Want to bag a buck? Head to the South and Midwest, where the huntin’s good for America’s deer
Story by Chris Rice Photos by Shutterstock
The deer hunting sector has been changing over the last few years, with new entrants moving into the top positions as far as the number and quality of white-tail deer hunting is concerned. Judging which states are working hardest to produce a high number of deer for hunting can be difficult, but there have been many changes to the states that sit at the top of the list in the last few years. The best States for deer hunting are spread through the eastern half of the nation and take in areas from Kentucky to Texas and east into Georgia.
The state of Texas has been growing in white-tail deer hunting importance for the last decade or so. The Lone Star State has seen impressive gun-deer harvests for the last few years, with 2018 and 2019 being more than 800,000 with the success rate climbing. The rise in the number of bucks harvested over the last decade has been hugely moving from just over 300,000 to 800,000 by 2018, with the majority of these being mature deer aged over three years of age. There is plenty of public hunting available, with an estimated 1.6 billion acres of public hunting grounds across the state.
Back in 2017, Georgia was sitting in tenth place on the list of the top ten best white-tail deer hunting states. The state of Georgia has risen to the number two spot on the list with the consistency the state has shown over the last five years with a white-tail deer hunting harvest of over 350,000 in 2019. The state has become one of the most consistent bucks producers, with hunters in the state reporting a success rate close to 60 percent.
The Midwest has been changing the way it addresses hunting, with Michigan now at risk of falling way down the list of white-tail deer hunting states. Michigan is still ranked in the top echelon of deer hunting regions but runs the risk of falling away in the coming decade. The state recently outlawed baiting and feeding, but the harvest still sat above the 300,000 marks to keep the state rising in the annual lists of best white-tail deer hunting states.
Much like South Carolina and Georgia, Kentucky has been a well-kept secret in terms of white-tail deer hunting. The state has always had a strong reputation amongst its residents regarding the quality of its hunting, but few outside the state knew of its potential as a hunting destination. Hunting is a popular sport in the state, but the number of hunters has been so low that the only halt called on the long season is the number of tags an individual can afford to purchase.
Another state that may not have the history of success when it comes to white-tail deer hunting, but the vast amount of public land available and the low number of hunters makes this a top destination for deer hunting. The five-year average harvest to 2018 in Missouri was an amazing 274,000 with just over eight hunters per square mile. The pressure on the herd in Missouri is not high with just over one-third of all harvested deer aged 3.5 or older to show the state is moving int he right direction to become a long-term favorite for hunters.
Outside of these states, some of the most popular states for white-tail deer hunting lie in the Midwest and Southeast. South Carolina is continuing to rise the charts despite its herd not being as well structured as in Georgia, with fewer deer aged 3.5 and older. Another state that could feature heavily in the coming years is Iowa, which has always been known as a state with giant bucks on offer. However, the many restrictions that have been placed on out-of-state hunters mean the state remains a mystery to many who would love to hunt there.
Chris Rice is the content editor of Hunting Locator, one of the USA’s most reputable sources for finding deer and other game hunting opportunities.
With interest in chasing deer and elk booming this year, an expert details top tactics for tagging out.
Story and Photos by Scott Haugen
In an effort to remain the eternal optimist, there are good things I’ve seen come with the coronavirus, one of which has been a nationwide increase in the sale of hunting licenses. Some states are reporting more license and tag sales than they’ve seen in decades, and many of these are going to new hunters.
If you’re new to big game hunting, welcome. There’s always room for ethical hunters, and there’s no better way I can think of to enjoy the outdoors and put some of the planet’s best eating protein on your dinner plate. When it comes to hunting big game, there are two common approaches I find myself using. Both are productive and both optimize a hunter’s level of engagement with the land and animals.
While hunters pursue game to put quality meat on the table, there’s an element of excitement that arises when hard work, time afield and taking a shot come together, and nowhere is this thrill so vividly captured than through spot-and-stalk hunting.
Unlike still hunting, where ground is slowly covered while searching for game, with spot-and-stalk hunting, game has already been located and the hunter makes a move to get within comfortable shooting range. The most important pieces of gear for the spot-and-stalk hunter are optics, a wind-
check bottle and quiet clothing.
Spot-and-stalk hunting begins with the hunter spotting game, then planning a stalk. When looking for big game at long distances – be it across vast sagebrush flats or distant hillsides – a spotting scope can help you cover a lot of land and see things in great detail. A spotting scope set atop a sturdy tripod will allow you to cover ground with your eyes, rather than your feet. Not only does this save hiking time while conserving energy, it greatly minimizes the chance of game detecting your presence.
When using a spotting scope to locate game, stay below the skyline. Having a tree, rock or hillside at your back will make it more comfortable and break up your body outline. In some situations, hunters may spend hours, even all day, looking for game through a spotting scope from a single place, so make sure you’re comfortable when the search begins.
Binoculars are also important in spot-and-stalk hunting. Game can initially be spotted with binoculars at a distance, then a higher-powered spotting scope can be used to evaluate the size of the animal. In some big game hunts, antler and horn minimum restrictions are in place, meaning hunters must be sure of their target. It’s nice to have a spotting scope to confirm the animal you’re about to make a move on is legal in the area you’re hunting.
Once an animal is located, don’t be in a rush. Watch the animal closely to see what it’s doing. If it’s bedded down, plan the best angle to commence a stalk, ensuring the wind is in your face or moving across your body as you approach. If the animal is feeding, watch what direction it’s moving (likely into the wind) and anticipate where it’s going, then plan your stalk. If it’s midday and hot, animals will often get up to rebed in shade. When this happens, your sighting may be brief, so mark the spot with surrounding landmarks, then plan your stalk.
Before a stalk commences, carefully note the position of any prominent trees, rocks, stumps, tall bushes or breaks in the land, as the closer you get to your quarry, the more unrecognizable the terrain becomes. As you stalk, use your binoculars to study the landmarks you’ve noted so that you can stay on track. These landmarks will be invaluable tools to pinpoint your target.
When stalking, ideally you’ll be hidden from the animal most, if not all, of the time. Remember, the eyes of game are far superior to ours, and if you can see them, they can surely see you. The goal of spot-
and-stalk hunting is to come in from an angle so the animal will not see you.
Spot-and-stalk hunting is a true test of your hunting skills. Once a stalk starts, every move is carefully planned and the conditions continually monitored. Approach every stalk with an open mind, tuning in to anything and everything that can help you find success. At the same time, be on the lookout for birds and animals that, if spooked, can give you away.
Be patient, move wisely and focus on what’s happening around you at all times. When mistakes are made, evaluate what went wrong and learn from them. As you’ll discover with spot-and-stalk hunting, trial and error are the best learning tools and each time you head afield, you can be receiving an education.
Still hunting is another very common approach to big game hunting, but the literal translation may not accurately depict the definition. Still hunting is not being totally still all the time. Still hunting is when a hunter slowly moves through a habitat, frequently stopping to glass and search for deer, elk or other game animals as they go. Still hunting is all about patience and paying very close attention to your surroundings, while looking for sign as well as game.
Before heading into the woods, check the wind direction to make sure you’re either moving into it, or against a steady crosswind. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon or evening, cool, more dense air falls from higher elevations. In an eort to keep the wind in your face so deer and elk don’t smell you, hunt uphill early and late in the day.
As thermals shift – rising uphill when temperatures increase during the day – hunts should begin on the high ground. Moving downhill into the wind will help keep your scent away from animals below. Big game animals have an astounding sense of smell, and if they catch wind of you, you likely won’t get a shot.
Two important items a still hunter will want to have are a wind-check bottle and binoculars. The wind-check will allow you to regularly monitor wind direction so you can be sure to keep the wind in your favor at all times. Should the wind change and begin blowing from you toward the area you’re headed, back out and come in from another angle, wait and let the thermals stabilize, or return another day.
Binoculars are a valuable hunting tool, even in heavy timber and dense brush. While many hunters rely on binoculars for spotting game from great distances in open terrain, they are also ideal for locating parts of animals in thick habitat. Search for a horizontal back or belly line of an animal amid the vertical growing foliage. Look for the flicker of an ear, the black or white color of a tail and the moist, shiny nose of an animal. White throat patches of deer, and light-colored rump patches of both deer and elk, for example, can often be seen in surprisingly thick habitat. Antlers of bedded bucks and bulls can also be detected with binoculars, as can the shining black fur of a wild pig that has recently wallowed.
