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FREE

MISSISSIPPI

HILLCOUNTRY

outdoors

SEPTEMBER 2013

IN THIS ISSUE

JOHN 3:16

VOL. 4 NO. 37

A NEW SNARE ON AN OLD TRAP

Igloo Kicks Yeti Where It Counts...In The Ice Dept. Mapping Antler Expectations Outdoor Truths Early Season Deer Tactics From The Experts

12 Crossbows Dos and Don’ts

158 East Road • Ecru, MS 38841 hillcountry@ms.metrocast.net

Follow us on Facebook Hillcountry Outdoor Magazine/Dean Wells


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Editorial

Dean Wells Editor

Welcome To Hunting Season With the opening day of dove season officially behind us, time is now headed like an express train to our favorite fall hunting season. The 2013-2014 hunting season seems to be setting up to be a good one. Mass trees around my house are loaded, and at my house, the persimmon trees are almost as large as small tangerines. I hardly know of any animal in the woods that won’t appreciate that. So, you might say things are looking up for the critters and the hunters alike. I absolutely love to hunt or camp in the cooler months. Sweating while I hunt or sleep in a tent is no fun at all to me. I want a warm campfire and smoke coming from my nostrils anytime I’m hunting. There are some though that would hunt if it was 90 degrees, and have a ball. I have known a few of those in my time and most were young, from teens to twenty five. You expect dove season to be warm, but opening squirrel season you always hope will have a little nip in the air. Hardly any hunters persue the rat with a fuzzy tail anymore, but they are fun to hunt. I’ve had non-hunters approach me and talk about hunting and hunters in a lot of the places I go. I’ve noticed squirrel hunting, rates at the top for tree huggers, as a topic of discussion. Most think of squirrels as the fury pet in a Florida campground, that eats a cracker from your hand or plays happily in a park somewhere in a major city. I have explained to these folks, that wild squirrels are an entirely different animal and that it takes stealth and skill to fill your game bag. They usually just wall their eyes, but sometimes I can get them with a story of some professional squirrel stalkers. I have known a few, most of them have lone since passed but the skill is still practiced by a few. Cecil Swords, L.Q. Billingsley, Gerald Bogue, Doug Swords, the Tubbs Boys and a few Brownings are, or were great squirrel hunters. Some are runners, some are sneakers, some just sit like a knot on a log, but they all have honed their skills to perfection. I’ve learned though, no matter whom you may know from your area that is a good hunter, someone else knows a hunter from their area that’s better. Recently, I was sitting at a Burger King, waiting to go in to the Texas Trophy Hunters Association Expo, just outside Houston Texas, when two fellows saw me in camo, and came over to where I was sitting and sat down at a nearby table. One was a tall fellow, with a Texas size hat that you could’ve watered a team of mules with. He must have seen me staring out of the window at two teenage boys playing a video game under a tree. Little did the boys care, but a rather large squirrel had perched himself on a limb over the boys heads, had came down the tree a few times within three feet, and they never gave him more than a glance. That wouldn’t have happened in Mississippi in 1975, I told the Texans. While biting into his biscuit, he replied nobody hunts squirrels in Texas, we’ve got to much other stuff to hunt.” Then he proceeded to tell me all the game there was in Texas to hunt and after that, he said there just wasn’t sport to hunting squirrels anyway. He might as well as, have spit in my coffee. I replied “Not much sport?, I can see why, most trees around here aren’t but 5 feet tall, back home we have 100 hundred footers.” You put a 100 foot oak on a 75 ft. bluff and hunt with an iron-sighted 22 the game might change, don’t you think?” He said “Why we could make that shot while riding and shooting from a running horse he said”, while smiling and elbowing his buddy. I saw where this was going. I had run up on a Texas storyteller. So, I replied back that the old men hunt with the iron- sighted 22’s after they reach their upper 80s and arthritis sets in. He asked “Well how do the younger folks hunt?” I replied “Some with a slingshot, some hunt with rocks or marbles.” I knew I had them, as both were speechless, with their mouths open and drooling in the coffee. “Aw heck” they said. “Yep” I said, “I once heard of a guy in the river bottom, who hadn’t been able to get within a hundred yards of a squirrel all day and he ran up on a kid with 35 squirrels around his waist tied to a shoe lace. The hunter asked the kid where he found the squirrels and he replied “I killed them”. Standing there in bewilderment, the older man replied “You don’t even have a gun”. “The kid replied, “don’t need one.” “How’s that”? asked the older man. “Well, said the young kid, every year I pick up and sell aluminum cans so I can go to Wal-Mart and buy a bag of marbles, that is what I hunt with”. The old man chuckled and said “Son are you telling me you killed those 35 squirrels you have tied on that shoelace right there, by throwing those marbles and killing them squirrels in

