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What Makes a Hunt Successful?
It's pitch dark outside and I finally fall asleep from the excitement of opening day just around the corner. All my gear is neatly laid out and even stacked in the order I put them on - base Under Armor, socks, bibs, WMH shirt, and jacket. The calls are tuned, the gun is sighted in, scouting has put the birds to bed, and the tp is in the emergency pocket (just in case…).
Like a crack of thunder, the alarm clock sounds off blaring Charlie Daniels…
The devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat
He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny's feet
Johnny said: "Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again
once, you son of a gun, I'm the best that's ever been."
I could have shut if off right away, but you have to let it get to that last line. Just like that, I am up and heading for the kitchen.
As we finish off our eggs and bacon, the plan is set. Drive down to the lower part of the farm, cut through the pines, and set up in the tree line 80 yards down from where we put 2 big long beards to bed. It's what you wait for, that anticipation of success, it's what gets us jumping out of bed at 4 AM
DAY 1: We sneak up to our spot, set up the hen and jake intimidator decoys from Country Men Innovations, and we wait. It's amazing how wide awake you can be minutes before that open day bell rings. It feels like an eternity waiting for that first gobble, and when he finally sounds off, all the hair on the back of my neck is standing at attention. As light just starts to hit the field, a hen makes her way over to the decoys. She comes right over and feeds all around our decoy and I am happy to have some live bait.
Another party crasher paid the cover, and is now watching what is going on in the field. With no long beards in sight, he is calling and closing the distance to the decoys. As he enters my gun range, I can feel my heart beating all the way down to my toes. 40 yds, 30 yds, 20 yds, 15 yds and then the booming gobble of the long beard bounces through the woods. The young jake realizes his time with the ladies has come to an end. With my finger on the safety, I have a choice to make. Do I take this young Jake who read the script and is already dead, but he just doesn't know it? Or, do I wait for that long beard we are after and put to bed the night before?
At this point, is the hunt a success? We were able to sneak into their back yard, decoy them, call them in, and get them to within 15 yds of the end of my gun. We are in the woods with friends and enjoying a beautiful day in the woods. The old long beard never showed, and I left with my tag still on my back. Success?
DAY 2: Second verse, same as the first, clothes laid out, breakfast, then to the woods. We decide to hit a different field where we scouted another long beard. As the woods come to life and the sun starts to hit the back of the decoy, a hen pitches down 10 yds to our right. As we have our tag team of real and fake hens in the field for the second day, the old tom appears out of nowhere 150 yards out. As we fight against mother-nature and try to get the long beard to come to us, we watch our live decoy work her way out to that beautiful fan strutting away. Then we got to witness the "Birds and the Bees" happen right out in front of us. When I showed my son the video, he asked why they were wrestling. This hunt also ended with a tag on my back, but I was able to witness something I had never seen before.
DAY 3: Cancelled due to family obligations. I am sure most of you reading this can relate.
As we sat with our new friends reflecting on our hunt, I could not help but think maybe I made a mistake and should have pulled the trigger on that jake. One of our new friends, who (by his own admission) had more hunting behind him than in front of him, shared his decades of experience. He said a hunter goes through 4 phases in their hunting lifetime.
- PHASE 1: All you want to do is shoot something. It doesn't matter if it is a doe, hen, spike, etc… You just want to get on the board.
- PHASE 2: Now that you have been successful, you want to shoot something respectable, decent 6 pt, drake wood duck, 2 year old gobbler…
- PHASE 3: The biggest and the best. Now you are a lot more selective, it has to be a bigger buck then you ever shot. You won't be happy unless you take a limit, 10 inch beard, etc…
- PHASE 4: Pass it down. It doesn't matter if you carry that tag all season. It makes you feel better to see your kids or grand kids get their first. All you want to do is be part of that experience of a new hunter.
All of a sudden, I didn't feel so bad passing on that Jake. Although I ate my tag sandwich and was heading home with an empty cooler, to me, that hunt was a success. I was able to call that turkey to within 15 yards of me and he never knew I was there. Now, that turkey might be the phase 1 for a new hunter. That, along with my new friends in North Carolina made my hunt a success!
What phase hunter are you?
So the season is over… Or is it?
Whenever the depressing thoughts of another season coming to an end, I find myself reflecting back to one of my favorite movie quotes from Rambo - Trautman: "It's over Johnny. It's over!" Rambo: "Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off!" Let's see a show of hands, how many of you tied that bandana around your head just like Rambo? C'mon, be honest…, put those hands in the air.
When I was a kid, my Dad would send me up in the attic to retrieve the old hunting trunk. I would get out my hand-me-down long johns, goose down jacket, and we headed for the mountains of Pennsylvania. When we came home, the season was over ("It's over Johnny. It's over").
As I grew older, getting involved in other game and seasons helped shorten the void. It started with bear season, then turkey, followed by archery, flintlock, waterfowl, predators, even trapping. These new addictions not only helped me learn more about game, it broadened my group of hunting buddies. Think of all the changes in hunting over the years. When I started out, no one thought about base layers, scent drippers, trail cameras or videoing your hunts. Hunting is constantly evolving and branching out into different avenues. I firmly believe it was that down time that leads to these new avenues. Here are just a few ways we can help deal with that down time until we begin to sight in for next year:
- Shed hunting with the family - what better way to get the kids involved. Taking the kids for a hike in the woods not only helps with exercise, it also opens that door to learn about nature and the outdoors.