The rate at which a still hunter moves is dictated by wind direction, weather, forest floor conditions, the amount of sign being seen and how far the hunter wants to travel. Blacktail deer hunters along the northern California coast, for instance, may take two hours to cover 100 yards when still hunting in prime habitat. If hunting these deer closer to Interstate 5, in more open terrain, a mile might be covered in an hour.
With still hunting, use the terrain and foliage to your advantage. Don’t be tempted to move through open areas where you can easily be seen. In still hunting, the objective is to use the element of surprise to locate game, and hopefully take a shot without an animal even knowing you are near.
When slowly covering ground, utilize low spots in the land. Never skyline yourself when still hunting, as that makes it easy for game to spot you. The idea is to remain hidden enough so as not to be spotted by game, but keep yourself in a position to locate game.
When pausing to look for game, use trees, brush, foliage and shadows as cover to hide you. Ideally you’ll stop behind cover, then slowly move forward as you glass the area. On sunny days, stop in the shade when you want to glass for game. Don’t be tempted to rush to a high, open piece of land, then stand there hoping to locate game. You might see game, but they’re likely going to be on high alert by then and will spook before a shot can be taken.
Whether you hunt big game through spot-and-stalk or still hunting, the level of engagement you’ll experience is what makes these approaches so addicting. Focusing on the land, the animals and the ever-changing conditions keeps your mind focused every moment, and when it all comes together, the end results will leave you wanting more.
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular DVD, Field Dressing, Skinning & Caping Big Game, send a check for $20 (free S&H), to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or order online at scotthaugen.com.
When they were first introduced to the national hunting community, these novel methods for bringing in bucks were considered unconventional at best, and harebrained schemes by most. Now deer hunters everywhere use these tried-and-true tactics. We take a look back to when these trusty standbys were still considered downright bizarre.
The brush-country hunters of Texas and New Mexico were crashing antlers together for decades before the trend caught fire in the rest of whitetail country. Although native hunters likely developed the technique, legend has it that an old market hunter accidentally discovered the phenomenon:
“He was coming to town one day, his wagon loaded with deer carcasses, when a buck came barging out of the mesquite. The hunter, so the story goes, added him to the load. A short time later, another buck pranced up—and was soon in the wagon. The puzzled hunter stopped to figure things out and discovered that two carcasses were lying so their antlers clashed as the wagon jounced along the rough country road.” -Hart Stilwell, “Why Not Try to Rattle Up a Buck,” May 1951
One of the first story (Field & Stream/Outdoorlife) devoted to rattling appeared in October 1937. A Texas game warden, drawing on 30 years of experience with the tactic, taught author Fredric P. Schwab exactly how to sound like “two bucks in a life-and-death struggle.”
By the 1950s, most hunters in the rest of the country had heard of rattling, but few had tried it. Almost everyone who had tried tickling tines reported the method didn’t work on hill-country deer, although a rare hunter outside the Lone-Star State would claim success.
The concept of calling for deer was less established even than rattling in the middle of the 20th century. In August 1949, an experienced deer hunter traveled to Alaska for a Sitka blacktail hunt. “He was sure it was just a gag,” reads the story. “Who ever heard of calling a buck?”
“Now I’ve used crow calls, duck calls, and turkey calls, and I’d read that down in Texas they lure bucks by rattling a couple of antlers together. But a real deer call I’d never heard of. Probably my voice expressed my skepticism. ‘O.K. I’ll bite. What’s a deer call?’”
The Alaskan hunters employed the call often—which looks a bit like a harmonica and sounds like “a lost lamb bleating for its mother,”-but they admit they don’t know what sound it was supposed to replicate. “I’ve attracted does as well as bucks, so I don’t think it’s a mating call,” said one local. “An old Indian told me it’s the cry of a fawn in mortal terror,” said another.
In the end, the author and a fellow hunter call in two bucks and drop both of them. This story, “A Deer Call Brings ‘Em In!” garnered so much reader mail that an advice column on using commercial calls appeared in the October 1949 issue. The expert claimed to have used his call with excellent results on 100 wild deer, and that his call was a modern counterpart of those made by Native Americans in Alaska. So while calls were being produced commercially by the late 40s, they remained news to most hunters.
Although a variety of products designed to lure bucks and cover up human odor had been marketed for years, it appears most hunters initially considered the scents for sale at the local sporting goods shop akin to something hawked by a snake oil salesman.
“It was probably because I was growing desperate that I decided to buy the deer scent,” writes John Weiss, author of the November 1978 feature “Scents and Nonscents.” “I figured there was nothing to lose.”
Weiss reported that more than 50 companies made scents at the time, and were raking in an estimated $37 million a year. That included everything from hunter’s soaps and food attractants to tarsal scents and urine.
He then delved into the types of scents and their effectiveness, and dug into the “scientific” realm of deer hunting. Interestingly, most biologists interviewed for the story disregarded “a deer’s scenting ability as not all that important.” One researcher noted that a deer’s “visual capabilities are far more refined than hearing or smelling abilities.”
Yet most wildlife biologists today agree that a deer’s nose is it’s most formidable asset. Nonscents, indeed.
It makes you wonder: If these are the facts we believed back then, just think about what we’ve got wrong now. And, even more fun to imagine, is what “crazy” tactic might be all the rage in another couple decades. Story & Photos by Natalie Krebs Outdoorlife
Which game critters offer new hunters the best entry into the sport? From spotting to taking down with a clean shot, we cover America’s most feasible options.
Story by Ashley Wells – Photos by Shutterstock
When getting into the hunting game, it’s best to start with some lighter or easier prey to help you practice. Of course, before you head out into the wilderness, you need to do some target practice to ensure you know how to use your weapon properly. Once you can easily hit a target that isn’t living, you can start hunting animals.
The general rule of thumb for hunting is that the smaller the animal, the easier it’ll be to shoot for a beginner. This might seem counterintuitive because a larger animal would give you a bigger target. However, they are usually a lot more dangerous and would not be a good idea for your early hunting trips.
Birds are a great place to start when it comes to learning the ropes for hunting. Yes, they can take flight to get away, but they are usually fairly easy to shoot down from the sky. You can see why practicing with your weapon before you head out on your first hunt is a must.
A WILD TURKEY makes for excellent prey for a beginner. The birds are large, giving you a good-sized target to aim for. They also tend to gather in big groups, meaning you have a selection if you miss your first attempt. The birds are fairly slow, making them easy to catch. However, you may have to walk quite far to get to where they are, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing.
Turkeys are known to respond to an array of calls, and you can get devices that make the right sound. This is incredibly useful to bring the birds out into a clearing or to work out where they are while you’re hiking to find them. Just be sure to keep your human noises to a minimum while waiting or walking.
DUCKS MIGHT BE the quintessential creature for hunting, and a perfect choice for a beginner. For starters, you usually get a large number together, so it is far more likely that you’ll get one.
Another reason that ducks are the best choice is that they come to you. It can be a bit of a waiting game, but there are a lot of tools you can invest in to bring the ducks around quicker.
It’s all about the setup. You need a great spot that’s well-hidden – a blind. Then, you can use decoys out on the water and a duck caller to trick the birds to come in for a landing. Finally, make sure you have steel or other nonlead shot in your shotgun. These pellets spread out when fired, which makes it easier to hit a flying target – sometimes you can even get more than one bird with the same shot.
PHEASANTS TAKE HUNTERS to the fields and tall grass in search of these birds. This really is a waiting game that’s best done in a group. One person waits with their shotgun, while the others can move in a long line to herd the birds towards you. If you’re going to have people moving around, make sure they know what they’re doing because pheasants can spook quite easily.
The trick with shooting pheasants is that you need to wait for them to take flight. This means that you should be practiced with a moving target in the air. Skeet shooting is a great training technique for hunting pheasants and will help you to feel more confident about bringing down your prey.
If you aren’t keen on bagging birds, there are a number of other animals you can hunt for. Just remember, the smaller they are, the more likely they are to have a burrow or hidey-hole nearby that they can disappear into. Stealth is key.