the tree”? “That’s right sir”, he said. Wishing to not antagonize the youngster by calling him a liar, the guy offered the kid a $20 bill to let him follow along and watch, as the kid done his thing. The kid agreed, so off they went. After about a 30 minute walk, the kid turned and looked back to the older man following along, and said “squirrel about 75 yards,” and pointed ahead. About that time, he reached in the bib of his overalls, pulled out a blue marble, reared back and chunked it, hitting the squirrel and killing it graveyard dead. The young man ran out and threaded his latest prize on the string, much to the amazement of the older man. “Son” he said “ I have seen a lot of things in my time, but that is the most remarkable sight, I think I ever saw, and left-handed too, you are going to make a heck of a baseball player”. “What you mean?” the boy asked, “Well son, lef-handed pitchers are hard to come by, therefore making them worth more money if they’re good. “But sir” he said, “I ain’t left-handed, I’m right-handed.” “Son you mean to tell me you are right-handed but throwing left and just killed a squirrel over 50 yards away in that tall oak tree?” “Yes sir” ,he replied. “Well, why don’t you use your right hand?” The humble boy looked down and kicked at a sweetgum ball, as both his hands sunk to his elbows in his front pockets he said, “Awe, my daddy said for me to use my right arm on 100 yard shots and out, because closer than that, I tear up way too much meat”. When I left Burger King, the two Texans were sitting at the table with their mouths open, looking at each other without a word to say. I hope to see you in the outdoors, Dean

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Igloo Kicks Yeti Where It Counts, In The Ice Department. Igloo Coolers Yukon Series, Yukon 70

It also keeps your cooler lifted higher off the bottom of a hot boat keeping ice longer and cooler. I love the built in ruler on the top to measure your fish and compare against your buddies.

Not available on YETI A few weeks ago the good people at Igloo Coolers donated a Yukon 70 to the Next Ascent team to demo and review, and we were tickled to do so. We love reasons to get outdoors, and testing and reviewing gear is one of our favorites. At first glance, this cooler is a beast in terms of size, capacity and weight. Our initial test took us to the Arkansas River outside of Salida, CO in late April for our annual fly fishing trip over 5 days. This beast of a cooler swallowed up all the food and drinks for myself and my brother for 5 days. When I packed up the cooler Wednesday morning before leaving for south-central Colorado, all I added was the ice from the ice-maker in our fridge at home, which is to say not much ice at all. On pretty much every year we make this pilgrimage, I always end up heading into Salida to restock ice that has melted. This year was an anomaly in that no extra trips to town were needed, and that allowed for extra time on the river and the guarantee that my food would be fresh . I also made sure I left the cooler outside the truck and in full sun to test its effectiveness to the max. Granted, temperatures rarely got to the 70s during the day and the evenings and mornings were somewhat chilly, but the Yukon 70 did not disappoint at all. We did not pre-chill the cooler prior to loading up which can increase ice life. Normally, when I pull the drain plug when arriving back home, there is enough water to hydrate my entire front yard. This year, there was barely enough for a mouthful, and most of the ice I packed 5 days previous was still almost completely intact. Many of us have heard of Igloo’s prime competition in the premium cooler market, YETI Coolers, and I myself own a YETI Tundra cooler which I like. I love my new Igloo Yukon! If it’s the small things that make all the difference, then the Yukon blows the YETI out of the water, so to speak. We have all seen the sponsored endorsements from so-called celebrity fishermen, ads in magazines and adventure films, and product placement on several TV shows. Of course these people will extol the virtues of a YETI cooler when they’re all being paid and given free gear for life. Who wouldn’t. But do paid endorsements make a cooler that is better than all the rest? Absolutely not. Here are some features of the Yukon versus the YETI that might change your decision:

