states where I do most of my hunting seem to come to rattling during this time better than any other time. And those scraping area are great places to rattle. The bucks come running in expecting to find some action in an area they already know is a buck hangout.

It is embarrassing how long it took me to figure out why I would see deer in the distance when I was sitting in a tree over a rutting area. Here was an area all torn to pieces right in front of me, but I would catch a glimpse of a buck moving through the trees 40-50 yards away, and they were just moving through. Once I figured out that they were moving through downwind of the scrapes, the light bulb went on. I now use a scent to spike up the scrapes and any time I see a buck, I hit the grunt call a few times in an effort to turn him towards me. It doesn’t always work, but it has brought a buck within range often enough to keep me trying it.

The chance to beat the crowds is one of the greatest advantages to hunting the last week in October. In the past dozen years, outdoor television has created a hunger for big bucks away from home, and a large number of hunters are taking whitetail hunting road trips each season. I hunt mostly public land in several states each year, and I find that the first full weekend in November is when the parking lots start to fill up. Most people have a week or two off from work so they hunt hard for two weekends and a week. By starting my hunt the end of October, I put myself in position to be driving to my next destination with a buck in the back of the truck before the competition arrives in full force. 

The next time the month of October finds you discouraged, try my advice on gathering information and hunting over rubs and scrapes. You, too, may soon find yourself excited to be leaving home a few days earlier than the remainder of the DIY crowd.

Mississippi River Whitetails

Mississippi River Whitetails

The “Big Muddy” is producing big whitetails and there’s plenty of public land to hunt them.

By Bernie Barringer, photos by Bernie Barringer and Zach Ferenbaugh

Take a look at the areas of the Midwest which consistently produce big whitetail bucks and you’ll find some similarities. Winona and Houston counties in the far southeastern part of Minnesota have produced more Pope & Young bucks per square mile than any other counties in Minnesota. Just across the border into Iowa is Allamakee County which has produced the most P&Y bucks of any county in the famously whitetail-rich Hawkeye State. Just east of there in Wisconsin, you’ll find Buffalo County which has produced far and away more Boone & Crockett and P&Y bucks than any other county in North America. Just across the southern border into Illinois, is Jo Daviess county, a place well known for big bucks. Farther south in Illinois is the area of the state that is known as the “Golden Triangle” of big bucks among serious Trophy deer hunters. It consists of Pike, Adams, Schuyler and Brown counties. Back to the west again are Clark, Pike, Lincoln, St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri. Starting to notice a pattern?

What you’ve just read is a list of the majority of the top counties in North America which consistently produce record book bucks; and it might surprise you to find that they all have one thing in common: The Mississippi River.  This is no coincidence. In fact, it’s one of the best kept secrets in whitetail deer hunting, and to make it even more appealing, there’s an abundance of public hunting land all along the Mighty Mississippi where anyone can hunt whitetails without an outfitter or guide.

The best of this is found along the river from St. Paul, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri. The river has been forever altered by the lock and dam system which creates floodplain and islands, most of which fall under the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Land on either—and sometimes both–sides of the river has been set aside and protected from development. Because this is federally owned land, most anything that isn’t within the boundaries of a wildlife reserve or a park is open to hunting by the public.

Few deer hunters—including many locals–fully understand the opportunities available here. Part of the reason it’s overlooked is the difficulty of access. Roads are limited and often muddy after rains. Many excellent hunting areas are accessible only by boat. Overall, it’s a challenging place to hunt, but of course all deer hunters know that the more challenging it is, the better the odds that bucks are growing old back in there out of reach of all but the most dedicated hunters.

The Upper Mississippi Fish & Wildlife Refuge borders more than 260 miles of the River from Minnesota and borders most of Iowa and the northern half of Illinois. Dozens of state- and county-owned public hunting areas create even more access points. Generally, the ACOE owns land near the dams while lands between the dams are owned by other agencies. Any of these can hold good deer hunting; and for the most part, it gets less hunting pressure by deer hunters than the properties away from the river.

The key to having hunting success is finding the right elevations and the food. Lower islands and floodplains are often characterized by large silver maple trees with little understory due to the frequent flooding. Deer travel through these areas, but find little food or bedding cover. Look for islands and shorelines with higher elevations, and you will find oaks and hickory along with their associated food. Because these higher elevation islands rarely flood, they can be well covered with forbs and the kinds of lush browse that deer look for to utilize both as food and bedding cover.

Dozens of tributaries empty into the big river, most of which offer deltas that feature excellent deer habitat. Many of these are a mix between private farmland and wooded plains; ideal deer habitat. Accessing these areas can be difficult, but the use of a boat, canoe or Kayak can put a hunter into some prime areas that few other hunters will ever see.

The upper part of the river bordering Minnesota and Wisconsin tends to be characterized by more sandy bottom, with some limestone outcroppings, in fact some of it can be waded, and getting to hunting areas most people don’t go is as simple as crossing a barrier of some sort such as a creek. It’s surprising how many deer live on the islands. Imagine being able to do a DIY public land hunt in the famous Buffalo County, Wisconsin where nearly 80% of the farmland is leased by outfitters.


The areas bordering Illinois and Missouri tend to be silt and mud, with large backwater areas that see few if any deer hunting pressure. If you are looking for elbow room (and there’s platy of it) you’ll need a boat to hunt with any significant degree of success away from hunting pressure. In Pike County, Illinois are found some of the most famous and successful whitetail outfitters, and you can hunt right in their back yard for free.

Some of the best places to hunt are areas where the fertile croplands surrounding the river meet with the public forested lands. Much of the upper river is characterized by steep bluffs right down to the river’s edge, but where the river widens, crops are often planted for miles along the river, while a narrow strip of publicly owned timber separating the water from the fields creates a travel corridor for cruising bucks. These places can be excellent spots to park yourself in a treestand for long hours during the first two weeks of November.

Swimming and wading are normal parts of the daily lives of deer which live here. They routinely cross from island to island, and often bed on islands and feed on shore. Deer drives are one effective way to hunt these islands during the firearms season, and some of them are known hotspots. But many islands have little deer hunting activity prior to the gun seasons.

Because this deer hunting opportunity is under-utilized, the state wildlife agencies have little data on the number of deer being taken from the islands. But the state game departments are learning just how much hunting success is taking place here by the few hunters who are in the know. The Iowa DNR has lately been putting personnel at the boat ramps during the firearms seasons to inventory deer that are coming from the islands in the hopes of getting more detailed data on the amount of deer hunting and success rates.

So much land is available that it can seem overwhelming, so you must break it down. The best way to start is to look at maps of the public land and compare them with aerial photography and topographical maps to determine the amount of cover and the potential for the areas to have mast-producing trees. Crop fields can be easily spotted on satellite photos. Funnels and pinch points along the river’s edge will jump out at you. Then it’s just a matter of getting out there and looking it over.

Study the maps and regulations carefully. Some areas are designated waterfowl feeding and resting areas and have closures to all hunting on certain dates. The extra effort it takes to hunt these areas effectively limits the number of hunters who are willing to go through the trouble. This is good news for those who put in the extra effort. Quality deer are available and they get little to no pressure in some areas, both islands and shorelines.

The public lands of the upper Mississippi River are possibly the most overlooked hunting opportunity in the Midwest both for its seclusion and for its trophy potential. It’s not just for fishing any more.

Blood Trailing Arrowed Bears

Blood Trailing Arrowed Bears

Why it’s different than blood trailing deer

By Bernie Barringer

My 16-year-old daughter Crystal was sitting in a treestand just below me and to my left. I saw a black spot in the bush behind the bait and tried to tap her on the shoulder to warn her, but she was leaning forward, a 20-guage youth model shotgun loaded with slugs across her lap. I couldn’t reach her so I whispered “bear coming!” But when I looked back up, the black spot was gone.