WHERE RABBITS ARE common, it can be a relatively easy challenge to get one. You can also bring a hunting dog along with you that can disturb the rabbits in their burrows and bring them out into the open for you.
When hunting rabbits, remember that they are fast. You will only have a moment between spotting them and them disappearing in which to take aim and fire. The good news is, you can train for this kind of hunting by moving into different positions and firing at your target as soon as you stop. You’ll learn to anticipate where the rabbit will be and how to get your eye in quickly.
WHITETAIL DEER ARE probably the easiest of large game for a beginner. They offer you a large target to shoot at, although it’s important to be confident that you can hit them in a way that they’ll drop instantly. You want to kill the animal with your first shot or have it drop immediately so that you can move in and kill them quickly. Deer can also be quite skittish; however, they do have a tendency to hesitate before they run off – giving you that all-important moment to take aim and shoot.
The hard part about harvesting a deer is that you actually have to do some hunting. This entails having the right clothing on, making sure your scent is right for the woods and knowing that you can make the shot from a fair distance away. You’ll also need to track them without letting them know you’re in the area, otherwise they will bolt as soon as they feel your presence. As a beginner, you should go with someone who has experience with tracking and knows how to field dress a deer so it’s easier to bring your kill home.
TIME TO START HUNTING
Remember, hunting is about respect for the animal and for your surroundings. If you’re brand new to the sport or the practice, it’s definitely best to go with someone who is experienced – a trained guide is your best bet. Good luck and happy hunting!
Editor’s note: Ashley Wells is an editor at Hunting Locator. Ashley is a passionate outdoors enthusiast and writer. With her trusty camper van, she’s on a mission to travel the remote corners and discover the hidden gems our world has to offer – one destination at a time.
Given their game-, livestock- and pet-killing ways, booming numbers, spring’s prime time to hunt coyotes.
Story by Jim Dickson
Coyotes are most prone to prey on pets and livestock in the
spring because this is when they are having to feed their pups. They breed around mid-February and have their pups 63 days later in mid-April. At first, the female stays in the den with the pups and the male hunts and brings food back to
her in the den. Later, they both hunt and feeding all those hungry mouths becomes an intense full-time job for both of them.
Any farm livestock that they can bring down is on their shopping list. They have been known to snatch small dogs that were on a leash, come up on porches and even go through
pet doors to kill pets inside the house.
This is also a very bad time to leave babies and toddlers outside, as coyotes have been known to attack small children. So far the only
confirmed fatalities are 3-year-old Kelly Kleen in Glendale, California, and 19-year-old Taylor Mitchell in Nova Scotia, Canada, but it’s important to realize that the coyote
is technically a small species of wolf.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN hunting, you need to be aware of how to tell a dog from a coyote, lest you shoot someone’s pet by mistake.
There are three coyote identifying features. Their nose is very sharp, narrow, long and pointed for sticking down holes after ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. The tail is bushy like a fox instead of like a dog’s tail. The ears are sharp and pointy, never drooping over like some dogs’ do.
Coyote tracks are more oval and compact than a dog’s and they have less prominent claw marks in their tracks. The tracks will go in more of a straight line than a dog’s will.
Coyotes also have a big home range, just like timber wolves, and may only show up in a given area once every several days.
While everyone knows they are there when they are howling, they actually don’t howl most of the time. You may not know they are there until they strike and the chicken you had planned for Sunday dinner or your Christmas goose is gone.
At all times, there are three types of coyotes out there: territorial adults, this year’s pups, and adolescents looking to establish their own territory.
In the spring, you can call females up using a pup-in-distress call. The use of a cur dog that the coyotes will chase is very effective, provided the dog will come straight back to you and not head off for the next county. A well-trained dog for this kind of work will hunt for the dens and when the coyotes come after him, he will lead them straight back to you and your waiting gun. When using any kind of call, you need to realize that you may need to stay in one spot longer in the spring than you did in the winter.
COYOTES ARE MOST active in the spring when deer fawns are being born. In Georgia, this is from about May 10 until June 21. The pups are weaned about the time this starts, and since a fawn has no scent for the first 10 days, this is the one time the coyotes concentrate their hunting in the daytime. Once the fawns develop a scent, they go back to predominantly night time hunting.
During this period of daylight hunting, coyotes can often be seen in fields hunting for the newborn fawns, which are hiding by lying still in the grass, as they have no other defense.
The coyote can’t smell them, but he will root them out visually. The coyotes can be incredibly aggressive during this time. One Georgia woman looked out in her field and saw a female coyote hanging from the throat of a black angus
heifer trying to choke it out, while the pups stood around watching her.
The woman ran the coyote off and called the vet. The injured cow was then put up safely in the barn. The next day, the coyote was back hanging from the throat of another black angus heifer with the pups looking on again!
The coyotes do inestimable damage to the deer population by
decimating the fawns every year. I have seen many does with no fawns thanks to the coyotes eating them this time of the year.
When you don’t see any deer come hunting season, just remember that without a fresh crop of fawns each year, the herd dies out. What they do to the grouse and turkey populations is equally devastating. I used to have flocks of
over 200 wild turkey on my farm. Now it’s 10 or 12, the family one old experienced hen raises each year.
I used to be able to go out during grouse season and always get a grouse. Now I am down to one or two grouse, so I don’t hunt them on my farm anymore. Spring is also the time of the year when trapping coyotes yields the biggest bags. Georgia has one of the nation’s best coyote trappers, Marty Adams aka “Mister Coyote,” and he has been the Lone Ranger to the rescue for many of the deer hunting club land plots in Georgia. We need more like him.
THE COYOTE IS not native east of the Mississippi River. The bridges spanning the great waterways and the removal of the timberwolf, the coyote’s nemesis, have enabled it to spread outside its former range. The highly adaptable predator definitely needs to be pushed back to its former range and out of the eastern states, where it constitutes an invasive species.
It should be noted that some coyotes were introduced to the east by a fox hunting club wanting something for their hounds to chase. There needs to be heavy penalties for stocking non-indigenous game in the wild, as these well-heeled gents are
not deterred by normal fines.
Coyotes have been known to interbreed with timber wolves and
domestic dogs. The cross with a timberwolf is called a coywolf and the cross with a domestic dog is called a coydog. These can be a lot bigger and more dangerous than the
regular coyote, which will normally scale from 15 to 45 pounds and stand about 2 feet high at the shoulder. This
relatively small size makes it easy for them to hide in the brush, and locating one yet being unable to get a shot is one of the classic frustrations of coyote hunting.
SINCE COYOTES OFTEN come in packs, I always recommend a semiauto with a high-capacity magazine so you can
get all of them. The M1 carbine is the fastest-handling of these, enabling you to get on target with snap shots that you might not have time for with other guns. AR-15s and AK-47s are also effective for dealing with packs of coyotes. Full-power military rifles like the semiauto G3 and FN FAL are also effective. While the intermediate power rounds are powerful enough, there is no such thing as too much power, unless you are worried about spoiling the pelt.
Since coyotes normally hunt at night, thermal and night vision devices are a sound investment. They also respond to calling. Burnham Brothers in Texas makes a full range of calls for them, including electronic calls. In July, they are
coming out with the first electronic call to cover the full range of sounds that coyotes hear.
Humans can hear noise up to 22,000 Hertz. Canines hear up to 45,000 Hertz. Burnham Brothers’ revolutionary new call goes
from 200 to 47,000 Hertz, covering the full range of sounds a coyote makes. Previous calls fell short and therefore had an unnatural quality about them that coyotes could learn to recognize.
The most popular year-round calls are coyote howls and rabbit
calls. Wear camouflage and keep still, just as you would turkey hunting. An electronic call on the ground covered by a shooter in a deer tree stand is perfection. Coyotes travel
the game trails, so cover them. Have someone drop you off and then keep on driving or park at least a quarter mile from your hunting spot, or the coyotes will take notice of the vehicle and depart.
Baiting works well and carrion or a gut pile will draw coyotes as fast as it will buzzards. Carrion is always on
the coyote’s grocery list. Glassing open fields with binoculars is especially effective in the spring, as the coyotes are looking for newborn fawns out there. Large
fields offer opportunities for long range shooting.