Reversible Feet

I love the option of having reversible feet so you can quickly change from non-slip to easy-glide in a couple turns of a screwdriver. YETI does not offer reversible feet. This allows the cooler to easily slide out and move easier in your boat or back of your truck or camper. The extra lift on the feet when compared to YETI allow to spray out your boat without removing the cooler first. Page 4

Fixed Rock Solid Handles

When compared to YETI’s Double Haul rope handles, there is no comparison. The Rock Solid handles on the Yukon will never break and you won’t be fumbling around trying to grasp swinging rope handles. Also in the photo above, don’t discount the benefit of having an attached/tethered drain plug. I misplaced my YETI drain plug on day 1 and wasted time looking for it that should have been time spent fishing. Other great features that are better than YETI, steel instead of aluminum hinges, and steel corner closure that allows for better security and bear-proofness. The other amazing feature is that the Yukon 70 is truly 70 quarts on the inside. Did you know that the same priced YETI Tundra 65 is really only 57.2 quarts. That’s over 12 extra quarts of interior space for the same price. With nearly an extra 1/2 inch of insulation when compared to YETI, the Yukon does weigh a few pounds more, but 12 quarts of space and an extra half inch of insulation is well worth the weight. In conclusion, I absolutely love this cooler and my Yukon 70 will be attending every outdoor adventure I take from here on out. My YETI might just be what they want it to be, an extra chair to sit on when nothing else is available or a step stool to get my mountain bike down from the rafters of my garage. The Yukon does exactly what Igloo says it will do, and that’s keep your ice longer, 7 days and even longer if you pre-chill it ahead of time. I lost maybe 20% of my ice over the course of 5 days of driving and fly fishing. I am totally confident when I take my Yukon 70 to Moab, Utah this summer in the heat on a mountain biking trip, I will be the only one who doesn’t have to drive into town to refresh my ice supply. All the features I mentioned above along with a few others make the Yukon line of Igloo coolers superior to YETI. If you still need the blessing of a huge stable of paid endorsers from a company that is more a marketing company than it is a product company and now owned by a private equity firm in New York City, than maybe the YETI is for you. If you just want a product that works and went the extra mile to add features we can all use in any environment, then the Yukon is for you. I rate the Yukon 70 Cooler 4.8/5points. We gave bonus points for all the extra features, but we will always subtract some points for weight even though it is unavoidable at this point for all the Roto-Molded Coolers on the market. One cool feature that the Yukon Series offers that YETI might not ever offer because they are afraid of the warranty issues that will arise and affect their bottom line, is the line of wheeled Yukon Coolers. An extra benefit of the Yukon 70, which cannot be overlooked is that the shipping box can also be used as a clubhouse for your kids which my daughter did without hesitation and guidance.


Mapping Antler Expectations All wildlife biologists learn in their first ecology class about a relationship called Bergmann’s Rule: within a species, or group of similar species, body size increases with latitude from south to north. It’s assumed this adaptation is related to thermoregulation in extremely cold and warm environments. The bigger your body is in a cold environment, the easier it is to conserve body heat (as the body gets larger the relative surface area of the body decreases, so it takes less energy per pound of weight to keep an animal warm). The opposite is true for critters in warmer climates – smaller is better, because it’s easier to keep cool with relatively more surface area exposed for evaporative cooling. When you think of white-tailed deer the theory seems to hold. Deer body size in the North is generally larger than in the South; the extremes are exemplified by Florida Key Deer where a mature buck may weigh 60 pounds and a similar buck in Minnesota may weigh 300 pounds. But what about antlers? Does the same trend hold? The Mississippi State University Deer Lab explored this question by requesting antler size data from states and provinces throughout the whitetail’s range. We would have loved to use Boone & Crockett Score, but very few state agencies routinely collect those data due to time constraints. What we chose to use was antler beam diameter for yearling bucks. Beam diameter has long been collected by biologists as a metric of buck quality and is generally correlated with overall antler size. Our request to state agencies resulted in 74 data points that we plotted on a map of North America to examine the relationship between latitude and antler size. While body size may generally conform to Bergmann’s Rule, the relationship between latitude and antler size is weak. In statistical terms, only 7 percent of the variation in yearling beam diameter was explained by latitude. So, as you can see from the map above, antler size tended to increase with latitude, but there are many more influential factors. Notice that, on average, the largest yearling antlers come from the Midwest where fertile soils, soybeans, and corn are quite common. Contrast the Midwest antlers with those from the Northeast – although deer from this region are further north, the soils and land use practices are not as conducive to quality deer forage production. Finally, examine the data point from southern Texas. Those legendary South Texas bucks aren’t born big; they achieve large antlers through management of age structure and habitat.