Just 15 minutes later, the black spot was back and she saw it too. Another 15 minutes elapsed before a bear was standing at the bait, cautiously looking around. Eventually he turned broadside and Crystal calmly sent a slug though the heart of her first bear. It disappeared, but the noise of its running soon ceased. We got down and walked along the ample blood trail through the thick underbrush to the bear, making comments about the incredible amount of blood we were seeing. When we arrived, we were amazed to see that our pantlegs were soaked in blood from the knees down. A shotgun slug through the heart can really make a mess.

Finding a big bear after a long blood trail is a rewarding experience and well worth the effort it takes to get really good at tracking bears shot with an arrow

If only all blood trails were so easy. But they are not. Certainly, an arrow through the middle of the heart can create the same scenario, I’ve seen it myself. But like most bowhunters, you and I probably aren’t aiming for the heart, we are aiming for the sure thing of a double-lung shot.

There are a lot of variables that go into blood trailing bears, but here are some really critical ones: Was there an exit wound and was that exit wound low on the body? Is the arrow still in the bear? Did the bear run away or just walk away? Is the diaphragm punctured? Did you hear a death moan? These are all important clues that will help you as you follow a blood trail to a dead bear.

Most bears do not go far compared to deer. Shoot a buck through both lungs and he’ll run full speed until he falls over, usually about 150 yards. Shoot a bear through both lungs and he’ll probably run 30-40 yards before stopping to see what happened to him. He may die right there, or he may just start walking. Walking causes them to use less oxygen so they can live much longer than a bear which just runs until it gets light-headed and falls over.

I once shot a 500-pound bear which just walked away and kept walking. We followed a blood trail for more than 400 yards, and by that time I was convinced that I had misjudged where my shot hit the bear. But when we finally recovered the bear, it was exactly as I thought, I had punctured the diaphragm and clipped the back of the nearside lung, the front of the off-side lung and even nicked the heart. But because this bear did not require much oxygen on his 400-yard stroll, he was able to live a lot longer than a bear that would have run hard.

I love death moans, not because I like the eerie sound, but because it offers me two important facts that really help in recovery: I know the bear is dead, and I know the direction and approximate distance of the bear. I will still follow the blood trail to the bear in most every case because just walking up to the body of a dead bear in the thick bush is normally a lot harder than it sounds.

Bears tend to push leaves and plants over and aside where the blood from their fur “paints” the undersides of leaves

To digress a moment, someday I guess I should do a column on death moans and try to learn some scientific evidence for what causes them, but for now, I will tell you that I’ve killed 30 bears with a bow and I believe I have heard the death moan 8 or 9 times. At this point I cannot explain why some bears do it and some do not.

In addition to the 30 bears I have killed, I have been in on the recovery of about 50 more so I have followed a lot of blood trails. I can tell you this without flinching, if you have a low wound where the arrow exited the bear’s body, your chance of finding an easy to follow blood trail is probably 10 times better than if the arrow is still in the bear with no exit wound. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I’ll take two small holes in a bear over one big hole any time.

Keep this in mind when you are choosing your shot angles. I can think of two times when I executed a perfect double-lung shot on a bear which I was not able to recover, and both times it was because the arrow hit the off side leg bone or shoulder blade and did not exit.

Okay enough on that. Let’s assume you have blood trailed a few deer and compare what to look for in trailing a bear; much of which is quite a bit different than a deer. You’ve hit a bear and you’re on the blood trail; here’s what to look for.

A bear that’s shot through both lungs will have blood on both sides of the trail and also blood in the trail which is coming from the nose and mouth. Arrowed bears may not start out on an established bear trail, but any bear that still has his wits about him after about 15 seconds will be on a bear trail most every time. Here’s a really important image to keep in mind: When looking for blood on the sides, keep in mind that a bear’s fur is much like a paintbrush. As he walked through the brush, his body is moving aside the leaves and branches, and his fur is painting the undersides of the leaves as they are being brushed aside. This is an important source of information that many people miss.

That fur will also be painting the branches and stalks even if no blood is getting to the ground. Another place you will find this blood “painting” is when a bear crosses a downed log. I can think of a couple times I was able to find a bear even after the blood trail had ended; I circled the area, looking at every downed tree and log I could find and eventually found that the bear had doubled back, leaving a small streak of blood from his chest hair as he stepped over a log.

One drop of blood can lead to a bear, so don’t give up. I really prefer to trail with a partner who can stay at the last blood I found so I have a reference point. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and if there is a crowd, which there too often is, I ask them all to stay behind the person marking last blood. It’s also a good idea to mark the trail every so often to help you get a general line of travel, this is particularly true at night. Toilet paper works great for this because it is biodegradable. Please do not litter the woods with plastic flagging.

Be diligent in not getting too far away from last blood, move slowly and carefully and keep in mind that you’re not trailing a deer so you should be looking for different clues, and you’ll find your bear if it’s a dead bear. And if it’s not, go home and practice shooting until you have confidence that you can make a perfect double-lung shot at the next opportunity.

10 Things you didn’t know about mosquitoes

10 Things you didn’t know about mosquitoes

Did you know that mosquitoes like beer drinkers and have a favorite color? Here are ten things I’ll bet you didn’t know.

By Bernie Barringer

Mosquitoes are some of the most annoying creatures on Earth. There are billions of them and they turn up where you least like them, which is pretty much everywhere they are found. Campers, fishermen and hunters spurn them as pests, but in some cases they can be much more than that by carrying deadly viruses. Next time you are sitting around the campfire, you can turn these pesky vermin into an interesting conversation by reciting these little-known facts about what many people jokingly refer to as their state bird.

Most mosquitoes are vegetarians. Some varieties never bite mammals at all; they prefer sugars found in plants. Of those subspecies that do bite, only the females suck your blood. They need the proteins found in blood to nurture their eggs to maturity. So only a relatively small proportion of the overall population are blood suckers. But it’s enough.

There are 3,500 varieties of mosquitoes worldwide. More than 150 have been identified in the United States. About 650 varieties have been found in Brazil. A relatively small number of these species are blood suckers.

Mosquitoes like beer drinkers. Human skin and breath emit hundreds of chemical compounds and many of them attract mosquitoes. But there’s one that has been shown to attract the pests more than any other. A study done in Africa on malaria-carrying mosquitoes found that they landed on people who drank beer far more often than on those who did not. Maybe it’s something in the blood.

They also like pregnant women. Pregnant women produce more carbon dioxide which attracts mosquitoes, plus the body temperature of pregnant women is slightly higher. This extra warmth has been shown to be an attractor.

They transmit at least five different diseases. Malaria is the most well known of mosquito-borne diseases, but cases of West Nile Virus are growing and may be the most dangerous in North America. The Zika virus is a growing threat that may overtake Malaria as the mosquitoes’ most threatening danger. Dengue fever is another disease transmitted by mosquitoes, as are yellow fever and encephalitis.

Mosquitoes hibernate. Most of the mosquitoes that survive the winter did so as eggs in the muddy bottom of some pond, but adult mosquitoes also can survive the winter if they can find a place to keep from freezing. Some caves, even in Minnesota, harbor millions of hibernating mosquitoes.

They have a favorite color. Well sort of. Studies have shown that some colors of clothing, especially black, red and dark blue, attracted more mosquitoes. Because they home in on heat, some of the colors may be attractive because they are darker and collect more heat than light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are also attracted to movement. The researchers also theorized that the mosquitoes could better sense the movement of darker colors.

They have a set of pumps in their head. The little blood suckers do their dirty deed by inserting a bundle of microneedles (the entire bundle is about the width of a human hair) into the skin. They use two tiny pumps inside their head to extract the blood through those needles.

They do not explode, sorry. Contrary to popular myth, you can’t make a mosquito explode by trapping its needle in your body. You’ve probably heard that by flexing your muscle you can keep them from pulling out and the blood just fills them up until they pop.

Nope. They have a nerve in their abdomen that triggers the pumps in their head to stop filling once their abdomen becomes engorged. Researchers were able to sever this tiny nerve in some individuals and those little suckers did overfill and explode. No doubt a satisfying moment.