COYOTES ARE AN invasive species in the east and exterminating them is a challenge. Kill them all in an area and more will arrive in a month or two. They breed incredibly fast. It requires killing 90 percent of them to make an impact on the population and that won’t last long if the hunting pressure lets up in the least.
These are not game animals to be conserved in the east. They are a major threat to game populations and other wildlife, as well as livestock, pets and even humans.
Seven miles in to our do-it-yourself wilderness elk hunt, I was growing discouraged with the number of hunters my buddies and I were seeing. Then, at about the 13-mile mark, camps began to dwindle. Leading our pack string of horses five more miles, we found the isolation we desired. That night – two days before opening day of Wyoming’s archery season – the mountains were alive with bugling bulls. On opening morning, the three of us hiked four more miles, to over 9,000 feet in elevation. By 9 a.m., two of us had big bulls down, with the third member of our party arrowing a 355-inch brute the following morning.
The next two days were long, hot and extremely tough, but we got all the meat and our gear off the mountain. We quickly filled those tags because we traveled farther into the wilderness than other hunters, and we called very aggressively. Shortly after that hunt, I went on another elk adventure on my own in central Montana. I was on a chunk of public land that’s landlocked by private grounds. Public pressure had pushed many elk over the mountains and into the drainage I hunted, just as I’d hoped.
Rather than call to these elk with straight bugles or timid cow chatter, I mixed cow, calf, young bull and aggressive bull talk. The approach worked, and soon a big bull came charging in. I wasn’t in what I’d call the ideal shooting spot, but I hunkered down in the waist-high grass, amid shade, with a few straggly aspens behind me.
THE BULL CAME IN BUGLING and agitated. When he started walking from right to left, I hit him with a cow call, and he stopped. I’d already reached fulldraw, and the Gold Tip arrow buried tight behind the bull’s leg, piercing the upper heart and both lower lungs. He went a short distance and piled up. A few days later, I went to Oregon to chase elk. Though I called six branch bulls to within 25 yards, I didn’t let a single arrow fly, as I was hoping for a monster bull or nothing. I was aggressive, called a lot, and learned a great deal; a successful hunt, for sure. A couple weeks later, I traveled to central Idaho for the rifle season opener.
Temperatures were hot, and while many hunters stuck to spotand-stalk, hunting only during the early morning and evening hours, I hunted daylight to dark, calling the whole time.
The number of bulls I had answering my calls was mind boggling, unlike anything I’d experienced in a rifle season, before or since. On the second evening of the hunt, a big bull finally stepped from the reprod he’d been bugling from all day. At just over 400 yards, I took a rock solid rest in my Bog Pod shooting sticks, and the Nosler custom .325 WSM roared. A 200-grain AccuBond hit the mark, and another elk tag was filled. The family ate well that season, and we were fortunate to smoke, can, and freeze some great tasting meat.
When that elk season came to a close, I’d called 47 bulls to within 40 yards. It was a good year, full of learning. I stuck to my aggressive calling style, basing it upon on what was happening with the elk that season. Now is the time calves start venturing a bit farther from the cows, and they often communicate with their voices to keep track of one another. Small bulls will pick up on this and often bugle; big bulls will have a heck of a time keeping their harems in line.
This is why I like calling using a mix of calf, cow, young and mature bull sounds. Hot weather seems to prolong or even delay the rut, which is why calling in so many October rifle seasons out West can be very effective Play the wind, call aggressively, cover ground and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. DEAD FOOT ARMS
I’m a firm believer that many elk tags go unfilled because hunters are too timid, too afraid of botching stalks. As long as the wind is in your favor and you can work the shade, go for it. Let the elk, terrain and wind determine your next move, and you’ll fill more tags, no matter where in the West you’re hunting elk this time of year.
Written by Scott Haugen –AmSJ
AmSJ Staff note:
These are some really good information to go off on. Another source that you can check out if you’re a bowhunter is from ArcheryTopic.com. Their information are off the charts, check out this Elk Hunting 101 [Ultimate Guide].
A hunter and his wife take to the air to help eradicate invasive feral
pigs, fulfill bucket list dream.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY NICK PERNA
It had been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of cool things from helicopters. I’ve parachuted out of them, rappelled out of them, and have even been in a low-speed crash landing in one (no injuries, but we ran like hell!). But the one thing I hadn’t done, and had always wanted to, was shoot from a helicopter. Lean out the door with a rifle and engage some targets!
So, when I had the opportunity to do this in conjunction
with one of my favorite hobbies, hunting, I jumped at the
opportunity. My wife made it all possible for my 50th birthday, the perfect time for a middle-aged man to satisfy one of the items on his “bucket list.”
A couple of shout-outs first. We’re members of Wilderness Unlimited (wildernessunlimited.com), a members-only club that gives members access to some of the best hunting and fishing in California and Oregon.
They also team up with companies that offer the same
opportunities in other states and countries. Through WU, we hooked up with Serge Engurasoff of Urge 2 Hunt (urge2hunt.com). Serge works with Wilderness Unlimited
but also coordinates trips through outside vendors. Serge set us up with two firms in Texas that would make this trip possible. First, lodging. We booked with 10-2-4 Ranch (1024ranch.com) in Commerce, a small town about an
hour and a half northeast of Dallas.
The 10-2-4 Ranch is a first-class act. They have over 11,000 acres of property available for hunting. They have what you’d expect in Texas, like deer and fowl, but they also offer exotic hunts for game imported from Africa and elsewhere.
The 11,000-square-foot ranch house is awesome! With eight large rooms, it is big enough to host a lot of hunters. We made this a family trip, so we rented two guest rooms, each with a private bath and two double beds. The ranch has great WiFi and an enormous pond (stocked, of course,
with largemouth bass) just a short walk from the great room.
Along with hunting and guides, the ranch also offers first-class cuisine. We had three incredible meals every day, served by Sue, the on-site chef. The food was plentiful and outstanding.
Each meal was served in a large dining room adjacent to the great room. At night we’d relax in either the spacious great room with the enormous gas fireplace or take a short walk up the hill to Rosie’s Cantina.
Rosie’s is basically a bar, with a fridge, but it is BYOB. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to drive too far to find a six-pack of Lone Star.) Ranch guests can shoot pool, play shuffleboard, mess around with the jukebox or
blast your own playlist via Bluetooth speakers. With no cover charge, and no closing time, it’s a fun addition to
an already great establishment.
AS GREAT AS the 10-2-4 Ranch is, I didn’t travel 1,500 miles to play shuffleboard or teach my kids how to play pool (although we did have some great family fun).
I came to hunt. Specifically, I came to hunt pigs from helicopters. Texas, like a lot of states, is overrun with feral pigs. These formerly domesticated beasts tear up crops and threaten native wildlife. According to the USDA, there are over 5 million feral swine in at least 39 states.
It is estimated that they cause over $1.5 billion in damage annually. In many states, including Texas, you don’t need to purchase expensive tags to hunt feral hogs. Even in a restrictive state like California, you can hunt as many as you want (no limit) during a year-long season (tags are required, though).
Other states have similar depredation types of permits, as the feral hog issue is not unique to Texas or California. Texas makes it easy for out-of-state residents to hunt. Temporary hunting permits can be purchased online and are mailed to you. The state also provides you with your license number online, in the event you don’t have the physical tag in your possession.
Barring that option, they can also be purchased at any
Walmart. We were able to purchase a nonresident five-day special hunting license for under $50. Serge at Urge 2 Hunt coordinated the hunting trip too. He set us up with
Chris Hitt of Sky Hunter Outfitters (sky-hunters.com). Chris is a former US Army Cavalry scout pilot and native Texan. He owns and operates his own helicopter hog hunting business and flies the same helicopters he flew in the service, Bell 206 Kiowas.
A word to prospective aerial pig hunters. There are numerous firms in Texas that offer airborne pig hunting,
but few have experienced military pilots flying full-size helicopters. Kiowas are reliable air frames with proven safety records. A lot of things can go wrong with helicopters, so why take chances?
THE ONE THING we can’t control is the weather. We planned our trip far in advance for mid-February. We thought our four-day itinerary would provide us plenty of blade time, a night hunt, along with some
sightseeing and fishing at the ranch.