About the Authors: Dr. Bronson Strickland is an Extension wildlife specialist and researcher, and Dr. Steve Demarais is a wildlife biologist and professor, both at the Deer Ecology and Management Lab at Mississippi State University. This article was originally published in QDMA’s Quality Whitetails magazine and is shared here as a sample of the information QDMA members receive. To start receiving Quality Whitetails, join QDMA today.

Deer from northern latitudes do have the framework to be larger because antler size and body size tend to be related. However, the map clearly shows that deer habitat (in this case soil quality and food) can have a bigger impact.

The take home points are: 1) keep your expectations realistic and in context with the area where you are managing deer, and 2) managing deer density and habitat to produce an abundance of superior foods can yield big results in your Quality Deer Management program.

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A New Spin On An Old Trap

Three years ago, we were raising black Hawaiian sheep on the farm in Flatonia, Texas. All was going well and we were making good money off the sheep, as it turns out coyotes like sheep too. The yotes started breaking into our coyote proof fence and killing our sheep. The watch/coyote dogs were all asleep at the bunk house and were no help at all. They did not even act like they were embarassed about not doing their job of keeping the coyotes out. We pulled the coyote traps out and prepared them for trapping. We set our coyote traps with dirt hole sets, post scent sets and several other styles of sets. This is where we learned the hogs liked the coyote bait as much as the yotes do. For every coyote we caught, I would have several trap sets torn up from the hogs eating the bait and stepping in the number threes. The hogs would pull out of the small traps and move to the next trap set. One day while running our trap line, we caught and held a small pig in a leg hold trap. When I saw the pig, I had a vision of being able to use a leg hold trap to deliver some kind of a snare to hold big hawgs. That’s how we started. Six months later we were field testing our hog trapping system and about a year after that, we went online, www.holdahawg.com and started pushing Hold A Hawg snare traps. We had hundreds of photos, dvds, night vision, and on views of the hogs being held by our system. We had to make sure it worked, as we would be selling to friends and family. The system is safe, affordable, very effective and humane. You can release any by-catch unharmed. Here’s how it works. We use a very modified bridger number, five-leg hold trap to deliver our invention, a spring loaded snare to the hogs leg, (Patent Pending), made from aircraft grade 1/8” 7x19 cable. The trap is nothing more than a snare delivery device. I have to keep saying that, because I will be asked several times at a show, “How does this trap hold a hog”? It’s all about the spring loaded snare folks. The trap will not hold a house cat. Its designed this way. The spring was the missing element in our system. It took a while to figure it all out. It is a very simple method, I admit, but I am a slow thinker sometimes. The system you see now is a big improvement over that first unit. We have constantly improved everything. The trap has a 1 1/4” offset jaw, all of the edges are rounded, and it has an applied lip on the outside of both jaws to support the snare. We replaced the old brass bolt with a steel bolt, collar and a locking nut. This will allow you to tighten the pan enough to keep coons from setting it off. The number five wolf springs on the trap have been replaced with number two springs. The trap comes with four springs but we often remove the outside two for the girls and younger boys so they can set the unit. It is not our intent to harm any critter so the snare is well thought out. We cover the cable with a plastic hose on the locking end of the snare. This stops the raw cable from cutting into an animal’s leg. The deer stop keeps the cable from closing all the way and cutting off blood circulation to an animal’s foot. We take it two steps further and have now developed an inline shock spring to further reduce the chance of injury. Again, it’s all about the spring loaded snare folks, not the trap.