You are allergic to their saliva. When they first insert their proboscis into your skin, they spit into you. Their saliva has an anticoagulant that keeps the blood from clotting while they suck it up. Compounds in this saliva trigger a release of histamine, which is part of your body’s defense system against allergies. This is what causes the swelling and itching.

The two most effective substances that repel mosquitoes are N,N-Diethyl-Meta-Toluamide, AKA DEET, and Permethrin. DEET is found in most mosquito repellent sprays, and Permethrin has been found to repel mosquitoes from clothes, tents and other fabrics even after going through the washing machine. Permethrin is also the active ingredient in the pads on a ThermaCELL, one of the most effective mosquito repellant devices available.

Now that you have a PhD in bloodsucking insect science, it may disappoint you to know there is still not much you can do about the pesky micro-critters. But at least you know more about mosquitoes than everyone else around the campfire.

Bowhunters: Should you hunt with your quiver attached?

Bowhunters: Should you hunt with your quiver attached?

Quiver on or quiver off? By Bernie Barringer

The issue of shooting a bow with a quiver and arrows attached is a debate that has been hashed out over and over on social media and around campfires where ever bowhunters are found. Many say it comes down to personal preference, but I disagree. The right option for you should be based on your hunting style and the types of pursuit you engage in.

If you are exclusively a treestand or ground blind hunter, the ability to detach a quiver from your bow is a great option. You can place the extra arrows within reach because you know right where you’ll be and where they’ll be. You’re unlikely to get a follow up shot in these situations, but you just never know.

If you’re calling elk, spot and stalk hunting mule deer, pronghorn, bears or whitetails, the need to detach a quiver before shooting can be a significant hindrance. Shot opportunities often come quickly, and the motion, noise and time it takes to remove a quiver is going to cost you some shot opportunities, and maybe the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s not worth it.

Watch the video below where I discuss the options available and this will help you choose which option is best for you. Celebrates the Hunt Through Dedicated Hunting Social Media Celebrates the Hunt Through Dedicated Hunting Social Media

Even at age 57, I frequent social media. Yeah, I’m one of those. While I don’t care for the triviality of some of its content, it’s been a powerful way for me to build and maintain an outdoor brand, as well as enjoy the inherent eye candy borne of the whitetail deer and other game animals. I’m an outdoorsman and, more specifically, a certified “deer on the brain” hunter – and the truth is, there are millions of people across North America who share my obsession.  

About those millions; the approximately 19-million hunters are but a drop in the bucket compared to the quarter-billion Americans using social media today. Nonetheless, the hunting demographic represents a viable and passionate one.

The fact is, most hunters don’t care to see random selfies, closeups of someone’s Kung Pao Chicken, or political satire. On the contrary, they want images of gnarly antlers, game animals, wild landscapes, and deer camps – about anything that celebrates the hunting and outdoor lifestyle. More importantly, they don’t only want to stare at it, they like interacting with it. Nobody likes embracing the lifestyle like the lucky men and women who call hunting and the outdoors their sweet spot.

Countless hunting and outdoor-based social media sites and apps have come and gone. After all, it’s a tenuous and expensive endeavor. While a few still exist, most have gone by the wayside. No doubt, a social media platform built firmly around America’s number one game animal was in order; and inevitable.


The founders of (or Whitetail, as it’s commonly referred to) understood the desirability of an interactive portal for hunters – particularly those pursuing whitetails in the fields, woodlots, and hills of North America.

It didn’t take the crew at Whitetail long to acknowledge the ever-growing elephant in the deer blind when it came to hunting and social media. Simply put, popular social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook have been unfriendly confines for hunters. Between negative badgering from anti-hunters to the inherent disconnect regarding the benefits of harvesting wild game, something was needed to level the playing field. If that wasn’t enough, the mainstream platforms boldly entered the cancel culture fray by decreasing engagement in the hunting niche and more recently, shutting down some successful hunting pages and groups.

The only way to truly combat these realities was to establish a digital safe space for hunters and outdoorsmen. This wasn’t a new concept for the folks at Whitetail, as they had envisioned the idea for years. What once started as a deer and deer hunting forum site years ago, Whitetail was transformed into an online social media community.

The Inclusive Safe Space

When asking the founders of Whitetail about their main purpose, the simple answer is that the portal represents a place for the hunting community to connect, learn, and share their field experiences. However, the main vision was more than that, specifically to provide a space where hunters could do so without backlash stemming from images of truck bed bucks, exit wounds, and firearms. Simply put, shadow-banning and retribution are not part of Whitetail’s business model or culture. offers safe-space social media interaction for hunters.

While whitetail hunters and outdoorsmen have a lot in common, there are many popular hunting methods out there. I think what I like best is that Whitetail embraces them all; from the Midwesterner sitting over a food plot to the Texas hunter setting up near a corn feeder; from those inhabiting box blinds to DIY public land junkies swinging from tree saddles. The need to discourage divisiveness in the hunting community is not lost of the bunch.

The Beginning of Something Great

Still, in its infancy, Whitetail already is home to a bevy of interactive posts from hunters across the country. Here, imagery of grip and grins, raw wild game meat, and hunting humor are welcome. From trophy bucks to fork horns, the portal celebrates it all. Of the mere 6% of Americans that hunt, welcomes anyone eaten up by the hunting way of life. Make no mistake, this is a place for hunters to gather, communicate, and learn. However, creating and maintaining a social media platform is a huge undertaking and Whitetail will continue to add great features and functionality.

When talking with and of the founders, you will regularly hear the sentiment, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve.

Above and Beyond the Social

Aside from interactive posts, Whitetail features a learning component, largely in the form of articles and videos featuring hunter spotlights, stories, tips, and hunting strategies. Here, written content and videos serve as an effective companion to the social aspects of the site. Both entertaining and educational, Whitetail’s content comes from notable sportsmen and women to everyday hunters. 

In addition to interactive social media, Whitetail offers entertaining

and educational companion content.

To further celebrate the deer hunting and outdoor lifestyle, Whitetail features great giveaways, including great gear and hunting opportunities. 

A Social Community First and Foremost

Amid the many hunting apps and platforms available these days, functionality abounds. There are apps offering mapping, camera image organization, optimal hunting times, and a slew of other nifty features. While has a few tricks in their hip pocket, the chief goal remains; to maintain and grow a thriving online home for hunters.  

With that, Whitetail’s model has less to do with follower counts and more to do with the interaction itself. It encourages safe-space sharing, camaraderie, and learning. also acknowledges the simple fact that hardcore and onset hunters alike sometimes just want to gawk at big whitetails. We know that’s true. is built around deer and deer hunting, but

 welcomes all hunters and sportsmen.

Whether you’re a seasoned hunting fanatic or merely testing the waters, there is a new home for you. The future of is bright and the hope is that as many hunters as possible will join the journey. You’ll want to make the community a frequent stop when on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Super Spots for Finding Shed Antlers

Super Spots for Finding Shed Antlers

There are some high-percentage spots where bucks are likely to drop antlers each year. Look in these locations during late winter to own more bone.

By Bernie Barringer

I found my first whitetail shed by accident in the late 1970’s. That shed kindled a spark in me that would grow through time. I have had some great fun shed hunting with family and friends and I can tell some rather bizarre stories to accompany some of the sheds I own.

Back in the 1980s I put a huge amount of time and energy into looking for sheds. I would wait until the snow melted off, then spend hours walking through areas in which I knew whitetails would winter. I picked up some really nice sheds and some matched sets; and even two matched sets of bucks that would make the B&C record book.

But things changed as shed hunting became more popular. Up until that point, I didn’t know of anyone else who was really serious about shed hunting and I never saw anyone else out looking for them.  One day I was walking through a state park in Iowa, slowly moving down a well-used deer trail where a large herd of deer had wintered. I came to the top of a hill and spotted someone coming up the trail towards me. It was another shed hunter and he had the match to the shed I held in my right hand. I knew things would never be the same from that point on and I was right. From that point forward, I didn’t wait until all the sheds were on the ground before beginning my hunt, I began to hunt for them as soon as they started dropping.