Unfortunately, it started raining the day we arrived and didn’t let up until the day we planned to leave. This
was not your normal winter drizzle either. Rather, it was a storm of biblical proportions, a Texas-sized rain that
caused roads to flood over. DEAD FOOT ARMS
The rain and the wind were brutal – not only for fishing. Poor weather conditions meant no flying. No flying time meant no chance of hunting from a helicopter. As one rainy day bled into the next, my epic hunting trip seemed
less and less likely to happen.
Finally, on the last day of our trip, the weather cleared enough for us to go airborne. We met Chris at the “airport” – basically, a hangar large enough to house a few aircraft and a small, dirt air strip. It reminded me
of some clandestine “Air America” airfields used to resupply guerillas in Central America.
Chris provided everything. We were geared up with AR-15s (with red dot optics) and unlimited .223 ammo. Our rifles were equipped with GoPro cameras, and additional cameras were mounted on the helicopter Shooters are seated to the left side of the aircraft. My wife occupied the front left seat, Chris manned the controls to her right and I sat in the rear seat. There were no doors on the aircraft so that my wife and I could engage targets. Shooting at moving targets from a helicopter is, to a certain extent, counter-intuitive.
As the pigs run from you, you don’t lead them, you shoot behind them. A word of caution to any future heliborne bovine hunters: Bundle up; it gets cold – really cold. It was about 40 degrees on the ground the morning of our hunt. The temperature dropped another 10 to 15 degrees once we were airborne. Add wind chill when flying at high altitudes at high speeds (and no doors) and it gets downright frosty.
ONCE AIRBORNE, WE test-fired our weapons and confirmed the zero. Chris advised us in our pre-flight training that, for best results, we needed to stand on the skids and lean out as far as the safety straps would allow us. During the test-fire he “encouraged” us to do this by banking the helicopter hard on the left side.
There I was, standing on the skid, buzzing through the air, cranking off rounds … I felt like a Vietnam-era door gunner, wishing the “Flight of the Valkyries” was blaring in the background. Get some!
Chris has permission from most of the surrounding landowners to hunt feral hogs on their properties. Most are farmers or ranchers who want to rid themselves of these destructive beasts. We flew about 10 minutes from the hangar and began searching for targets (pigs). The land has a lot of scrub brush and wooded areas adjacent to open fields. Apparently the feral hogs like the scrub, and winter is the best time to hunt, as the leaves in the trees do not interfere with your bird’s-eye view.
After about a half an hour of flying, we finally located a herd of about 12 pigs near some trees in a field. Chris used his bird to corral them from the scrub brush into an open area. That’s when we leaned out, stepped onto the skids, and opened fire.
I spotted a big boar break away from the pack and locked onto it. I unleashed about a dozen rounds in his direction. A few of my rounds hit home, knocking him over. My wife engaged another group of three, but they quickly disappeared into the wood line. These pigs move fast!
The boar I hit lay wounded in the field. Despite the fact that they are considered vermin, wild pigs are still God’s creatures and don’t deserve to suffer. Chris banked hard in the pig’s direction and came to hover about 20 feet away, less than 5 feet off the ground.
“Make sure you finish it fast!” he said over the intercom. “It’s a boar; it might try to charge the helicopter!”
I fired a couple more rounds, the final one hitting it at the base of the skull, killing it. We left the boar as it lay, food for coyotes and other scavengers, which includes other pigs. (Feral hogs can be cannibalistic, in case you needed another reason to shoot one.)
So, mission complete. What’s next on my bucket list? Underwater knife fighting school? Running with bulls? Give me some more Texas heli-hog hunting, please!
Editor’s note: Author Nick Perna is a sergeant with the Redwood City Police Department in northern California. He has spent much of his career as a gang and narcotics investigator. He is a member of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team since 2001 and is currently a team leader. He previously served as a paratrooper in the US Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. He is a frequent contributor to multiple print and online forums on topics related to law enforcement, firearms, tactics and issues related to veterans.
With mentors lacking, duck- and goose-hunting newbies are turning to video-posting educator-entertainers, but are there limitations to what you can learn?
By M.D. Johnson
My Old Man taught me how to hunt ducks. He took me. He showed me. He suffered through my mistakes, and, I believe, he relished my accomplishments. Like my first duck (1974). My first goose (1979). And the time I got frostbite while hunting the Scioto River in central Ohio (1987), and all the skin on my fingertips turned grey and sloughed off. Not an accomplishment, I don’t reckon, but he was there for that one, too.
My introduction into the waterfowling arts was, for the time, typical. We had fathers and uncles, grandfathers and that grumpy old guy next door who loved to hunt but generally hated everyone; still, and for whatever reason, he took a shine to us and would take us with him every now and again.
From these men, we learned the finer points of waterfowling. How to do this. How to do that. Decoys. Guns. Dogs. Wind. Range estimation. Sometimes the lessons came with praise; other things, with a swat upside the head.
Either way, we learned, and the schooling, at least for some of us, stuck. Today, it’s different. Fewer people hunt waterfowl. Period. And of those, there are fewer of the aforementioned blood relatives or crotchety old neighbors to show nimrods how to set a spread, run a call, train a dog, or patch a ripped set of waders. So, that said, who’s teaching this next generation how to duck hunt?
YOUTUBE, THAT’S WHO. Is it all being done, the education that is, via Al Gore’s Internet? Absolutely not, but here in the 2019-20 waterfowl season, an amazing number of new-to-the sport duck hunters are learning the ropes, per se, by watching hours and hours of YouTube videos.
Washington duck hunter Jeff Landers and his boys Nate and Ben are three of the many. I met Landers a year or so ago when I sold him a layout blind for his boy. A simple business transaction led to frequent conversations, the common denominator being waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.
Admittedly new to ‘fowling, Landers, a pastor/international missionary, wanted to get his sons involved, but understood his knowledge when it came to duck hunting was lacking. Enter YouTube.
“I wouldn’t say (YouTube) was our primary source of information,” Landers said. “We would connect with other men and women who had the experience, and we’d spend time with them in the field.
Then,” he continued, “the boys would come home and look on YouTube for specific things based on things they’d seen in the field. Things like ‘Why don’t more people hunt shovelers?’ or ‘Why aren’t coots as prized as other ducks?'”
“Too,” he said, “I think YouTube is a way to keep these new people engaged throughout the week until they can go hunting again. A lot of these people come home from a hunt, can’t stop thinking about it, and YouTube plays a key role in keeping them engaged. But it’s not necessarily the be all/end all of (duck hunting) training.”
Landers’ sons, like many novice waterfowlers across the nation, I’m sure, turn to YouTube not only for educational purposes, but for definition.
“Both of the boys,” he said, “have this exposure in the field, and then they come home and start researching what they’ve seen. They’ll watch videos, for instance, and then try what they’ve seen in the field the next time they’re out. Or they’ll make a mention of something they’ve seen, as in ‘Dad, did you know such-and-such?’ I’d say my boys are watching videos – outdoor videos – on a daily basis, but they’re using it more like a readily accessible encyclopedia or magazine.”
SHIFT GEARS A bit, if you don’t mind. I’ve been to Hutchinson, Kansas. I’ve hunted ducks on the Cheyenne Bottoms, pass-shot geese on the firing line, and stubbled layout blinds in more than one field. Trust me; it’s an incredible place, if you’re a waterfowler.
Thirty-one-year-old Bobby Guy lives there, and he lives and breathes waterfowl hunting. So much so that in 2016, he ran his first video episode on YouTube on a channel he calls BobbyGuyFilms.
“My goal,” reads the description on the home page of his channel, “is to teach waterfowl hunting. If you’re looking for big waterfowl hunting, you’ve found it.”
Apparently, Guy’s hitting the mark, as he definitely has an audience. Before this season opened, he had in the neighborhood of 24,000 subscribers; at this end of the season, it’s more than double that, 66,000-plus as of press time last month.
“Absolutely I consider myself both an educator and an entertainer,” he told me. “The 21st Century wants entertainment, but they want real entertainment. Not fake entertainment, like reality TV. So it’s both. On YouTube, I have to teach the world (how to duck hunt) in an entertaining way.”
And Guy practiced what he now preaches.