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You need to understand this trap will catch any animal that steps in it, just as any fence snare or box trap will catch anything that walks into them. The difference is you can release any catch unharmed. Fence snares kill “anything” that gets in them. Box traps catch anything and everything, and if you have ever seen a deer in a box trap, you know how bad they look after fighting the trap. Here in Texas, you could shoot your neighbor and get off lighter than if you hurt a deer or dog. We also have our new dry Carrion Bait on the market. This stuff is 100% organic and will not harm anything that eats it, and will repel deer at any set. If you will use this at your fence snare sights, you will not kill another deer. It will keep deer out of box traps. It will pull hogs in and coyotes, as well as cats because it is made from animal renderings and we add a few things more. Point being, it will keep the deer out of your traps. Our system comes with a very instructional dvd that gives you all the Dos and Don’ts, and several ways to use our traps that you may not have thought of. We recommend watching the dvd and playing with the trap and snare before you go into the field. We also recommend washing your trap and painting it to protect it. For all of you that say you can’t do this, remember, we are catching hogs not canines. You’re much better off to invest in a half dozen Hold A Hawg snare traps, than you are to buy one heavy expensive box trap. You may catch a few hogs at one time, that’s true, but then you’re done in that area, then its get your truck and a friend to help you load it and move it. You can carry a few of our units on your atv, go where you can’t go with your truck and box trap, and catch hogs tonight. Hogs can’t see it, they can’t smell it, and they don’t know its there until its too late. Hold A Hawg snare traps, a new spin on an old trap. holdahawg.com If you would like to purchase our snares, contact your local hawg pro, Dean Wells, at 662-419-1541.


by Gary Miller gary@outdoortruths.org It’s beginning to feel a lot like deer season. The temperatures today will range from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. Days like these are sure to get me rubbin’ and ruttin’. Even though the season is open in one of my border states, I still don’t get too excited until I can see my breath in the morning. I love the cool, damp air. As a child I struggled at times with asthma but I always remember how good my lungs felt when I took a deep breath of that early morning, fall air. I’m such a morning person. You can call me at six a.m. but if you call past ten at night you’re probably going to hear the voice of an unhappy bear that was just wakened from his hibernation. I may growl and even threaten to bite your head off. I’m just giving fair warning. I think outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen have to be morning people. For the most part, if we sleep in, we miss the time when most of the activity takes place. My parents use to decree, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Other than coon hunting and night fishing, they were probably right. Nights are important for me. A good night’s sleep is the fuel that ignites my mornings. And a good cup of coffee stokes the fire that lasts through the hunt. What I’ve learned over time is Newton’s third law. It states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I don’t know all of the intricacies of this law in order to give an intelligent opinion of it. But my version of it says this -- there’s always a price to pay. And what we all have to do is figure out if the price is worth it or not. Concerning my mornings, I have realized that if I want to get up early enough to go deer hunting and not fall asleep in the tree stand, I have to get to bed early the night before. If I don’t go to bed early, there’s a price to pay the next day. I just wished that I had learned this lesson earlier in life, about things more important than hunting. But I can’t go back and take a Mulligan. (Mulligan: golf term for “I just shanked one off the tee so I’ll try it again and not count the first one”)Even though I can’t redo the past, I can make sure that my present decisions are worth the price that I’m paying - the most important being my spiritual ones. Why not take a look today and see what the equal and opposite reactions are to the actions you are taking now. Are they worth the price that you are paying or that you will pay one day? If they are not, make the change while there’s still time for that Mulligan.

PJ’s

Across from Wren Flea Market Highway 278 • Wren, MS

•Deli Sandwiches •Fuel •Ice Open early for breakfast.

