[su_dropcap style=”light”]S[/su_dropcap]itting at timber’s edge, we waited for the dense fog to lift. We’d been in position for nearly 20 minutes, but couldn’t get a clear look at the roaring red stag, some 200 yards away.
I was with noted outﬁtter, Gerald Fluerty of Wildside Hunting Safaris, and we were in pursuit of red stags on the North Island of New Zealand. I’d ﬁlmed TV shows with Gerald before, but this time I was carrying a camera, hoping to capture some action on ﬁlm.
The hunter was Macie Stewart, a 16-year-old high school student from my hometown of Springfield, Oregon. It was her second day of the hunt, and while she’d passed on a couple nice stags, the rut was in full swing and the valleys echoed with roaring red stags; she was in no rush to end the hunt.
Finally, the fog cleared just enough to conﬁrm the stag in front of us was a shooter. Inching into a better shooting position, Macie got set up in the shooting sticks and waited for the stag to stand.
Moments before darkness consumed us, the fog fully lifted, the massively racked stag let out a deep, guttural roar, and then stood up from his bed. That’s when Macie let him have it with her .308. The stag stumbled and fell.
“Oh my gosh, he’s way bigger than he looked through the scope,” said Macie as we approached the downed stag. Gerald and Macie exchanged high ﬁves and hugs, as this was a moment each will remember forever.
And in a wrestling match, she would have scored two points for a takedown.
Less than a month prior to her late March hunt for red stag in New Zealand, Macie was on the wrestling mat in Portland, Oregon’s Memorial Coliseum. Here, she became the ﬁrst girl in her high school’s history to earn a state wrestling title. From athletics to hunting, Macie Stewart has achieved a lifetime of success, and she’s only a junior at Thurston High School.
“I SHOT MY FIRST BLACK-TAILED deer when I was 10 years old, on Oregon’s Mentored Youth tag,” Macie recalled. “I was with my dad, and it was the day before Halloween. It was a fun hunt, but I messed up something on the camera and I lost all the photos of that deer. I didn’t think much about it then, but now I really wish I had them.”
“I like looking back at the pictures of my hunts because they bring back so many memories that went along with it, not just of the animals, but of the people, the places, and so many other things that go with the hunt,” Macie said. “There are so many fun memories that hunting creates.”
Macie began her wrestling career in sixth grade. “Even before I started wrestling, I was around it a lot,” she explains. “My brother, Zane, who is two years younger than me, started wrestling when he was ﬁve, so I was always around it and liked it a lot.”
Early in high school, Macie tried cheerleading and softball, and while they were fun, to her they just lacked something. “I’m a really competitive person,” Macie elaborated. “But I also love the family feeling wrestling has. Everyone in wrestling is like a family, and when you meet up at big tournaments with other schools, it’s like a bigger family. It’s fun and everyone supports one another. I also like the intensity that goes with wrestling, so that’s my sport, what I do year-round either with my school or in clubs.”
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie and her father, Chris Stewart, over the years. Chris and I took Macie and my son, Braxton – who are the same age – to Wyoming for an antelope hunt when they were 13. They both got nice bucks on a truly memorable hunt. On another hunt in Oregon’s Coast Range, Macie got a Roosevelt bull ﬁve minutes after Braxton got a bear. That was a fun night in camp. Braxton also ﬁlmed Macie taking a ﬁve-point Roosevelt the season before that.
When asked if she gets nervous, Macie smiled, and said, “No, not really nervous; I get excited, but not nervous. I don’t know why.”
SHE DIDN’T FEEL NERVOUS when she stepped onto the mat for the state title match either. She’d entered the tournament as the number one seed, which can add pressure to anyone, let alone a kid. She won the semiﬁnal match by a big margin, and though her title match lasted three full rounds, Macie won 6-0.
“I was in pretty good shape heading into state,” Macie shares. “I felt good, but not overconﬁdent.” She feels that way on many hunts, too.
She wasn’t nervous at all during the ﬁnal moments of her red stag hunt. I know of many seasoned hunters who would have been on edge with the long wait and anticipation. “That stag wasn’t going anywhere, we were hidden really well in the trees and the wind was good; we just needed the fog to lift so I could get a shot. That hunt was all about patience.”