- Scout - take advantage of that snow fall in our area for follow those tracks. You just might find that hot trail that you could not see in the spring or fall.
- Scent Control - wash those clothes in a good quality scent detergent like Dead Down Wind, and then get them stored in an air tight container.
- Use the Internet - check on line for a hunting forum in your state. Joining a hunting forum opens the door to people who share the same passion as you. Compare deer sightings; learn different tips and tricks that have worked with other hunters. You can also learn about a season you always wanted to try, but were just unsure how to get started. I love the hero pictures on sites such as HuntingPa.com
- CLEAN THOSE GUNS! - set aside a couple hours and get all those guns out. Go over gun safety with the kids and keep those investments in great working order.
- Support Local Wildlife Organizations - Wildlife organizations have chapters all over the states. If you have never attended a DU, NWTF, etc… banquet, give it a shot. Not only do you get a great meal, support wildlife, but they have great prizes, games, and giveaways!
- Outfitter research - as a working man, our time and budget is very important! If you dream about going on those outfitter hunts like I do, start researching now. Plan out what game you are looking for, your price range, and location. Start to make a list of outfitters that fit that criteria and make some reference calls. Check your hunting forums for feedback or other suggestions. Start making your own coffee and packing lunch to save up for that hunt!
Working Man's Hunter: "Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off!"
With the 2010-2011 hunting season winding down, I am trying to go out with a bang until we can make it to Spring Turkey. I have hunted deer, bear, fall turkey, grouse, chuckars, fox, coyotes, ducks, and geese. Today, we got together with the guys from Goey Calls to throw some steel at some honkers. I just started hunting waterfowl 2 years ago, so I have a lot to learn. Hunting geese with these guys was like getting batting tips from Michael Jack Schmidt. I had a blast and my first ever limit!!!!! We were able to get some great footage and memories I won't soon forget.
Thanks again to Steve and Jeff from Goey calls!
Harvest vs. Opportunity
My eyes burst open, looking at the clock for the 15th time and the clock shows still 60 minutes left until the alarm is set to chirp. The excitement is preventing me from any type of sleep, so the alarm gets set to off, and out to the kitchen I head. I try not to wake the rest of the house with my excitement, and get ready for the mornings journey. All during the so called off-season I prepped for this time - HUNTING SEASON! The time, money, sweat, blood shed through picker bushes, plotting, scent control, planning, second guessing tree stand placement, the anticipation is almost too much to handle. I gear up, and take this feeling into the woods as if it was part of my gear.
As I sit in my stand with over an hour left until the sun starts to shed even a hint of light, I hear that noise that kept me up all night. As hunters, we have all heard that distinctive noise. The crunching of leaves that tells us, they are heading this way! Not the soft, I think I hear something. Or, the I hear something only to spot the dreaded furry tailed rats that have tricked so many a hunter into a quick head spin. I am talking about the no doubt, steady crunching, here comes the venison train! My heart starts to pump faster and my feet are no longer cold. I try to go through all the hunters skills of staying still, no sudden movement, only move when they move, stay calm… He is so close I can feel his presence through my camo, and think he has to be able to hear my heart beating. I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I can see the image of a deer within 10 feet of my stand. The hunting devil on my shoulder commands me to slowly turn, I need to see what he is, he catches my movement and bounds off, gone.
WHAT A RUSH!!! I sit there in the darkness trying to learn from my mistake. I should have just stayed still, he may have even just bedded down or looped down wind. Why move, I would not have even been able to make out doe or buck anyway. As I sit and try to jot this lesson down in my hunter memory bank, it is just as important to remember that feeling. The feeling of opportunity! Isn't that what we are after anyway? The harvest is just the cherry on top for most of us. I started to think back at the different animals that hang on my wall. Buck, bear, turkey, ducks, fox, no matter what the mount, as I look at them, they all take me back to "that feeling" just prior to pulling the trigger or releasing that arrow. So I don't have a hero shot to post, or a score to give you about the size of the antlers. But, I share that feeling of opportunity that all drives us to the woods!
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The Pro Staff at Extreme Precision Outdoors would really like to say congratulations on all the success you have had over the making of your new show! We watch every episode and i am truly impressed by where you started to where you are now! It's amazing to watch you hunt and do your thing! Keep up the good work! Your definately are a role model to all of us and future hunters as well!! keep the videos coming.
- Team EPO
My brother and I found your website and have been watching your YouTube video clips. We both agree that you have done a great job, you really show what it is like to have a job, a family, house work and everything else that occurs in the everyday hunters life.
- Drop Tine Pursuit
Chris, your stuff is grass-roots and real! …I really like the way you just simply talk to the viewers…I'd rather spend an afternoon watching YouTube videos of the average Joe hunter…your stuff is something I can totally relate to…I love this whole hunting/filming thing…It's a lot of work and a huge commitment - especially for a husband and daddy…You are my newest hero dude!