It seems like I have seen a dozen magazine articles explaining that looking for sheds in late winter can help you shoot the buck that dropped those sheds when fall comes. Frankly, I think that’s a real stretch. While whitetails may retain much of their bedding and feeding areas through the winter in the southern US, that’s not the case in the northern half of the US and Canada, where cold, snowy winter weather causes the deer to bunch up around the available food. My primary motivations for shed hunting are simply because it’s fun and great exercise.

You don’t have to hunt shed antlers with the goal of gathering information about a particular buck in order to shoot that buck. Hunting shed antlers is a sport unto itself. I consider any information I gather purely a bonus. Allow me to offer some tips from a lifetime of experience that will help you find and appreciate the amazing shed antler.

Forget about Home Ranges

Because I started hunting shed antlers for the sake of the antlers themselves, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about their importance to my deer hunting. I believe that the connection between where you find the buck’s sheds and where you are likely to shoot that buck the following deer season is way overrated. This is particularly true where I live in the upper Midwest, where winter weather and available food dictate deer behavior and location.

The second largest matched set I found was found in Northern Iowa, more than five miles from where a friend shot the buck the following year. It missed making the Boone & Crockett book by less than an inch.

Deer need to eat every day, and they will go where the food is. In the winter when the antlers are dropping, the food may be miles away from where that buck spends the majority of his time in the fall. Which leads us to #2.

Find the Food

Wintering whitetails need high carbohydrate foods and they need them every day. Find the food and you will find the sheds. Remember the Mantra that finding sheds is all about the food. Figure out where the deer are feeding and then spend the majority of your time divided between their feeding and bedding areas. The antlers are more likely to fall off when they are feeding because they are moving about. Corn, soybeans, milo, wheat, turnips and other food plots are key to the winter whereabouts of whitetails. Anywhere acorns have not been cleaned up by late winter can be golden.

Pay special attention to the windswept hilltops both in farm areas and in the hardwoods. Snow blows off the hilltops and any lost grain from farming operations will be more accessible there. The big set of matched Iowa sheds I mentioned earlier? I found one side on top of a hill in the soybean stubble and the other side in a thick farm grove 200 yards away.

Winter Bedding Cover: Thermal and Solar

There are two kinds of areas in which bucks tend to bed during the winter. Solar bedding areas are the south sides of slopes that are somewhat open and allow the deer to bed in areas where the sun can warm them during the day. Thermal cover is the thickest, nastiest stuff they can find which they will use during cold, cloudy, windy and stormy weather. If you find these types of bedding areas within a short distance of a good food source, and you have a good number of bucks in the area, finding sheds could be like picking up Easter Eggs. You’ve hit the jackpot.

Connect the Dots

Of course the deer need to travel between the bedding areas and the food. Trails will develop between these areas and the obvious sign is easy to find and follow. The more snow the better. Get out early before the snow melts and find these trails for later use. A lot of sheds can be found on these connecting trails. Pay special attention to the areas where they have to jump over fences or downed logs, climb steep creek banks, etc. These areas tend to jar the sheds loose.

Look for the Other Side

Antlers occasionally fall of together, but that’s somewhat rare. I do believe; however, that that the buck will put quite a bit of effort into dislodging the other side because of the lopsided feeling he has with one antler. He will shake his head, rub the antler on trees and push it on the ground to work it off. If you find a nice shed, put an exhaustive effort into finding the other side. It’s probably close by.

“No Hunting” Doesn’t Always Mean No Shed Hunting

Some of the best shed hunting I found back 30 years ago when I started collecting bone was found in state, local and county parks where hunting was not allowed. Where these parks bordered crop fields on private land were often gold mines for shed antlers. The deer would feed in the fields but bed in the safety of the park. Most parks have laws against picking any kind of plant, but nothing about collecting shed antlers. The deer would be bunched up there in great numbers during the winter, which made them very fertile ground for shed hunting.

Use a Little Creativity

I have at times constructed a simple “trap” to help me find shed antlers. It consists of three posts placed in a “V” shape with some woven wire and bungee cords to hold the wire in place. I feed the deer in the narrow area so when the bucks eat the grain, their antlers are clicking and pushing on the wire. When the sheds are ready to drop, they will drop right there. Here’s a short video of how I do this.

While it is unlawful in some areas to construct or place a device that would cause the sheds to dislodge, there are ways to encourage the deer to drop their antlers where you can more easily find them. You can place feed in areas where it’s needed and the deer will congregate around these feeding areas, dropping their sheds at the feeding site, in nearby bedding areas and on the trails that connect it all. If you feed whitetails please do so responsibly, using a mix of quality feeds and do not introduce or cut off feed supplies during harsh winter conditions.

I enjoy feeding whitetails from fall through spring, I love collecting scouting camera photos of then, and appreciate the knowledge that I am helping the deer get through a tough winter in good condition. Another bonus is the way I sometimes feed them. I find a windfall or a pile of dead branches and dump the feed right into it. When the sheds are ready to fall off, they fall right there.  Bucks must push their noses down into the brush to get to the feed, and often, the sheds are found right in the feed.

At times, hunting shed antlers can provide information that will help you with your deer hunting, mostly in the form of an inventory of the bucks that survived the previous hunting season. It gets me in the woods at a time of the year when there is little else going on outdoors. But even more important than that, it’s good exercise, great family fun and a way to enjoy one of the most remarkable things in nature; the amazing antler.

4 Tips for Whitetail Shed Hunting in 2022

4 Tips for Whitetail Shed Hunting in 2022

By Patrick Long

Photo: BryanE on IStock

Shed hunting is a fun pastime that we can actually use to scout bucks and spend time with loved ones outdoors. It takes time and can be tough at times but it is super exciting when you find a shed, and even more so when you find a matching set. 

If it has been said once it has been said a thousand times, but “miles make piles” when shed hunting. To find a lot of sheds, you just have to put in the work. Although there are a few things that you can do to improve your efficiency and make sure you are not missing sheds along the way. Here are five tips that you can use this year to find more sheds.

1 | Shed Hunt during the Right Time

Every state’s deer season ends at a different time, but if you want to find a good amount of sheds you should wait a while after the season is over. This also depends on where you plan to shed hunt. 

If you want to shed hunt public land, you are going to have to go as early and often as you can, because everyone else will too. Just make sure bucks have actually started dropping their antlers before you go.

Although if you plan on shed hunting private land, I recommend leaving it be until at least the middle of February. By then most of the bucks around are dropping their antlers. If you are farther north, I recommend waiting until the snow melts in March before going out. 

I go on at least two trips a year shed hunting on my private land. Your first trip will be the most fruitful. Then wait about another month and try again. This time you will be able to make sure you did not miss any from the former trip, and catch any sheds that bucks may have been holding during your first trip.

Other than the time of year, you will want to make sure you shed hunt during the right type of weather as well. Assuming the snow has cleared up, the best day for shed hunting would be a dark and gloomy day. This is probably going to be after a good rain.

This kind of weather just makes the color of whitetail antlers stick out from the regular brush. Ideally, that will help you find more sheds, but to be honest most of us shed hunt whenever we find the time.

Photo: Aaron J Hill on

2 | Bring the Right Gear

One of the best things about shed hunting is that you really do not need a whole lot of gear to do it. Of course, there are a few key pieces of gear that are going to make your job a whole lot easier though. Let’s go over a quick list of shed hunting gear that you may want to take with you.