“Being in good shape is the key to success on the mat and in the woods,” Macie notes. “And having wrestling season be the same time as hunting season helps, a lot. Hunting deer and elk isn’t easy, and when I push hard on those hunts, they’re actually great workouts that help me keep in shape for wrestling.”
Macie points out other correlations between hunting and wrestling and how they beneﬁt one another.
“Wrestling makes you mentally tough, so the patience part of hunting comes easy to me. The challenges encountered while wrestling also prepare you for so many situations where you need to be mentally strong in life, and have perseverance, and I see that a lot when I’m hunting. Sometimes I want to sleep in instead of go hunting, but when I get out there, I’m always glad I went.”
She goes on. “When you cut weight in wrestling and you ﬁnally win, it’s a great feeling, because you put in so much work to get to that point. It’s like hunting. You put in all this hard work and it comes down to one shot, and when you make that shot, it’s so gratifying. Wrestling and hunting teach you to never give up, because if you quit, you’ll never reach your goal.”
“My favorite part about hunting is being outdoors and getting to travel to other places,” Macie said. “Hunting has allowed me to see some really cool things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I also love eating wild game; that’s all our family eats. It’s way better tasting than meat from a store, and way better for you. Being a wrestler you have to be in good shape, all the time, and eating wild game keeps me ﬁt, no doubt.”
WHEN ASKED HOW MANY BLACKTAILS and Roosevelt elk she has to her credit, Macie had to think, and still didn’t know for sure. “I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” Macie smiles. “To me it’s more about the experience and the memories, not about numbers.” But she did recall some of her more challenging hunts.
“I’ve had some tough blacktail hunts,” Macie recalled. “There was one big three-by-three a couple years ago. Dad and I spotted him from a long way away, and we had to patiently stalk through the woods, then the edge of a logged unit. Finally, we got to within 50 yards of the bedded buck before we could see him. He was really hidden and we had to move carefully on that one, but it wasn’t easy because it was getting dark out.”
“Last year was a fun hunt, too,” Macie continued. “My brother had shot a big buck in a unit, and packing that buck out, there was so much sign that we went back the next day and spotted another big buck in the same unit. We could only get to about 300 yards, but I got prone and felt really solid, and connected on the shot. That buck had a giant body. We quartered and packed that thing out, but had to go get help from some of our wrestling buddies to do it.”
When asked what she most recalls from her hunts, Macie didn’t hesitate. “The people and the places are what stand out most in my mind,” she said. “This New Zealand hunt was extra special because Mom was with me, while Dad and Zane were hunting another area. That was the ﬁrst time she’d been with me when I shot an animal, in all these years.”
“I also loved the way people in New Zealand hunt,” Macie added. “When we hunt at home, we stay out all day. In New Zealand we got up, ate breakfast, went hunting for a few hours, came back for a big lunch, where their family joined ours, went back out hunting until dark, then their whole family was together again with us for dinner. It was like Thanksgiving every night.”
With May upon us, where will you ﬁnd Macie Stewart? She has a spring bear tag, so you can bet she’ll be spending time in the woods. She also has a demanding spring and summer wrestling schedule, one that takes her around the country, possibly the world. Last year she qualiﬁed for a tournament in South Africa.
What I appreciate most about Macie Stewart is how hard she works. Be it wrestling or hunting, she’s diligent and positive. She doesn’t brag, ﬂood her social media sites with boastful images of animals she’s taken, and she has nothing to prove to anyone.
I’ve been on many hunts with Macie, and not once has she cared about putting on makeup, ﬁxing her hair, painting her nails or worrying about what she looks like in the photos. Macie is an accomplished hunter, statechampion athlete, and a hard worker who will be an achiever in life, no matter what she decides to do. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author and TV host. His show, The Hunt, can be seen on Netflix. To learn more about the show or New Zealand hunting, visit scotthaugen.com.
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]F[/su_dropcap]ebruary is here, and with it, excitement and so much to do. Winter projects are wrapping up, spring is around the corner, and love is in the air. The second month of the year graciously provides us with an entire day to honor our special someone, and if you’re looking for something extraordinary to get your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, consider a hunting adventure you’ll remember forever.
I’m not talking hard-core hunts in foul weather for trophy class animals, where freezing temperatures and extreme terrain prevail. I’m referring to fun hunts to share where game abounds, the weather is mild, the action fast-paced, the terrain is easily managed and the days aﬁeld not overly long. Of course, you need to set aside time for some relaxed sightseeing and romantic dinners, which may come over a campﬁre, but if you’re together, it’s just that much more special.