Hunter & Fishermanʼs One Stop Store Just under bypass

Praters

GROCERY • FOOD Highway 341 • Pontotoc, MS Open 5 a.m. Monday - Saturday

• FUEL • ICE

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Early Season Deer Tactics from the Experts Now that fall will soon be upon us, deer seasons will be opening in some parts of the United States later this month. We polled some of the nation’s top archers and got their ideas on what they do for early season success. Read on and maybe you can put venison in your freezer earlier. What do you do in the early season that will lend itself to your success? In the early season, bucks are still much more interested in food than fun. They won’t lose their minds over does, for a little while. For that reason, focus on; food, cover and water. Water is obviously important, and even more so during dry periods. But, on the other hand, dry periods tend to concentrate the water at fewer locations, so it can be easier to determine which source to concentrate on. Cover is almost always an important consideration, especially with big, mature bucks. The only real exceptions are those few magic days when bucks are absolutely on fire and rutting. So, good, consistent cover is a key. Hunting in tight cover is usually not an option since you can’t get in and out quietly (exactly why bucks choose it for a sanctuary), so concentrate on trails leading into or out of thick cover. Lastly, food sources can be real deer magnets and great places to plan your hunts and stand locations around. Concentrate on transition areas just before open food sources such as crop fields, food plots or pastures. If you are hunting hardwoods and find an actively producing white oak flat with a good acorn crop, you have hit the jackpot. Find stand locations a few yards out of the area, along trails with favorable winds. As usual, early morning and late evening are the best times. When hunting get at the very edge of a food plot or low growing crop field about mid-afternoon, and sitting until well after dark. In an active field, you’ll start seeing deer activity well before the sun sets. Once you start seeing deer moving, carefully glass just outside the edges of the open areas, this is where you’ll often see the mature bucks in a holding pattern allowing other deer to commit first. They will often only step out of cover once darkness nears or sets in during the early season. When selecting a stand location what are your considerations? In late September hang your treestands and cut shooting lanes. This gives you a full month for the deer to get used to stands/blinds. Try to have separate stands for bow and gun. Hang gun stands on the far edges of food plots, so the deer can enter the field without detecting you. The bucks usually come out in the fields last, so try to stay away from the does and let them eat undisturbed. Position your gun stands to be able to cover the greatest distance that you feel comfortable shooting. Early season is usually still hot and deer will still need water. Concentrate on bean fields that have a pond nearby. Most of the time, the bucks will get out of their beds and go to the ponds to drink, before they feed for the evening. Now that being said, the deer eat on the way to the pond, they don’t run straight there. They will browse as they go, but there is no question, they are thirsty and want a drink before they feed for a few hours.

to intercept them on their way to bed. Creek and fence crossings and intersections of well used trails are ideal.

Bucks run along the hill tops with minimal cover during early season. It’s cooler up there and there’s a breeze to keep bugs off them and to cool them down. The hill tops also offer a good vantage point. They also have a good vantage point. Put ground blinds near fence rows that run along the top of ridges and if the fence row has big enough trees, hang a stand in one of them. Funnels are always good places to hang stands. It may be a ditch, fence row or bottle neck of timber, but try to put the stand where the deer will get funneled to you. Walk the edges of the block of timber and look for trails. Most of the time, the buck trail will be slightly different than the doe trail. They may merge at the field edge, but they usually are 20-50 yards apart.

How do you hunt and pattern big bucks? When selecting a stand location for early season look for a food source that the older bucks are frequenting, since timing is everything. Always hunt correct winds and check moon phases so you know these deer will be on their feet during the daylight hours. Also check water sources, as early season can be hot and a good hidden water source close to security cover can be magic.

What do you look for during the pre-rut period that will lend itself towards your success? Pre-rut is all about food and the hours near dawn and dusk. Starting with the food source, try to locate a trail you believe bucks are using. It won’t be the well-used trails but it’ll be fainter. Follow these trails back into the woods or otherwise away from the food and look for a staging area. The main thing to look for here are a couple of rubs and maybe a scrape in close proximity, to indicate that a buck or bachelor group spends some time there while waiting for the evening to wear on before heading to eat. This is where to set a stand for an evening hunt. For a morning hunt, stay far away from the feed and hunt a funnel spot Page 8

Post-rut is similar, but try hunting close to a farm houses or a remote spot that hasn’t seen pressure. Out of the way small spots are good during the post rut.

In early season, you’re very likely to catch deer on current summer patterns. You also need to know bedding areas as many times the moon phase will be late and these bucks don’t get to the food sources until dark. This is the time to have a stand hung 50 yards behind a food source and catch him before dark. You can find where deer bed by long range surveillance, seeing where they enter the fields. If you need to make an adjustment for this, do it during midday hours as not to disturb anything, then wait to hunt that evening. If you happen to bump a deer, wait a day or so to let things settle. Bucks 4 1/2 years and older don’t get to that age by making too many mistakes, so the hunter should always err on the side of caution. The best way to consistently harvest big deer is to never let them know you are hunting them.


12 CROSSBOW DO’S AND & DON’TS Crossbow hunting has continued to rise in popularity across the country. Ready to get involved? Here are 12 things you should do—as well as three you shouldn’t. By Bob Robb When I first started shooting modern crossbows several years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Like many who had never played with them, these tools confused me. I had seen them on TV, but without ever handling one, I wasn’t sure about a lot of things. How do you load one? How do you pull the string back? What’s the trigger like? Do they kick, like a rifle? Are they noisy? Are they accurate? How far away can you accurately shoot one? Do they have enough power to kill a deer? Was I in for a surprise! Modern crossbows are fast, accurate, and plenty powerful enough to cleanly take the largestbig-game animals in North America. They are also a pleasure to shoot. To get the most out of your crossbow, you need to understand the basics of how to set one up for hunting and how to shoot it. Here are 12 tips to make you a crossbow-shooting machine, using a crossbow-and-arrow set-up designed specifically for hunting big game.