  • A Big Backpack – Hopefully you find a ton of sheds! If you do, you are going to need something to put them in or tie them to. There are plenty of backpacks out there that are good for shed hunting, and with the addition of a few gear ties, you can probably outfit your existing one to work well with sheds.
  • Comfortable Boots – shed hunting is a whole lot of walking, so you better have comfortable shoes or boots. Otherwise, your trip is going to be cut short.
  • Mapping System – this can be something like a hunting app that has a GPS tracking map. Then you can go through it and drop a pin everywhere you find a shed. This is a little above and beyond, but it can help a lot if you are using shed hunting as a scouting tool.
  • Binoculars – like I said earlier, shed hunting is a lot of walking, but with a good set of binos, you can walk a lot less. If you have fields on your property, you can walk a ways to a vantage point and then glass over that field. Of course, you will still have to do plenty of moving to get different angles, but you may just be able to spot an antler without walking all the way through the field.

3 | Look In the Right Places

Great, so you are excited to go shed hunting, but where exactly are you supposed to look? Well without being too sarcastic, you should look where the deer are. The first areas you should look at are bedding areas and food sources. 

These are areas that we commonly hunt, and if you were finding deer during the season, they are likely still there. Personally, I would double down on the feeding areas. After the rut is over, all deer have to focus on feeding and getting ready for winter. While it will technically be winter when you are hunting, deer will have been there weeks before trying to stock up. 

The trails between food sources and bedding areas are also likely to have a few sheds. Bedding areas can be especially good for finding sheds. Deer are most likely to drop their antlers when they jar themselves, and getting up and down in a bed punches that ticket. Normally I would be wary of going into a bedding area, but deer are going to have all year to get over you spooking them so I say go for it.

After you cover those areas, you want to look in some more lucrative places. Again, you want to look in places that deer are going to have to jar themselves. This will hopefully make their antlers drop. Check places like creek bottoms, or fence lines they may jump over.  

Photo: Trevor Brittingham on

4 | Bring Someone Along

The best part of the outdoors is being outdoors with people you love. Shed hunting is the perfect opportunity to bring someone with you. It is an especially good time to bring someone outdoors that does not frequent the woods. 

It is good fun to go shed hunting with your hunting buddies, but also try taking a buddy that is not super experienced, or your kids. Shed hunting is great for kids. It introduces them to the outdoors in a very safe way and is exciting enough to get them interested in whitetail and the outdoors.

Lastly, you should also bring your dog. Dogs are amazing at finding sheds. So much so that if you ever went with a tried and true shed dog, they would find probably three times as many sheds as you. Even if your dog is not trained as a shed dog, they are still fun to bring along.

All and all, shed hunting is a whole lot of fun and is a good tool for scouting. If you bring the right equipment, you can be out there as long as you like and find as many sheds as you and your buddies or kids can carry.

Year ‘Round Timeline for Scouting Cameras

Year ‘Round Timeline for Scouting Cameras

If you put your trail cams away after hunting season you are missing out!

By Bernie Barringer

Most hunters stow their scouting cameras in the garage once the deer seasons close and don’t get them back out again until a couple weeks before the next season. That can be a big mistake. The information gathered from your cameras year-‘round can be valuable in many ways.

The key is putting those cameras in the right locations, and being intentional about moving them throughout the year to take advantage of opportunities for information-gathering.  Let’s take a look at a few strategic camera placements through the seasons. Follow this advice and I believe you will agree that you have more pictures and more quality information to go on next time you head into the woods to hunt.

January Through March

I offer supplemental feed in the winter to help get my deer through the tough times. It gets cold here in Minnesota, and deer have a tough time getting through the often deep snow and nights that can drop to -40 during January and February.

I mostly use corn, and of course I have cameras on each of my feeding stations. This allows me to monitor the state of the herd’s health, the shedding of antlers and any issues I may have with predators.

By keeping an eye on the deer at this time, I have a good idea when the bucks have shed their headgear, and I like to get out there and retrieve it before the squirrels start working on the calcium- and phosphorous-rich nutrients found in the sheds.

Coyotes and wolves are a serious problem around here; these predators have no problem taking advantage of deer during their struggle to survive the harsh conditions. There’s nothing I can currently do about the wolves , but I do my share to reduce the fawn depredation by removing as many coyotes as I can by snaring and shooting them. When I get pictures of predators on my cameras, I move quickly and show no mercy.

Late March Through Early June

From spring into early summer, cameras placed at mineral sites will take photos of bucks as their antlers begin to grow. You will start to recognize characteristics of specific bucks which helps you learn which ones made it through the hunting seasons and the winter. You can watch the amazing antler growth that takes place at this time, and start to get an idea how much growth the bucks will be putting on during the upcoming three months.

Does visit the mineral sites, and when their fawns are 5-6 weeks old, they will accompany the does. This gives you a chance to inventory the deer population as a whole.

Late June through early August

I always have cameras on water during the summer. Those out-of-the-way ponds in the forest will get a lot of use, and that’s the place to get a look at the bucks. Keep in mind that these spots are potential hunting spots so don’t check the cameras too often. Too much intrusion can make the deer avoid these places or use extra caution around them come hunting season.

In midsummer, deer are using predictable patterns going from bedding to feeding areas. Trails are beginning to develop and these trails offer excellent opportunities to get photos of deer and learn their movements and timing.

Mid-August through Mid-September

By the end of August, hunting season is getting close, and I start to transition some of the cameras to their feeding sites. I learn which fields they are feeding in, and placing cameras on the feeding areas themselves will help me pattern where they are moving and what times they are coming through. Food plots, alfalfa, corn and soybeans are prime areas for feeding this time of the year.

The bucks are in their bachelor groups and it’s a fun time to get lots of photos of them as their antlers become fully mature and shed their velvet the first week of September. Keep in mind that the food sources may not be the most obvious ones. The deer feeding in alfalfa and soybeans are the most visible, but there may be a lot of deer also feeding on freshly fallen acorns, hazelnuts and other mast crops.

Be careful to observe which direction the deer are travelling any time you have cameras on trails. Look at the time on the photo and compare it to the direction of travel to determine where the deer are going to and coming from. Deer in the evening are normally leaving bedding areas and deer in the morning are approaching bedding areas. Knowing where these deer are spending the daylight hours will be important information later on, especially with regards to where the does tend to bed.

Another important area for cameras at this time are staging areas near food sources. While does and fawns often pile into the fields well before dark, mature bucks will hang back inside the edge of the woods observing the behavior of the deer in the field, often moving into the open in the last half hour of daylight. These areas where they stage before entering the field will normally be marked by rubs and tracks.

Extreme caution must be taken when checking the cameras at this time. I try to check them right before a rain, and get in there and get back out with a minimum of noise and I avoid wind directions that may be blowing my scent toward the bedding areas. The information can be invaluable when hunting season opens in a few weeks and you do not want to blow it at this time.

Late September Through October

Hunting seasons are opening and now we are relying on the cameras for more specific, up-to-date information. We can be a little more aggressive as we check the cameras, still taking whatever caution is feasible.

Through the second half of September and into the first half of October, the bachelor groups are breaking up and the cameras help you keep track of where the bucks are going. Trails associated with feeding patters seem to offer the best sites at this time, but by the second half of October, things will radically change.

By the middle of October, scrapes and rubs are showing up throughout my hunting areas and I am moving cameras as I see the transition being made from food-focused movements to breeding focused movements.  By the end of October, most all my cameras are on scrapes. I use scrape drippers to monitor the deer visits and inventory the bucks. There is no better way to get a picture of all the bucks in the area than by having a camera on a primary scrape the end of October.

First Two Weeks of November

The rut if going into full swing and I put my cameras on the does. To find the bucks you must find the does; you need to know where they are bedding, where they are feeding and how they are travelling between the two areas. I have my cameras in doe bedding areas and on trails between doe bedding areas and trails leading to food sources. By now you have learned where the does are bedding based on your earlier photos.

The first two weeks of November is peak breeding time across most of the whitetail’s range in North America. The movements of bucks will seem totally random, and in a sense, they are, but they will be looking for does. Learn the areas the bucks like to chase does and get your cameras on them. Bucks tend to push does out of the bedding areas into open timber or surrounding fields. If you know where they prefer to spend the daylight hours, you have found an excellent place to concentrate your hunting efforts during the rut.