Throughout our 26 years of marriage, living in Alaska and overseas, my wife, Tiffany, and I have been fortunate to hunt many places together. Here’s a list of some of the most memorable hunting experiences we have enjoyed together. I believe you will enjoy them as well.
1. BEAR BOUND
Spring is one of the most productive times to hunt black bear in North America. Be it over bait in the states that allow it, or spot-and-stalk-style hunting in the lush, grassy meadows of the Paciﬁc Northwest, there’s no shortage of great bear hunting opportunities.
Idaho allows bear hunting over bait, and color phase bears run high in some areas. Sleeping in and hunting the evening hours will make it feel more like a vacation than a hunt. Spotand-stalk hunts can be had in multiple Canadian provinces, too, where bear densities are mind boggling and the terrain is easy to negotiate. Just be sure to bring mosquito repellent.
Bear meat is some of the best eating wild game out there. Get the hide off fast; remove the fat from the muscle and get the meat quickly cooling, and you’ll be enjoying it for months to come.
2. TURKEY TIME
There’s nothing quite like being in the spring turkey woods: warm days, wild ﬂowers blooming, birds singing and lovesick toms gobbling like crazy. Turkeys can be hunted in every state but Alaska.
One epic turkey hunt for you and your sweetheart is in Hawaii, where the birds thrive. Florida is another wonderful option for a couples hunt. Texas, South Dakota and western Oregon are also great places to hunt turkeys, and see some beautiful sights along the way.
Wherever you go, make sure to hit the state or states where multiple tags are available. If you have the time, driving to and hunting different states can be easy to do, and may offer great side attractions in the form of museums, historical points of interest and, of course, restaurants. Don’t overlook fall turkey hunting, which can be exciting, especially with a dog!
3. HOG HEAVEN
Ask my wife what her most memorable hunt was, and she’ll likely reply hunting hogs in Florida. Our whole family was along on this unforgettable trip, and atop a monster truck-like swamp buggy, we pounded bacon with ARs, shotguns and riﬂes. It was a thrilling way to hunt, and an effective way to put a dent in the overpopulation of pigs on the land we hunted. It also yielded a couple coolers full of some of our favorite wild game to eat.
Texas has high pig populations, and baiting and spot-and-stalk approaches can be employed there. Sitting in a blind over bait offers a level of addicting anticipation that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
California has great, year-round hunting for wild hogs. Spring and fall are favorite times, as the pigs are actively feeding and the weather is very comfortable. Of course, California swine often resides near vineyards, making it easy to ﬁnd something to do in the evening together as well.
4. QUACK ATTACK
Be it an early-season teal hunt, a midseason outing for local birds or a late-season adventure for migratory fowl, spending time in the duck blind together is relaxing. Of course, the earlier it is in the season, the more comfortable the weather will be. Then again, late-season, high-volume hunts in the cold can offer unmatched shooting action that can keep you warm.
With a dozen decoys, a call and some basic gear, getting equipped for hunting waterfowl is easy.
If you don’t have access to good public lands, gaining permission to hunt on private property is much easier than getting the green light to hunt deer or elk. Don’t overlook your goose hunting options either, for these can offer great action around the country, be it for Canadas or snows.
5. PRONGHORN HITS
The perfect couples hunt for big game has to be pronghorn. The weather is nice, animals are plentiful, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to start the day, and if you blow an opportunity on a buck, you’ll soon be commencing a stalk on another.
While some states only offer pronghorn tags through a lottery system, others have over-the-counter options. Parts of Wyoming offer overthe-counter tags for nonresidents, for both buck and doe, making it the top state for such a hunt. Consider putting a bipod on the riﬂe, or at the very least, use shooting sticks, and practice out to 300 yards, as shots can be long in this open country of the West. These hunts are big hits among couples and families.
6. VARMINT MASTER
Varmint hunting offers high-volume, fast-paced shooting action to couples eager to head aﬁeld. Be it prairie dogs in the spring, summer, early fall, or ground squirrels farther West, there is a lot of great shooting to be had.