“I wasn’t blowing a duck call or a goose call at age 8 or 10 or 12. I didn’t have Dad to teach me how to duck hunt. My stepdad taught me how to quail hunt, but I had to go to YouTube to learn to duck hunt. To learn how to blow a feed chuckle on a duck call.”
That, he said, was 15 years ago or so. But surprisingly, Guy’s audience isn’t made up primarily of 15-year-olds. In fact, his primary viewing audience consists of men, ages 25 to 34, with his secondary group of visual consumers ranging from 34 to 42 years of age.
“I would say a heavy 75 percent, maybe 80 percent of my viewers are public (land) hunters in their first one or two years of duck hunting,” said Guy when we spoke last summer.
But with great power comes great responsibility. Guy is, like it or not – and note, I get the impression he absolutely loves what he does – a leader. A mentor. An educator to be mimicked.
“Everything I teach them (my viewers),” he said, “they do. They run with it. But there have been things,” he confided, “that I’ve done wrong. Where I’ve messed up. There is an element of self-responsibility. Of maturity. It is a heavy weight (I’ve taken on). It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. Not everyone should try to influence people. It can be very complicated, and it’s a lot of work.”
TODAY’S IS A very personal world. An immediate world. A reach-out-and-touch-damn-near-everyone-at-any-time world. And it’s all part of Guy’s program.
“I get a lot of people (in the field) holding their phone in front of their face saying, ‘Hey Bobby! What gun should I buy?’ or, ‘What duck spread should I use?’ or, ‘I want to hunt snow geese. What do I need?’ People are intrigued by waterfowl hunting. And it’s cool. A lot of these people are older, and they have a little money. And they found (duck hunting) on YouTube.”
“Let’s face it,” he continued, “commercial TV has gone down the tubes. You have YouTube in your pocket. It’s your nightly watch. It’s more personalized; in fact, it’s as personalized as it gets. You can subscribe to a YouTube blogger who does what you do. Or what you want to do, whether it’s a woman doing her nails or a guy teaching you to duck hunt.”
Do I use YouTube as an electronic educator? Damn right, I do. Via any number of channels, I’ve learned to build wooden display boxes, cheaply repair busted PVC pipe, fix small carburetors, and tend to blueberry bushes here in Wahkiakum County, on the Lower Columbia. Duck hunting, I learned from my father and face-to-face from a long line of men, who possessed collectively more seasons of experience than Carter has little liver pills.
Guys over 50, you know what I’m talking about. But the world is different now. Faster. More streamlined. Fewer fathers hunt; thus, fewer ’fowl teachers exist. Still, people, i.e. new waterfowlers, hunger for information. They crave it. Need it. But it needs to be the right information. Legally correct. Ethically strong. Responsible. Safe. Conscientious. Conservation-minded. So I ask guys like Guy and other online hunting educators: Are you doing it right? Are you?
ORIGINALLY, MY PLAN, so to speak, was to ride, albeit gently, both these YouTubers – non-traditional heathens – and those who “learned” waterfowl and waterfowl hunting electronically.
Also non-traditional heathens.
But then, as the kids from South Park would say, I learned something today. With grandpa gone, and with fathers and uncles at a premium, who’s going to teach these up-andcomers, if not for YouTube? Magazines – and my apologies, Dear Editor – have for the most part gone the way of buck-fifty fuel, and dreadfully fewer and further between are the newspapers with weekly outdoor columns, which, even if they did exist, would require the aforementioned reading, and we know that’s not cool.
So the question remains: Who, then, are the ‘fowling teachers, if not for YouTube? And, too, I’ll admit, if I had ridden these folks unmercifully, would I not be a hypocrite? Wasn’t it YouTube that taught me how to repair busted PVC pipe without digging up everything?
And wasn’t it YouTube that coached me when I was building dormers on the garage? And repairing the chimney? And replacing the throttle body gasket on Grandpa’s ’93 Chevy Work Truck? So is it a good thing, this YouTube, when it comes to teaching 21st Century duck hunters how to duck hunt? It can be, I reckon, as long as it’s being done right.
Which brings me to a final (really!) note regarding Internet-based instruction being done right. Yes, you can teach someone to duck hunt via YouTube. You can teach them the basics of patterning, decoy selection, spread design, concealment, wind direction, calls and calling, safety, and, to some extent, ethics. But before we go any further, let’s review the Five Stages of Hunting. You know them, right?
Stage 1, The Shooting Stage: The quality of the hunt is determined by the amount of shooting opportunities afforded
Stage 2, The Bag Limit Stage: The quality of the hunt is determined by the amount of game harvested. Limits
Stage 3, The Trophy Stage: The biggest buck; an all-greenhead limit, a 25-pound gobbler. The bigger, the better here
Stage 4, The Method Stage: How the hunt is accomplished is most important, e.g. a homemade muzzleloader or
hand-made game call
Stage 5, The Experience Stage: The time afield is what’s important, not the game harvested. This is the Sunrise Stage.
Back to YouTube. Yes, you can teach someone about Stages 1 through 4 online. You can show the viewer unplugged guns and spring snows (Shooting). You can show them straps of seven ducks (Limit), seven greenheads (Trophy), and a handturned double reed duck call (Method).
But can YouTube really – really – explain the psychological aspects\ associated with waterfowl hunting? Why we freeze? Why we suffer? Why we work so hard for a duck? One duck. Even no ducks?
Can YouTube convey the emotions involved with watching our 7-year-old grandson retrieve the pair of cacklers we just killed? The ones out of a small flock that followed an even smaller flock of lessers right into the heart of the 18-decoy spread at our feet?
Can YouTube get across to the nimrod the confusion – for lack of a better term – we predators feel when we realize we’re no longer the natural born killers we were at 25? And then the moment you realize, I’m okay with that.
I don’t think so.
I think YouTube has a place; yes, even among waterfowlers.
But I also think it most certainly has limitations. Human limitations. Stage Five is important; perhaps, for many, it’s the most important and most fulfilling of the five stages.
But it needs a person. A been-there and done-that waterfowler. For there are some things for which one must walk in those waders in order to understand. And there’s a huge part of waterfowling hunting that falls under that umbrella.
This story was originally published on NWSportsmanMag.
There’s more than just a Scoped .22 Rifle that will bag bunnies, bushytails and more for the pot. ‘Hare’ is a look at alternatives.
For rabbits and squirrels, the most efficient and humane gun is a 12-gauge shotgun with number 6 shot. This provides the quickest and cleanest kills with the least chance of a wounded animal escaping to die a lingering death. It is by far the surest way to bring home dinner.
I prefer a double-barreled shotgun choked improved cylinder and full. My favorite load is 3 drams of powder behind 1 ounce of number 6 shot. This once was the most popular load in America, back when many men hunted with light single-barrel shotguns.
It patterns most perfectly and kills reliably at all normal shotgun ranges. I have used this on wild turkey and it was devastating on them, even at long range. Recoil is very light, making the gun extremely pleasant to shoot.
My second choice would be the old farmer’s standard, the hammer single barrel shotgun. This is solely because of its good handling qualities, which exceed those of the over-and-under, the pump, and the semiautomatic shotgun. The O/U is an aberration that is popular only because it is fashionable. It lacks the splendid handling qualities of the side-by-side and you always have to worry about the fact that the dominant eye sees only a narrow rib, while the other eye sees the great mass of both barrels and may fight for dominance as a result.
If it wins, and it will at odd times, you miss to the side. Remember, the O/U was the first double gun made and its shortcomings quickly led to it being abandoned in favor of the superior side-by-side configuration.
The semiautomatic shotgun is popular, as it tends to mitigate recoil, while the pump shotgun can be had at very reasonable prices. While they
hold more shells than a double, their rate of sustained fire is actually less than the fast-reloading double.
WHILE .22 LONG RIFLE is the most popular small game rifle caliber, it requires absolutely perfect shot placement for quick humane kills. Ever since it was first used on game, there have been hunters condemning it as inhumane on game due to the large number of wounded game that escapes to slowly die from their wound.
The .32-20 in the M1873 and M1892 Winchester, as well as in the
Remington Rolling Block and other rifles, was considered the ultimate
small game round, as it was the perfect balance between clean fast kills and not ruining too much meat.
The .38-40 (which is really a .40-caliber and by all rights should be called the .40-40) and the .44-40 did excellent service as well.