Second Half of November

Once the actual breeding is beginning to wind down, bucks spend a lot more time on their feet, putting on the miles in search of remaining does that may not have been bred yet. Trails between known bedding areas are key locations to waylay a buck with a camera and with a treestand. At this time, I am very aggressive about checking cameras, often checking the cards every day. I carry a tablet with me in my backpack and often check a couple cameras in the afternoon, using the information they contain to help me decide which stand to use for the evening hunt.

At this time, pinch points, sometimes referred to as funnels, are key locations to increase your odds of encountering a buck on the move. Scrapes have been all but ignored since early November, but they are getting a few hits again in the latter stages of the rut. I’ll have a couple cameras watching primary scrapes on the edges of fields near areas the does are frequently feeding.


If you still have a tag in your pocket, do not despair. When the rut is over and the weather turns cold, bucks once again settle into predictable patterns. They need high-carbohydrate foods to replenish fat reserves lost during the past few weeks of chaos. Find the food you will find the deer.

Standing corn or soybeans provide them with efficient sources of protein and carbs. The deer tend to group up around the available food and their daily routine allows us to put cameras on the trails leading to these food sources. If snow covers the ground, finding these trails can be embarrassingly easy. Angle your camera up or down the trail to make sure you get full shots of the deer. Make sure your cameras have good batteries in them, cold drains batteries.

At this time of the year I often put cameras right on the edges of bedding areas. Days are short and I will need to hang a stand as close to the beds as I safely can in order to waylay a buck before dark. Keep in mind during December the deer will bed in different locations based on the weather. On sunny days, they tend to bed on the south slopes of hills with open timber so they can soak up the sun’s warming rays. If it’s cloudy, windy and nasty, they will spend their days in thick thermal cover in low areas that protect them from the wind.

So if you are one of the hunters who have your cameras in the garage during part of the year, you are missing out on some excellent opportunities to know your deer better and learn more about their behavior. Be more intentional about moving your cameras to the right places at the right times, and you might be surprised how much it helps increase your odds of filling that buck tag in the fall. 

Late season hunts: Perfect for pop-up ground blinds

Late season hunts: Perfect for pop-up ground blinds

Late season deer hunting is often characterized by harsh conditions. Ground blinds are the perfect solution in so many ways.

By Bernie Barringer

            My son Dawson sat close beside me as we watched two does feed out into the hayfield 40 yards out of range. Dawson was 12 years old and in his hand was the bow he had practiced with for hours all summer. In his pocket was his very first archery deer tag. He so wanted to cut a notch into it. I think I was as eager as he was.

We had placed this blind in position on the edge of the alfalfa several weeks before. It took several days for the deer to get accustomed enough to the blind that they began to ignore it. When it came time to hunt the blind, we were both eager and ready.

Soon movement to our left distracted our attention away from the does. A forkhorn buck stepped out of the pines and into the field at 15 yards. The buck noticed movement and tensed up as Dawson drew his bow, but it was too late. Those hours of practice paid off; 20 minutes later we were dragging his first buck to the truck.

That was not my first experience with pop-up ground blinds and it certainly won’t be my last. I have used them at any time during the season, but lately, I have been relying on them more and more during the last few weeks of the bow season, when the cold wind cuts to the bone.

Ground blinds not only protect you from the elements, but they conceal your movements and you can make them very comfortable. An extreme example of this involves the deer my wife Cheri arrowed from one just last December.

Cheri has not hunted much, she has been too involved in raising five kids so I was the one who brings home the venison, but now our kids are older and she expressed an interest in shooting one of the deer that had been trudging through the snow to visit our food plot each evening.

She had been shooting her bow during the summer and fall, so I readied the ground blind for her like I would for any queen who appreciates the finer things in life. The ground blind offered carpeted floor, a comfortable chair and a small table to place her book and other things she may need. A half hour before she would enter the blind, I walked out and started a small propane heater for her.

That evening, I sat there beside her in relative comfort despite the near-zero temperatures and excitedly watched as she shot a nice doe to add to our freezer. Now, that’s hunting in style.

Here’s the deal with ground blinds. Whitetails are freaked out by them. Some people do not get past that problem, but there are ways to deal with it. You have to give it time.

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Get it out early

When a big blob shows up right in their living room, whitetail deer take notice. While some animals don’t seem to be too bothered by the sudden appearance of a structure (mule deer and pronghorn for example, whitetails just don’t like it. It takes the deer about a week to settle down and get fully comfortable moving about close to the blind, especially if it is out in the open.

Put the blind out at least a couple weeks before you plan to hunt from it. Stake it down good to protect it from blowing away in a strong wind. I also take a piece of 2×4 lumber and block up the ceiling, otherwise it may collapse with a snowfall. Resist the temptation to hunt from the blind until the deer are casually moving about it, or you may have to start the wait all over.

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Disguise it

It really helps them accept the blind if you blend it is with natural materials from the area. Cornstalks, pine boughs and long-stemmed grasses work great for this. You can also use these objects to cover some of the black window openings that seem to make the deer uneasy.

The best way I have found to help the deer accept the blind is to position it right neat some object that is already in position. A brushpile works excellent for this. In fact, I have at times piled brush near where I will eventually put a blind, so I can put the pop-up exactly where I want it when the time comes.

I have a friend who put the blind up near some abandoned farm machinery in the corner of a field and used a few branches to break up the outline of the blind. He killed a deer out of it that very night. That’s a rare case, but it does illustrate the effectiveness of putting the blind near some sort of “structure.”

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Put in your time

Once the deer are moving or feeding around the blind, get there early and hunt it often. Wear black so you are well concealed within the blind. Only open the windows on the side you expect to shoot through, and do not open them any more than necessary. Too many open windows allow light to get into the blind and allow the deer’s amazing light gathering eyes to see you. Resist the temptation to open a window in the back so you can see behind you. The risk of having a deer see some silhouetted movement is too great.

A small heater is not a bad idea to keep you comfortable in harsh conditions. A piece of carpet or a pallet can get your feet up off the frozen ground and an ozone generator will go a long ways towards limiting your scent and containing it within the blind.

I have two blinds out right now and I will be hunting in one of them tonight. My confidence in them is very high, and if you use them properly in the late season, yours will be too.

Seven Critical Tips for DIY Public Land Hunting

Seven Critical Tips for DIY Public Land Hunting

By Bernie Barringer

My first bowhunting road trip was a complete bust. In my defense, it took place more than 25 years ago, so I didn’t have the advantage of Google Earth, a scouting camera or looking at the weather on my smartphone. I basically went in blind, and my results showed it. I did see some does and small bucks, and I hunted hard and used some off-beat tactics. While I don’t remember much about that first out of state hunt in the early 1990’s, I do remember that I had no idea what I was doing compared to the strategic planning and hunting methods I use today.

In fact, one of my few memories from that first trip was lying on the berm of a ditch, my bow in the grass beside me, looking at deer filtering into a green hayfield 30 yards away. I remember wondering how I could possibly get to my knees and get my bow drawn on a buck without clearing the whole field. Poor planning on my part. They say lessons learned the hard way are lessons learned well. I have learned a lot, mostly by making mistakes.

I’ve come up with seven rules—things to do and not to do—that will help any DIY hunter be more successful. Adhering to these “do’s and don’ts” have helped significantly increase my success ratio. Two decades later, I am still making mistakes and still learning, but I’m coming home with a buck in the truck often enough to feel like I have some advice to pass along. I hope these seven tips help you connect on a DIY public land buck this year.

Do your homework

Before you ever pull out of the driveway, you should have a list of likely hunting spots. Online aerial photos help immensely when it comes to choosing hunting sites. Before I set off to a new area, I usually have a pretty good idea where I am going to spend much of my time. Things that look good on Google Earth are not always what they seem, but with some experience learning how deer use cover and terrain, anyone can shorten the scouting time by picking out likely looking spots from home.