Prairie dogs occupy many of the Rocky Mountain states and open plains, and the fact they do so much property damage means ﬁnding a place to hunt isn’t that difficult. The last prairie dog town my wife and I hunted in Montana, stretched for more than 7 miles and was over a mile wide. Needless to say, we experienced a lot of shooting.
In eastern Oregon and northern California, Belding’s ground squirrels abound, and ﬁring more than a thousand rounds per person, per day, is common in some of the alfalfa ﬁelds overrun by these varmints.
7. PLEASANT PHEASANT
While the season for wild pheasants has come to a close, there are numerous bird preserves that offer outstanding hunting opportunities around the country, even in Alaska. In most states, preserves are open through March, and reopen again in August or September.
Not only are these high-percentage hunts, but the accommodations can be as fancy as you want to get, which can be appealing to couples. Then again, you can ﬁnd affordable operations, allowing more bangs for your bucks in the form of pheasant, chukar, quail and occasionally more exotic species.
8. DOVE LOVE
My wife and I gone dove hunting together for nearly two decades. Early in the September season, when the weather is hot, we enjoy ﬂoating rivers and hunting birds off gravel bars. Later in the season, we move to ﬁelds and travel routes connecting feeding and roosting areas.
While early-season hunts are warm and comfortable, many states have extended their seasons into October, and the shooting for migratory doves in large ﬂocks can be exceptional. These are some of the best eating birds out there.
9. WHITETAIL QUEST
One of the country’s best deer hunts to experience with your sweetheart is for whitetails. Blacktail deer hunting is physically demanding, often taking place in wet, brushy country. Mule deer habitat can be rugged and the weather less than hospitable. But when it comes to whitetails, North America’s most hunted big game animal, the options are many.
Since whitetails occupy so much river bottom and farmland habitats, the terrain is easy to negotiate. They can be hunted from late summer into winter, and with high densities, seeing deer is almost guaranteed and the chances of punching a tag are high. Whitetails can often be hunted from ground blinds, making it comfortable for both of you when temperatures drop. If looking to put meat in the freezer, there are some good over-the-counter options, and easy-to-draw tags in many states.
10. ADVENTURES ABROAD
Don’t overlook the joy of traveling abroad to hunt with your loved one. This is also a great opportunity to combine a hunt with a vacation.
New Zealand is tops when it comes to hunting prized red stag, and more, and the people and the country are simply wonderful. Australia also offers some good deer hunting in its southern and western states.
Africa is a place that offers a lot, both in terms of species to hunt and sites to see. Plains game hunts are affordable, with kudu and gemsbok topping the wish list of many hunters.
This Valentine’s Day, consider giving your spouse a hunt as a way to say “I love you!” With this gift you’ll both be able to spend time in the ﬁeld together, and travel through some great parts of North America, even the world. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a fulltime freelance writer of 20 years. He recently began a booking service geared to help others enjoy hunting and ﬁshing adventures around the world. Learn more at scotthaugen.com.
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]W[/su_dropcap]hen it comes to hunting knives, what do you really need? The question is straightforward, but the answer can become complicated by thoughts of what you want, rather than what you actually need. Personally, I own dozens of knives. They are great tools, and serve a range of purposes. But when I go aﬁeld, I keep it simple.
On all the hunts I’ve been fortunate to embark upon around the world, I almost always take only one knife aﬁeld. This knife has to be able to withstand punishment and perform to my liking, and it’s also got to be lightweight. When scaling granite peaks for mountain goats and sheep, ounces can feel like pounds after a few days.
MANY KNIVES ARE DESIGNED for speciﬁc purposes, but for hunting, I don’t feel as if I need multiple knives. On a recent hunt, I met up with a buddy in Alaska. It was his ﬁrst trip to the Last Frontier, so he wasn’t sure what to fully expect. He cracked open his gun case and inside were six knives, including one with a heavy, 12-inch-long blade and a ball compass on top. I laughed. He didn’t. “What are you doing?” I quizzed. “I didn’t know what knife to bring, so I brought a bunch,” he smirked.
We were going on a grizzly and black bear hunt across open tundra. About the only thing we needed a knife for was carrying out routine tasks, and to skin and butcher any bear we killed. In my opinion, a person needs only one knife for those tasks.