The bigger bullet made a larger hole, but the amount of extra meat missing was inconsequential. All of these calibers could be and were used on anything else that came along. They were the true all purpose
cartridges, able to take both small and large game. Of course hunters exclusively after big game generally chose a heavier caliber more
appropriate for big game, but for those just hunting for their dinner, the smaller calibers were the best answer.
The .32-20 high-velocity load for rifles was a far cry from the dinky cowboy action load of today, as it was basically a .30 carbine equivalent. Firing these in a revolver was a bad idea due to the
tremendous deafening muzzle blast when fired in a pistol. There is an old saying from those days that every .32-20 revolver has been dropped
once when the owner first shot it and grabbed his ears in pain. The same
thing happened when Kimball came out with their automatic pistol in .30 carbine and Ruger chambered his single-action revolver for the .30
You will note that you don’t see many of those for the good reason that they were so rough on the ears to fire. Army Ordnance found that out quickly in World War II when they experimented with a .30 carbine pistol. That project came to an abrupt end upon firing it.
THIS BRINGS US to the Army M1 carbine. While the case of the M1 carbine cartridge bears no resemblance to the .32-20, ballistically they are equivalent. Anything the .32-20 high-velocity load will do in a M1873 Winchester, the .30 carbine will do in the M1 carbine.
These rounds are as fast as you can go without ruining a lot of meat. If
you don’t believe me, try shooting a squirrel with your 5.56 or .30-06 and see how much is left. While some The bigger bullet made a larger hole, but the amount of extra meat missing was inconsequential.
All of these calibers could be and were used on anything else that came along. They were the true all purpose cartridges, able to take both small and large game. Of course hunters exclusively after big game
generally chose a heavier caliber more appropriate for big game, but for
those just hunting for their dinner, the smaller calibers were the best answer.
The .32-20 high-velocity load for rifles was a far cry from the dinky cowboy action load of today, as it was basically a .30 carbine equivalent. Firing these in a revolver was a bad idea due to the tremendous deafening muzzle blast when fired in a pistol. There is an old saying from those days that every .32-20 revolver has been dropped
once when the owner first shot it and grabbed his ears in pain. The same
thing happened when Kimball came like to call the .30-06 an all-round
cartridge, it cannot qualify because it is too destructive to small game.
The M1 carbine is just as superior to the Winchester lever-action as
a hunting rifle as it is as a military weapon. At 5½ pounds, it is as light as a .22 but it is far livelier in the hands and its military wood stock seems to fit everyone so well that the gun always seems to have its sights aligned on the target as fast as it is shouldered.
On top of all this, the little M1 carbine is one of the steadiest guns to hold on target ever made. The reasons for this are deep and those depths have still not been fully plumbed.
When Bill Ruger made his .44 Magnum semiauto carbine and its .22-caliber companion the 10/22, he copied the M1 carbine’s overall length, weight, balance, stock length of pull and drop at heel and comb, yet these guns are no more steady than any other gun.
The M1 carbine really shines at instinct shooting. The late Lucky
McDaniel invented the method of teaching instinct shooting using a BB
gun and he taught the Army how to do it during the Vietnam War. The
Army called it the “Quick Kill” instinct shooting. The M1 carbine is a natural at this and that is important because instinct shooting is the fastest and most accurate method of shooting that there is.
When you have only a fleeting shot at a fast-moving squirrel or a darting, maneuvering rabbit on the run, instinct shooting is often the
only sure method to bring them into the game bag. All these wonderful
attributes helped make the M1 carbine the weapon that had the most
hits on enemy soldiers per rounds fired of any U.S. rifle before or since. It can do the same on the hunting field for you today.
With the M1 carbine you also have a flatter-shooting round than the .22
LR, though small game is usually a close-range shot, as they are hard to
find at long range due to their small size and the thick cover that they are found in.
For those enamored of the romance of the Old West, Rossi makes their
version of the 92 Winchester in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .45 Colt.
All of these are fine small game rifles.
They are light, well balanced, and easy to hit with. Lever-action rifles are an American tradition and a lot of people just like the way working one feels.
Ruger’s .44 Magnum semiauto carbine was a wonderful all-around gun that should never have been discontinued. It is light, accurate and powerful. My Betty used hers on everything. She thought they had made that rifle just for her, it was so perfectly suited to her. It works just fine on rabbits and squirrels and anything else in North America. It does not ruin too much meat when used on small game.
PISTOLS HAVE TAKEN a vast amount of small game over the years because they are there when the game is encountered. The old Colt Single Action Army probably brought more game to bag than any other pistol in America because of its widespread use on the frontier, where a ready meal was not to be wasted.
A very easy gun to hit with, it proved a ready provider of meals to many a hungry frontiersman. You cannot have a rifle handy at all times when you are working, but the pistol can always be in its holster at your side. The need for skill with it to protect yourself in areas beyond the
law led many men to master it, and shooting small game for the pot was
a useful and lifesaving practice. Today most hunters still shoot their revolvers single action at game, even if they have a double-action revolver, as few truly master double-action shooting.
Instinct shooting with the pistol is the best method of hitting with it
and indeed the only method to always connect with a fast-maneuvering rabbit at close range. You don’t need adjustable sights on a hunting pistol.
You don’t really even need sights at all. They are just a crutch to help
you zoom in on where the pistol is pointing. The real accuracy comes
from instinct shooting. With instinct shooting you can hit accurately with the gun in just one hand, the way the pistol was meant to be fired. Using two hands is slower and particularly so when you have to move the pistol from side to side. That’s a big deal when a rabbit flushes close to you and starts zigzagging away.
To learn to instinct shoot with a pistol, begin with strict form until you master it. Then you can shoot from any position, but you have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk. Set out a row of matchsticks or empty .22 cases as far away as you can easily see them, keeping them far enough apart that your shot won’t knock out more than one of them.
Now assume the classic duelist stance with your body sideways to the
target and your arm fully extended, holding both elbow and wrist rigid.
Look intently at the target, ignoring the gun. Now squeeze off a round at each target in turn. If you miss one, go on to the next or you will just miss again in the same place. You will soon get the hang of it and start hitting.
THE BEST DOUBLE-ACTION hunting revolver I have encountered is the 4-inch-barrel .45 Colt Ruger Redhawk. This gun can be fired single action, but its double-action trigger pull is so superb that it can be fired just as accurately double action with practice. I certainly can’t say that about every revolver. This gun has virtually no felt recoil thanks to its weight and well shaped rubber grips.
It is extremely pleasant to shoot. That’s important, as it lets you shoot a lot at one time while watching your hitting improve after the first few boxes of shells. If you have ever watched a man shoot a box of .44 Magnums in a revolver, you have watched his accuracy go down as
he fired instead of up because of the muzzle blast and recoil. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. You need a pistol that is not punishing to shoot if you want to attain a high level of accuracy with it quickly and easily.
Another gun that has brought a lot of small game to bag is the German
Luger. The most accurate and easy to hit with military pistol ever made,
it is no wonder that it was a success as a hunting weapon. I even know of at least two grizzly bears killed with Lugers. A good man with a Luger will not go hungry where game abounds.
An often overlooked hunting pistol is the .45 ACP M1911A1. When Betty and I were living in a one-room trapper’s cabin deep in the Alaskan interior, our World War II Remington Rand M1911A1 pistols with government surplus G.I. Ball ammo were our do-everything guns.
They never failed us. Remington Rand is no more, but Inland Manufacturing is making a fine Mil-Spec M1911A1 today.
Small game hunting is the most widely available game shooting in this country, affording both sport and serious challenges to your shooting
skills. It is an American tradition and a lot of fun as well. Plus it can still provide dinner for you and your family. The seasons are long and bag limits generous. The best guns for it are pleasant to shoot and easy to hit with. What more can you ask for?
Bear Hunting can be Controversial, but this Sportsman Loves it
People think I’m crazy; even friends of mine have told me so. Strangers.
Family members. They all believe I’ve lost my mind. When I get back home to Oklahoma each summer, I hear things like, “Are you nuts?” and “Man, you’re crazy doing all that stuff.”
You’d think it would have something to do with living up here, and roughing it out in the Arctic, where cold and darkness are a normal way of life. It’s all stuff you’re likely to see on TV, but it isn’t reality.