I also call local biologists, game wardens and other parties to gather as much info as I can about the area. Biologists know if food plots have been planted on the public areas and they can offer information about deer populations, age structure, etc. A game warden can offer insight into the amount of hunting pressure an area gets. I have learned to ask not only about deer hunting pressure, but also about upland bird hunters, duck hunters, small game hunters and even if the coon hunters are running their dogs through the property at night.

Do your Scouting Diligence

Once you arrive, it can be tempting to hang a stand and start hunting as soon as you find a great looking spot. But you will be much better off to spend a day learning the property before actually hunting. Spend an evening with binoculars overlooking a feeding area, walk through the area trying to determine feeding and bedding patterns. Make note of great spots with sign or with the right terrain, depending on the time of the year and stage of the rut. I cannot overstate the value of knowing the property and how deer use it well.

Use your Scouting Cameras

Scouting Cameras are one of the most important components to my scouting and learning a property. I rely on them for two main purposes. The most obvious is learning how deer are using the property. A camera will tell you which direction deer are travelling at what time. It will show you where they are feeding and bedding. You can learn about the stage of the rut by observing the behavior of the bucks.

The second and just as important knowledge I get from cameras is an evaluation of what is on the property with regards to bucks and age structure. I have been known to pass up a 125-class buck on the first day of the hunt, then realize that it was the biggest deer I saw on camera or in person during eight days of hunting there. The decision of whether or not to shoot a deer that comes within range can be made a lot easier when you know what the potential will be. No sense holding out for a 140 if there aren’t any. Cameras placed on primary scrapes will inventory most every buck in the area within three days.

Hunt Only When it’s Time

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a stand wondering if you are in the right place or not. Should you be on the other side of that ridge? Closer to the feeding or bedding area? On a different trail? Sitting over an area that’s all tore up with rubs and scrapes?

Remember what I said about putting up a stand and getting in it too soon. Having confidence in your spot makes it a lot easier to stick it out for long periods, and confidence in your spot comes from thorough scouting. I can’t overstress the importance of not settling in for a long sit until you have done the scouting and learned as much as you can from cameras.

The urge to get in a tree and get to hunting can be very strong when you arrive at a new property, but don’t do it until it’s time. Once you have a thorough knowledge of the property, you can settle into a place where you will have the optimism needed to grind it out for long hours.

Stay Mobile and Flexible

The other side of that coin is the fact that things change and you must change with them. You cannot wait for the hunt to come to you, you have to stay aggressive. You have a very short time to make things happen, so you can’t overstay a spot when you have lost the confidence in it. Food sources can change overnight with harvesting of crops. Hunting pressure can move deer around and alter patterns. A cold front with its accompanying northwest wind can make any given stand unhuntable for 2-3 days.

You have to be very aware of what’s going on around you and react quickly to changing conditions. You need to have a backup plan for a major weather change. Stay attuned to the upcoming weather, and plan accordingly. I hate the sinking feeling of sitting in a stand one evening, looking at the weather and realizing I have no place to hunt in the morning due to changing conditions. Plan at least three sits ahead, and be ready to move a set on a moment’s notice.

Work Hard and Smart

Most people aren’t used to hunting hard for 7-10 days, which is the average amount of time I will spend on a DIY road trip. Most people hunt the weekends at home or maybe a couple evenings after work. Hunting from daylight to dark, moving stands, checking cameras, constantly analyzing conditions and deer behavior is foreign to the guy who just hunts a property from home and hunts when he feels like it. About halfway through the hunt, the temptation to hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. can be overwhelming. That’s especially true when you start to lose confidence in your efforts.

Chances are you laid out a pile of cash for a nonresident tag and you may only get one of these trips a year. You are going to regret it for months if you don’t give it your all. Work hard all day every day. Do the things necessary to keep your confidence up and your drive at a high level. Keep thinking ahead a day or two; try not to get into the habit of reacting to the changing conditions, but learn to get ahead of them and be ready. Today’s technology in the palm of our hands can be a huge help to us, but we have to use it.

Anticipate what’s coming and be ready for it. When that alarm rings, the feeling that you will be heading out to a spot that has a legitimate chance to produce a great buck is a feeling that will get you stepping into your hunting boots in the morning with excitement for what the day might bring.

Don’t Allow your Expectations to Get too High

One of the biggest mistakes made by travelling hunters these days is having unrealistic expectations. Outdoor TV has contributed to this, I believe. You watch two nice bucks get shot during a 30-minute show. If you don’t think about the background work that went into that short segment, you can get the wrong idea. The background work most likely was put in by an outfitter who knows the deer on his property well.

The first time I go to a new property to hunt, I like to think of it as a learning experience. If I shoot a buck, great, but if not, I don’t have grandiose dreams about driving home with a 150 in the back of the truck. That dream may become a reality someday, but it will likely be after you have hunted the property a few times, you really know it well, and you have past experiences to add to the well of knowledge you draw from when making your everyday decisions.

 There’s no doubt in my mind that hunting the same property many times offers a significant advantage to the hunter. But there is something to be said for the adventure of trying new areas and hunting new properties. My hunting includes a mix. I love the excitement that comes with seeing what’s over the next hill, but that’s tempered with the fact that I like to shoot a buck once in a while too, and I know my odds are better when I am hunting familiar ground.

So my advice is to take what the hunt gives you. Don’t make the mistake of letting the expectations of others dictate what you shoot or do not shoot. This is your hunt. If you are happy shooting a 120-inch 3-year-old on the eighth day, then do it. If you would rather let that deer walk and eat tag sandwich, that’s your call. The key is to go into the hunt with realistic expectations. Even the best properties do not produce a mature buck for even the best DIY hunters every year.

Scarecrows for Deer

Scarecrows for Deer

By Tim Pearson

I’m not a writer, which is good because I can’t spell. I am a retired lineman. I have no computer skills; I doubt I could turn on the family computer. I’ve never tried, which makes my wife happy. Linemen didn’t need computers in my day. We turned wrenches and climbed poles. Now I am free to spend most of my time in the woods.

I wouldn’t say I even like hunting. I’d say it is a compulsive disorder that has me by the throat. If they print it I read it. If they make it I and can afford it, I buy it. I hunt bow season, rifle season, muzzle loader season and then bow season again. A typical deer season pretty much goes like this: I can see him and he’s big, but there is no possible shot. Once I hunted a big buck for 40+ hours, and then finally here he comes. Everything is looking good and I know he’s mine. My bow is pulled and he steps into my shooting lane. I am stunned. After investing 40 hours hunting this guy I now see he has broken off his left antler at his brow tine. By the time I regroup he’s out of the shooting lane.

After each season I try to improve my accuracy, my stands, tree trimming, and my equipment if needed. Basically I’m old school. I follow the KISS system. “Keep it simple stupid”. Hunt the wind, and you can’t kill them if you’re not out in your stand. I have 16 stands to choose from (and maintain).

One trick I thought of on a slow day at work 20+ years ago was to put an old shirt up at my two  favorite gun stands, I use two medium sized branches, tape them together to make a cross. Install the shirt on the cross and position about where you would stick out of the box stand. I do this every year in late winter before the fawns are dropped. They will accept that shirt flopping around all of their life and so will their off spring. Around September 1st I’ll swing by each stand and spray my favorite gun oil liberally on the shirts. Then when I’m using the stand I just drop the scarecrow over the side. This exchanges the scarecrow for me now and the oil smell for my favorite gun of the day! I’ve gotten by with a lot more movement since using the scarecrows, and the downwind is also much more forgiving. Try it this winter on your favorite stand. I guarantee you won’t be lonely on opening day. There will be a guaranteed mouse nest in one of the sleeves.

I also have two ground blinds where I use scarecrows. I know what you’re thinking; now I’m wasting FOUR SHIRTS when I only own five. She’s going to go nuts if I wear the same shirt every day. If your partner is anything like mine, ask if you can have your wife’s throw away blouse (because she already wore it once) instead of cutting it up for rags. Wash it with your hunting soap. Then use a stick and tape two foot of rope (rope and tape are two of a lineman’s favorite things) to the middle of the stick. Pull the rope up through the scarecrow and tie it to the ground blind roof hardware. It’s a win-win for everyone.