5) Use Quality Arrows Unless your arrows (or bolts) fly like laser beams, you’ll never be able to precisely hit your target. Cheap arrows manufactured to sloppy tolerances will fly like a knuckleball. That’s why you should use only the very best arrows, designed specifically for crossbow shooting, you can afford. Many crossbow companies sell arrows, but they’re made for them by arrow manufacturers like Gold Tip, Carbon Express and Easton. Make sure they have a nock designed for crossbows, not compound bows, are cut to the proper length and have the proper fletches. Both carbon and aluminum arrows work well, but by far the most rugged and high-tech are made from carbon. 6) Use Quality Broadheads The business end of a hunting arrow is the broadhead. There are more makes, models and styles of hunting broadheads available than you can shake a stick at. Here again, the most expensive are generally those built to the tightest tolerances, with the sharpest blades, that fly straight and true, and have a long track record of success. Both replaceable-blade and mechanical broadhead designs will work well for crossbow shooters, with the mechanical design becoming more and more popular each year. The most common weight for a hunting broadhead is 100 grains, with 125 grains a distant second.

1) Buy the Best You Can Afford There’s a big difference between an el cheapo, bargain-basement crossbow and a top-ofthe-line model. Sure, the bargain model costs a lot less, but it will not be built as well, be as accurate or reliable, and sooner or later it will fail you when the moment of truth arrives. You can buy crossbow packages that include everything you need to get out shooting and hunting—crossbow, a few arrows and arrow points, a scope sight, cocking device and quiver—from anywhere between about $800 to $1,500. As in all things in life, here you get what you pay for. Spend a few more dollars and get the best you can. You’ll never be sorry. 2) Use Enough Draw Weight The principle specification that distinguishes a hunting crossbow from a target model is draw weight. Fortunately, most states have taken the guesswork out of determining what is sufficient by establishing a regulatory minimum. While those regulations vary considerably from state to state, the overall range runs from 75 to 125 pounds of draw weight. With little exception, any crossbow in that range should be adequate to kill a whitetail deer at moderate ranges. That said, most of the better hunting crossbows are in the 150 to 175 pounds range, with a few topping out over 200 pounds. In general, bigger is better—or in this case, faster. Keep in mind that you can go too heavy, too, as at least one state—Ohio— has a maximum allowable draw weight of 200 pounds. 3) Shoot a Fast Enough Arrow Both crossbow and compound bow makers continually strive to push the speed envelope. You make a crossbow faster by increasing the draw weight. That’s why the above point is so important. How fast is fast enough? I like my crossbows to shoot a hunting-weight arrow with an initial velocity of at least 300 feet per second (fps.) That will both give your arrow enough kinetic energy (K.E.) to cleanly take any big-game animal, and reduce arrow trajectory at longer ranges, which makes accurate shooting easier. Some crossbows are beginning to push the 400 fps envelope, so look for improvements in this number across the board in coming years. 4) Use a Scope Sight Though some crossbows still come with open sights, you will be much better served using some sort of scope sight. These optical sighting devices make accurate shooting much easier. For magnification, you can choose from just about anything between zero power and 5X. Inside the scope is the reticle, defined as some configuration of horizontal and vertical crosshairs—though for crossbows, it also includes any object projected or suspended across the field of view. Choices begin with a simple, single red dot or crosshair. With them you sight in for a fixed distance, typically 20 yards, then have to compensate for longer shots by holding higher. Multi-reticle scopes are the most popular, particularly those with three to four dots or horizontal crosshairs. The top one is sighted in for 20 yards and the next two are fixed at intervals that will be dead-on at 30, 40 and 50 yards, respectively, on most bows.