As with all ﬂy-in hunts to remote drop camps, weight is a concern with bush plane pilots. With strict weight limitations, and given the fact we were going to be gone for over a week, I wanted to take all the weight we could in food, clothes and essential gear, not knives we’d never use. When my buddy asked what knives I was taking, I held up one, a 3-inch-bladed Kershaw knife, speciﬁcally their Skyline model. “No, really, what knives are you bringing?” he asked again.
“Oh, I forgot this,” I smiled, holding up a compact sharpening steel. I explained how all skinning, ﬁeld dressing, caping and deboning can be done with one knife, and that it doesn’t have to be big. I’ve broken down numerous deer, elk, bear and African game with a 2-inch blade, and many with a 3-inch blade. Using bigger blades than that is ﬁne, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, but if you’re just embarking upon the world of hunting, big, bulky knives aren’t necessary.
This year marks my 40th year of big game hunting, and I’ve always kept things simple with my knife choices. You look for a knife that ﬁts your hand, keeps an edge, and is constructed with a handle that won’t slip when covered in blood, fat or water.
I know many hunters who take their personal-carry knives aﬁeld, and that’s great if that’s what they like. Some folks prefer ﬁxed blades over folding knives, and vice versa. Personally, I like a ﬁxed-blade knife with a handle that’s easy to clean of dried blood and gut content.
A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR when choosing a hunting knife is getting one with quality steel that’s easy to attain an edge on. While softer blades may dull more easily than hard steel, they are easier to regain an edge on when in the ﬁeld. Knowing the anatomy of the animal you’re breaking down, and using the knife to cut, not saw or force through bones, will help in maintaining an edge on your knife. All cuts are easy to make and should not be forced, especially through joints and cartilage.
Animal fat can quickly dull a knife, which is why it’s critical to have a quality steel to easily hone that knife. At the same time, cutting through cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be tough on knives, making quality steel even more important. Having a blade you can hone in the ﬁeld – one that reacts to a good steel – is important in regaining that edge in order to continue safely and efficiently breaking down an animal.
While it’s occasionally unavoidable, try to refrain from cutting through hair and into dirt. Sometimes big animals like elk, moose and bear are impossible to move around by yourself, meaning a cut may slice through skin and hit dirt, which dulls a knife. When cutting the hide, do so from the skin side, not down through the hair. To do this, make a small hole where the cut will begin, then get the blade inside the skin, cutting upwards through the hide. This will help keep an edge and should allow you to get through multiple animals before having to sharpen your knife again.
When your knife does become dull in the ﬁeld, sharpen it right away, for a dull knife leads to bad cutting techniques, and that’s how accidents happen. When hunting, I rely on two simple yet very effective sharpeners. In my daypack, I’ll take one sharpening steel aﬁeld to touch up the knife while breaking down animals. My favorite is Kershaw’s Ultra-Tek blade sharpener, a 600-grit oval steel that’s very lightweight and works wonderfully in quickly regaining an edge. When back in camp, if I need to further sharpen the knife, I’ll use a whetstone or a Work Sharp guided ﬁeld sharpener.
Rarely do I take a compact folding saw aﬁeld when deer hunting, for a deer’s skull – the only part of an animal I use a saw on – isn’t so heavy that it needs to be split, like moose, caribou and elk do. When quartering big game in the ﬁeld, I don’t use a saw to split the pelvis or remove the legs, neck or ribs – that’s all done with a knife.
ONE WORD OF CAUTION when embarking on a big game hunt where you’ll be breaking down an animal in the ﬁeld, and that’s to be aware of the state’s recovery laws. Most states require a proof of sex to accompany the meat from the ﬁeld to camp or home. This is usually best retained by keeping the genitals attached to one hindquarter, and/or bringing the head of the animal out. When bringing the head out, if sawing off the antlers to cut down on weight you’re packing out, cuts are often required to be made below the eyes, so the eyes are intact. Some states require the meat to stay attached to leg bones, too, meaning complete boning out of meat while in the ﬁeld may not be legal.
If you will be transporting game heads across state lines, know that multiple states require the brain to be removed from the skull. This means you’ll need a saw to cut through the brain cavity, so be prepared. Prior to heading aﬁeld, make sure you know the meat recovery and transport laws of the state you’ll be hunting in.