The thing they really can’t comprehend is my infatuation with bears and
the fact that I like hunting them. It hasn’t always been that way, but over the 20-plus years I’ve been here it has become so – even more this year – and it’s not only me. My best bud Lew has the fever as well. We just absolutely love it!
Yeah, it’s crazy and there’s really no simple reason why. I’ve tried to explain it, but can’t. Not really. I guess the passion came from a combination of time and places, and even certain circumstances that brought us to this serious addiction with bears.
IN THE OLD DAYS, spotting a grizzly was like seeing a ghost or some kind of alien being, especially during the spring months, when searching the hills and snow-covered tundra was the order of the day. Fall was a little different, as seeing a bear was a little more common, especially along the rivers and streams where the fish came to die.
Sometimes you’d see a bruin on a hill through binoculars, a brown spot on the orange and brown landscape. I remember how amazing it was for me personally to see a bear. It was usually from far off in the distance, but still notable.
Things started to change several years ago. Our trips each fall for moose and caribou instead became bear sightseeing tours. Most of those sightings occurred in places where we hadn’t seen bears before, which we thought at the time was very cool.
Those weekends were epic: Lew and I boating north across the sound, navigating the river past the sand bars, and making our way through the canyons into what was once legendary country for caribou and moose.
We stayed at “base camp” – a name we gave a spot in the middle of what 20 years ago was a game-rich environment.
Base camp was nothing but an old abandoned park service cabin that had been left to rot over the years. It sat deep in the willows right off the river and was severely dilapidated. Its foundation had slipped, leaving it on an angle, and the roof leaked profusely. But it had four walls with a table and shelves built into the walls, plus a couple of wood slabs for bunks.
We fixed it up a bit, adding a wood-burning stove and a reclining chair
Lew had brought from home. It wasn’t the Hilton, but it was comfortable and worked for us.
We used that cabin for years while chasing bears up and down the riverbank. At the same time we were always looking for moose, and we did take a couple of caribou during those years, but the bears were the main event. Even though we never took one in that area, we did see more and more as time went by. It wasn’t until we started venturing a little further upriver that we actually figured things out. We haven’t stayed at base camp in some time.
The Eli River sits about another 40 miles upriver. If you’ve read my stuff recently, then you know how fortunate, lucky and persistent we’ve been hunting bears up there.
It’s almost become second nature to us. It’s not “if” we get one; instead it has turned into more like, “How many do you think we’ll see and are you going to fill both of your tags, Lew?” Or, “Are you going to
save one for spring?” I know that it’s crazy, but honestly there are bears everywhere. This year was no different.
IF YOU READ LAST month’s edition of Alaska Sporting Journal, then you saw where we went early and were successful on both fish and bears. Lew filled one of his tags on the last evening, and even though it was a bit tricky getting back in the dark through some dense fog, it was an enjoyable trip. Our next outing was even more so.
We usually plan our trips a month or so in advance, depending on what we
have going on during that month. Because weather dictates a lot of what we do, having to boat to where we want to go isn’t always easy. Depending on direction, any amount of wind makes getting across the sound difficult at times. Labor Day, however, is always booked and is when you’ll find us heading north for bears and hopefully to hook a few fish. This one was no different.
With a boat full of gas and gear we made it across to the mouth of the
Noatak River. It wasn’t long before we pulled into camp, which was in a different area this year, even newer than our trip a couple weeks before.
A gravel bar that sits higher than others and has a deep pool thick with fish out front would be our home for the extended weekend. It was almost dark – not to mention windy – and we already had seen two bears on the ride in, so we knew we were in a prime location. The big chums stirred more than usual and we were excited for what was to come.
We quickly got our tent up and had just sat down to a delicious MRE when
we saw the first bear show up close to camp. We sat, ate and watched. Then two more. Before the end of the evening we had counted nine in all.
With all the activity going on, we knew the night would be a long one for the both of us. Like new tenants, we had moved into someone else’s house, took over their table and disturbed their eating arrangements.
We had bears coming in all night. Lew sat and watch and I slept.
He had many encounters during the early-morning hours close to our tent. One of those was with a bear he described as the biggest he’d ever seen. I saw the track the next day and confirmed he was right. There were big bears here.
EARLY THE NEXT MORNING we heard the all-too-familiar noise of splashing water outside. It wasn’t salmon; it was a bear. I peeked out the tent window and could see the bruin feeding down the bank without a care in the world.
I carefully slipped on my boots, grabbed the rifle and exited the tent. I was hoping to make a stalk without being heard. So far so good as I inched my way as close as possible. The .300 WSM was light in my hands and I quickly set up the Bog Pod for position.
The bear never noticed and the recoil from the shot was never felt. It was a clean shot – quick and precise. The bear swirled and went into the willows, leaving a blood trail 2 feet wide.
You never know what to expect when you follow a bear into places where you can’t see, but it’s all part of the process.
With two loaded rifles, Lew and I inched our way into the thick willow. There, laying camouflaged in the dirt, was my bear. And what a great bear he turned out to be!
It took a couple hours to get the hide off and both of us to carry it out. It was a big bear, my biggest to date, the skull of comwhich we later measured as 24 9/16 inches. I was happy, lucky and thankful.
With two days left on the trip, Lew and I fished, ate like kings, told stories and had a great time burning the daylight hours.
If you don’t know, bears seem to like the river best either early in the morning or late in the evening. They’re hungry and searching for fish in order to fatten up for the long winter ahead. For us it’s time to watch and wait, knowing it won’t be long before things get serious.
There are occasionally times when you’ll catch a bear out during the day, but it’s pretty rare. Also, if you spend enough time where fish congregate, you’ll notice that the salmon are more active during morning and evening than other times.
It may just be me, but during certain periods the fish like to – or tend to be – more active in the water, splashing, jumping, etc. I’m not a biologist, but I’ve noticed it and the bears absolutely are drawn to this food source during those times.
The next morning Lew woke me again. Out of grog he told me there was a bear outside. It was Lew’s turn and besides, I was completely happy with the previous day’s results. Lew exited the tent and was on the move, while I was still trying to get my shoes on.
Finally, I got out and watch as Lew moved down river and into position. Lew’s 7mm is loud, especially with a muzzle brake attached to the end of it. I knew better than to watch without covering my ears, but I was almost too late. I heard the boom and watched as the bear went down. Lew made a great shot that wasn’t easy; another bear down and another moose saved.
IT WAS A GREAT trip. We hunted the last evening hoping to fill my last tag, but I think the bears had finally figured us out and our gig was up. Maybe they decided to find a new place to live. I kind of doubt this. If we were to head up there tomorrow, I bet they would be there waiting for us.
The ride home wasn’t fun. We knew it would be rough with wind gusts coming at us at 30 mph, but we made it home safe and sound, soaked and happy. AmSJ
HATERS GONNA HATE
When I returned from this trip, I got my first real taste of haters, death threats and pure jealousy. It wasn’t just from anti-hunters, but Alaskans too – and some of those were even hunters. Being in the public eye as a writer and appearing on radio, TV and various types of social media, including my own pages, I expect some naysayers and have had it in the past.
But never as much as I did when I posted a pic of my bear on a couple Alaskan pages. Some of it was done in jest, while other commenters were downright mean and complete jerks. That doesn’t bother me – it really doesn’t. I expect it on certain pages and in certain forums, but to have other hunters say things that they have no clue about does bother me.
It goes to show that anyone can pull out their phone and punch a keypad, typing what they want, but when we start attacking each other as hunters for whatever reason, then we’re doing nothing but creating division.
I know bear hunting isn’t for everybody, but I like it. Just because you don’t or don’t like how we pose in a photo or agree with our conservation methods, or think that bears are not the moose’s problem and hunters are, then keep that to yourself or go to fish and game and complain there.
We need to start being nice, complimenting hunters on great hunts and cherishing their success. If we do this, it will create a better world for all of us. PA
Editor’s note: Paul Atkins is an outdoor writer and author from Kotzebue, Alaska. He has written hundreds of articles on big game hunting and fishing throughout North America and Africa, plus surviving in the Arctic. Paul is a monthly contributor to Alaska Sporting Journal.