7) Take a Rest A crossbow is somewhat heavy and clunky, making it almost impossible to accurately shoot without using some sort of rest. That can be everything from using standard rifle shooting positions like kneeling and sitting, to using a set of shooting sticks or monopod, to using a shooting rail in a tree stand or shooting house. I never, ever turn an arrow loose from my crossbows without taking a rest of some kind. When using a rest, try padding the crossbow’s forearm with something soft—your hand, a rolled-up jacket, a day pack, something—which will help absorb recoil and make precise sighting easier than if you shoot off a hard surface. 8) Learn Arrow Trajectory All arrows fired from a crossbow travel downrange in a large parabolic arc. Your crosshairs are set to hit dead-on at specific distances, but often you’ll be shooting at a deer or other animal between these distances. When you practice you’ll soon learn where you have to place your crosshairs relative to the animal to hit the “tweener” ranges. 9) Use a Rangefinder With the click of a button, a modern laser rangefinder can instantaneously give you the exact distance from you to the target—a critical bit of information in accurate shooting when you are lobbing an arrow at the target. The best laser rangefinders are as reliable as the sunrise. My Nikon Archer’s Choice model even tells me exactly where to aim when shooting at steep uphill and downhill angles. Costing somewhere between $250 and $400, they’re a lifetime investment worth every penny. 10) Get a ‘Feel’ For the Trigger Every crossbow has a trigger unique unto itself. You need to shoot your crossbow enough so that you know exactly when the trigger will send the arrow on its way. Shoot both with and without gloves so you know how both feel (it will be different). (Continued on page 10)

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12 CROSSBOW DO’S AND & DON’TS (cont. from page 9) 11) Practice in the Field The old axiom, “practice makes perfect,” certainly applies to shooting your crossbow. Once you get it set up and sighted in, spend some time shooting off a bench rest. Use these sessions to precisely set your sights and get a feel for the trigger. However, you then need to move away from the bench and practice taking shots that simulate actual hunting conditions. Shoot from the kneeling and sitting positions. Climb into your tree stand or ground blind and take shots at the same angles and distances you anticipate you’ll be taking during hunting season. Learn to use your shooting sticks or monopod quickly, quietly and efficiently. 12) Maintain String, Rail, Trigger A crossbow is a machine, which means it will need regular maintenance if it is to keep on ticking like a fine Swiss watch. That means you should always check the string and cables for wear. This is very important on a crossbow because you have direct string-to-rail contact, which creates friction and abrasion, with every shot. At the first sign of fraying or abnormal wear, replace them. You can reduce the need for replacement with regular maintenance. Keep the string, cables and center serving clean and well maintained after each practice session, and especially after each trip to the field. Make sure you lubricate the center serving, and the rails should also be regularly lubed per the manufacturer’s instructions Don’t Do This! There are some real mistakes that can cost you accuracy and/or lead to injury if you are not careful when shooting a crossbow. Here are the three most common: 1) Watch Fingers & Thumb Many shooters used to shooting rifles have a tendency to stick the fingers of the hand that holds the rifle’s forearm straight up in the air when they cradle the rifle. If you do this with a crossbow, you risk placing your digits in the path of a bowstring that is rocketing down the rail and will slice the fingers and/or thumb to the bone. Never, ever do this! 2) Don’t Shoot Off-Hand The construction of a crossbow puts a lot of weight in its front end, making it very difficult to balance when trying to shoot from the off-hand position. Even the very best rifle shooters only shoot off-hand as a last resort. You’ll be much better off learning to shoot quickly from the kneeling and sitting positions, and when using shooting sticks or a rail for a rock-solid rest. 3) Shoot Outside Your Own MESR Many years ago, I coined a phrase for bowhunters, Maximum Effective Shooting Range, or MESR. Your MESR is the maximum distance you can consistently place a hunting arrow into the bullseye. For some crossbow hunters that’s 20 yards; for others it is 60 yards. For most of us, it is somewhere in between. You will learn your own MESR as you practice. At some point, you just won’t be plunking that arrow into the bullseye on a regular basis. When that happens, it’s time to back off a few yards until you are once again placing at least 90 percent of your shots into the center of the target. At the same time, you should try and push the envelope and stretch your MESR in small (say, 5 yard) increments. But once I get into the field and I know my own MESR is, say, 40 yards, I will not take a shot at a game animal any further than that.

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Mississippi Hillcountry outdoors sept 2013  

Mississippi Hill Country Outdoors Magazine is a North /Central Ms. magazine about the regions outdoorsmen and the areas they live and hunt a...

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