Find a knife that works for you and familiarize yourself with how it handles. Practice at home, rubbing fat and blood on the handle and getting it wet to see how it performs. Once you know what a knife is capable of, as well as the anatomy of an animal and how to disarticulate its joints and muscles, you’ll see why a simple blade is all that’s really necessary. ASJ
Editor’s note: For copies of Scott Haugen’s comprehensive DVD, Field Dressing, Skinning & Caping Big Game, send a check for $20.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This, along with his many books, can be ordered online at scotthaugen.com.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]F[/su_dropcap]or those who’ve attended or read about the SHOT Show for the past 15 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the American military has had an increasing positive effect on the shooting sports, especially hunting. This welcome development is nothing short of phenomenal, and it becomes more evident with each passing year.
I make my living as a hunter, TV host, writer and speaker, so it’s been intriguing and inspiring to watch the inﬂuence of our country’s armed forces transition into every facet of the world I love so much. Take equipment, for example. Many hunters took their ﬁrst deer with a government-issued .30-caliber riﬂe, one that may have been their dad’s or granddad’s. Today, the hunting riﬂe and optics world is dominated by military representation, and Trijicon scopes are a testimony to this.
It’s been more than 10 years since Trijicon entered the hunting world, and a television show I hosted was the ﬁrst one they sponsored. I later went on to host and produce Trijicon’s The Hunt, which currently airs on Amazon Prime and in more than 40 countries. Even though Trijicon has become well known to hunters, not everyone is aware that the company had made quality riﬂescopes and sights for military and law enforcement use for more than 15 years.
Guns are another example. Some old school hunters didn’t like it when ARs entered the hunting world, but as people became more educated on what ARs were, the literal translation of what an AR platform riﬂe is and how they worked, they quickly gained traction. First, predator, varmint and hog hunters used them, now they’re popular with many deer hunters.
Accessories that go with guns and hunting have also evolved, having been deeply rooted in America’s military history. Knives, ﬂashlights, survival kits, boots, packs, navigation devices, even clothes, have stemmed from our military. Not long ago I was in Alaska’s Arctic with my son. For lunch one day we broke out some MREs, and although any current or former member of the military would know these as a ﬁeld ration or “Meal, Ready to Eat,” it was something he’d never had. He’s 14 years old and loved it, and was intrigued when I shared stories of how this is what many military men and women survived on. MREs have come a long way, or so I’m told, but it’s just one more example of our military having an inﬂuence on hunting and the outdoors.
The very ﬁrst riﬂe sling I had was one given to me from my grandfather, from when he served our country. It was an old leather sling with multiple holes for length adjustment. The sling was an inch wide and tough as nails, and it is still one of my favorites.
Not only has military-designed gear had a visible impact on hunting, but on shooting form as well. For decades hunters went aﬁeld with their riﬂes, maybe a pack, but that was it. When it came time to take a shot, it was usually done standing, off-hand. If a tree was close, the hunter might try to lean on it to get steady. Or, if the grass wasn’t too high, the hunter might lay down in order to attain a stable shot.
Then bipods, shooting sticks and shooting bags made their way into the hunting world, thanks again to our military. Attaching a bipod to a riﬂe was something I’d never heard of or seen while growing up hunting in the 1960s and ’70s. Like all things “new,” they came
into the hunting world, but many hunters from previous generations wouldn’t use these shooting aids, which is unfortunate.
Last fall I was in deer camp in Wyoming. It was public ground and the sagebrush-studded hills were full of hunters. What amazed me was not the number of shots I heard during the ﬁrst two days of the season, but how many people I talked to headed back to camp, transporting deer that had been shot in the leg, face, guts and everywhere bullets shouldn’t hit. None of them had used shooting aids.
One hunter in our camp, an older, retired man, missed nine shots at three different bucks. When I asked him why he doesn’t use a bipod or shooting stick, he replied, “Never have, don’t need one.” “No, obviously you do!” I insisted. I took him aside, showed him how to work my Bog Pod tripod shooting stick, and told him to take it. He killed a buck with his next shot.
Many of our armed forces pride themselves on shooting accuracy, and more and more hunters are starting to do the same. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow hunters and the animals we pursue to deliver quick, clean shots.
For people like me who make a living hunting, we can’t afford misses. Every miss costs time and money for everyone involved on the hunt, from myself to camera crews, outﬁtters, producers, editors and even networks. There’s pressure to hit the mark, which is why, for the past several years, all of my shots have come off a shooting stick, a bipod mounted to my gun, or shooting bags.