So why am I spilling the beans now? Why not take this secret to my grave? Well I retired from linework, and like most men we are a pretty competitive bunch. We always took the big buck contest very serious. There’s no big buck contest for me anymore. I just have to please myself. And if I can get this article published, just think of all the latest and greatest stuff I could buy for next year’s hunt!!  With my half anyway. The wife gets half for fixing my spelling.

2 Enormous Bucks, 2 Enormous Stories!

2 Enormous Bucks, 2 Enormous Stories!

By Bernie Barringer

Get ready for two of the most bizarre deer hunting stories involving gigantic whitetail bucks. You really can’t make this stuff up, and the fact that they both happened basically at the same time, early in the 2021 deer seasons, with a lot of similarities, created a lot of confusion. Listen carefully because this is going to get really strange.

On September 11, Blake Keating of Kansas had the shock of his life when he checked a trail camera over a corn pile. Standing there big as life was the biggest buck he had ever seen. Like the biggest buck anyone had ever seen. Like world class. Like world record class. he’d never seen it before nor had a hint that it was alive. Kansas has an early muzzleloader season and you know right where Blake headed out and sure enough, he shot the buck a couple days later.

The buck scored over 300 inches as a nontypical. Yup, World Record size. But something nagged at Blake; there was a small hole in this deer’s ear. That nagging feeling became a roaring surge when the photos of the buck hit the internet. He was soon contacted by a deer farm 10 miles away from where the deer was shot; they kinda recognized that buck. Turns out they had been transferring some of their giant bucks between pens when one buck went missing. Now a buck like this is worth tens of thousands of dollars to the owners, maybe even as much as 100K for sales of semen and eventually the fee for someone who would pay a very large price to shoot this buck and take it home with them.

I’m not interested in discussing the motivations of people who shoot deer that have been kept as livestock and mount them to hang in their “Man” Cave. I don’t have any interest in doing that and I don’t fully grasp why someone would pay $20,000-$50,000 to kill one of those penned deer. But that’s not the point of this story. Blake thought he had hit the whitetail hunting lottery, killing a potential world record buck. He was legit in his hunt, and legal all the way. He was also heartbroken when he learned that the buck was an escapee from a deer farm.

It’s likely he will get to keep the buck, or get paid a big fee to return it. Either way, he has an amazing experience to tell his grandchildren about.

Now contrast that with an even more bizarre story that happened beginning on September 9, 2021.

A giant nontypical showed up on social media, reportedly shot in Kentucky by Derek Settle with a crossbow. Nearly 300 inches of antler on this one as well. He had legally checked it in as a Kentucky bow kill and he insisted on the details of the hunt; it was all on the up and up. He even had trail camera pics of the buck!

Derek’s fame was short lived, as within a couple days, word came out that the buck had been killed on a deer farm in Indiana. And the deer farm, Patoka River Whitetails, had the photos to prove it, and guess who was the happy hunter in the pictures with the penned deer? Yes, Derek Settle. This was a buck they had raised and was known as “White 352.”

He had killed the deer legally on the deer farm in Indiana, then took it to Kentucky and registered it as a Kentucky archery kill. Whether this is a violation of the Lacey Act is yet to be determined, but if it is, he’s in a lot more trouble than just a heaping helping of embarrassment and a few fines.

What’s really bizarre about this case is the head shaker that Derek could think he could get away with this. With the speed of gale force winds blowing a wildfire, info travels across the interweb with blinding speed. It only took a few hours before he was raked across the coals for trying to pull off such and idiotic stunt.

We’ll keep you posted as the final details come in, but in the meantime, Blake has a big buck to look at and a clean conscience, while Derek is lying awake at night wondering what will happen to him.

An October Hunt: Go Early or Go Late

An October Hunt: Go Early or Go Late

By Bernie Barringer

Much has been said about the October “Lull.” It’s no secret that bucks are hard to find out and about during the daylight during this period of time; they spend the majority of the daylight hours in some shady thicket, waiting for the sun to set. The middle two weeks of October is simply a poor time to plan a bowhunting road trip. If, like most travelling hunters, you have only one or two weeks to do a DIY hunt, you probably don’t want to spend it during the middle of the month of October.

The first and last weeks of October; however, are a different story altogether. There are some significant advantages to going early and late in the month, not the least of which is the amount of hunting pressure. Parking lots of large public hunting areas which may be full of trucks with out-of-state license plates the first two weeks in November, may be entirely vacant during the month of October.

Let’s take a look at what these two weeks have to offer. As we dive into the details, you may want to consider adding an October DIY hunt to your schedule.

Go Early

The first week in October brings some opening day bowhunting opportunities in several states. This is a chance to catch even mature bucks totally off guard. There has been very little disturbance in the deer woods and if you make your move with stealth, you might find a buck right in your lap with no idea he is being hunted.

Early October can find bucks still in bachelor groups, although they are likely to be more loosely connected than they were a month previous. At this time, the bucks are primarily focused on food and their movements are somewhat predictable, something that cannot be said of any time during November. Find the preferred food source and you will find the deer.

The preferred food source is not likely to be exactly where you would have found the deer in August. Bucks may still be using large fields of soybeans and alfalfa if they have not been cut, but they are likely to arrive in those fields after dark because the daylight hours are growing shorter. Instead, focus on smaller food sources near bedding cover.

Many state wildlife departments plant small food plots back away from the roads. These can be golden. Corn in particular is preferred at this time. Soybeans may be at that stage where the leaves are yellow and the beans are not dried, they may be getting some use, but not as much as other, more palatable food sources.

Apple trees are a magnet this time of the year. An abandoned orchard can be a focus of deer feeding at this time as the apples begin to drop. I know of an old farmstead with two apples trees and three pear trees that gets absolutely pounded at this time of the year. An oak ridge with an abundance of acorns can attract deer at any point during the day.

Never overlook water during warm spells. A secluded pond during a hot Early October afternoon may be just the ambush point you are looking for. Get a scouting camera on it and make your move according to what the photos tell you.

Go Late

I love the last week in October. The first signs of the rut are appearing more and more by the day. Bucks are getting edgy and this offers several advantages to the DIY hunter.

This is the one time of the year when visits to scrapes take place in the daylight. It’s the one time when I consider hunting over an area all torn up with rubs and scrapes to be well worth it. During November, bucks will mostly visit scrapes under the cover of darkness, or cruise by downwind to scent-check the scrape. But during the last week in October, they are more likely to walk right up and give it a few strokes and a fresh dose of urine rubbed through the tarsal glands. Find an area with several active scrapes, set up downwind of it and put in your time. 

Scents and lures work best in this pre-rut period. Mock scrapes or natural scrapes with a scrape dripper and some Active Scrape or Estrus lure will be checked out periodically. Bucks are feeling the urge at this time and are more likely to come to scent that they will be in a week when their nose is full of the real thing.

The end of October is a great time to use calling and rattling to bring in a buck. Bleats and grunts are sounds that appeal to a buck’s sense of curiosity. They are often just rutty enough to walk over and check out the source of the sound. Choose a good calling site where the deer cannot see the area around the source of the sound.

Calling or rattling may be just the right tactic to bring a buck out of his bed during the daylight. Set up on pathways that lead from the bedding area, using the wind to your advantage and rattle the antlers periodically during late day hours. Some gentle ticking of the antlers together may be enough, but don’t fear creating a racket by imitating an all-out brawl. Sometimes a lot of noise is what it takes to get their dander up and cause them to make a move.

The huge majority of DIY hunting trips take place during November; that’s not likely to change any time soon. Consider breaking the pattern to take advantage of the first and last weeks of October and the opportunities those weeks present.  The rut, with its frenetic activity has its appeal, no doubt, but there are some real advantages to getting there ahead of the crowds. You just may find you have the woods, and the deer, to yourself.