A couple seasons ago I took my ﬁrst buck with a longrange riﬂe, what my dad and his friends, in their late 70s and 80s, refer to as a “sniper riﬂe.” Now, the gun wasn’t really a sniper riﬂe, but the $4,000 scope I had atop it was designed for snipers, and the sturdy bipod and shooting bags I relied on were used primarily by tactical shooters. I devoted many hours of practice to shooting that riﬂe from a prone position, learning about everything related to long-range shooting. I was able to connect on a nice buck at 960 yards while ﬁlming for a TV show.
Today, we see more hunters shooting from prone positions using shooting aids on television, in magazines, and on the Internet. Why? Because it’s more accurate, that’s why. Think about it. We wait all year for hunting season, then spend days, even weeks aﬁeld, and yet our success or failure often comes down to a single shot. It only makes sense to make that one shot as accurate as possible.
Many hunters who spend time in the dense deer woods, stalking with shotguns and open-sight riﬂes are now carrying their guns differently, thanks to the inﬂuence of the military and armed forces. Gone are the days when hunters trudged through thick brush, gun slung over their shoulder, and then quickly forcing it into a shaky shooting position when a buck pops up.
These days, guns are more frequently carried in a semi-shooting position, butt held above the shoulder, one hand on the stock, the other on the forestock. This allows a shot to be taken in a fraction of the time of the other hold, something that’s not only applicable in some deer hunting situations but when tracking dangerous game or wounded animals anywhere in the world.
Last but not least, the discipline and hard work that our special forces are built on has entered the hunting world. Physical training and dedicated shooting practice has never been so prevalent, and our military is largely to thank.
I’ve never served in the military, but have many relatives and friends who have. My great uncle was a paratrooper who jumped on the beaches at Normandy and served on the front lines. I couldn’t get enough of his stories while growing up.
To the men and women who’ve served our country over the years, and continue to serve, I thank you. You help keep America free, and great. Your efforts and dedication
have prevailed in upholding our Constitution and Second Amendment rights, and for that, all hunters in the United States should thank you. Keep up the great work, and may God bless you and your families. ASJ
Editor’s note: Scott Haugen has been a full-time writer for 15 years. To see instructional videos on shooting, hunting and more, visit his new website, OutdoorsNow.com.
Known for big mule deer, Sonora also has solid numbers of Coues whitetails. They’re not as big as bucks to the north, but if you’re looking to double-up with a muley, this is a good option. Hunting is by spot and stalk, and flat ground is covered by driving in high-rack trucks.
(Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Oregon)
Colorado is kicking out some monster muleys, but many are on private lands or require a lot of points to draw. Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Idaho offer multiple options with over-the-counter tags in some regions. Oregon and Southwest states that produce big bucks also require tags to be drawn.
Idaho is tops when talking big Western whitetails and lots of them. The northern half
of the state has loads of bucks, as do neighboring Montana and Wyoming. Eastern Washington and northeast Oregon are also producing great whitetails each year.
Columbian whitetails and Columbian blacktails can both be hunted in Oregon’s Umpqua River Valley (but not at the same time), near the town of Roseburg. Whitetail tags are on a draw or landowner preference ticket, while blacktail tags can be acquired over the counter.
Kodiak Island is tops when talking Sitka blacktails. Being dropped at spike camp is an option, as is hiring a transporter who will shuttle you around by boat. I like the latter, so new ground can be covered each day.
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: Alaska, Colorado, Columbian Double, Deer, Destination, Hunting, Idaho, Mexico, Montana, Mule Deer Options, Oregon, Scott Haugen, Sitka Blacktails, Sonoran Coues, Sonoran Mule Deer, Washington, Western Whitetails, Wyoming
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”3″]I[/su_dropcap]t began as a vision that, on paper, looked good. Some of the deer tags I held going into the season were highly prized; others were picked up over the counter. Once hunting season opened, I knew this was my best chance to secure a North American deer slam in a single season, something I heard had never been done.
When plans were finalized to hunt a Columbian whitetail, a rare Northwest deer species, in my home state of Oregon, I knew it would likely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was my first hunt of the season, and I wanted a good buck. Three days into the hunt, a short stalk found me in a perfect place waiting for a nice buck to move my way. Finally, as the deer slithered through tall grass, a shot opportunity opened up. When the 4×4 buckled, a lifetime dream came true.
Later in October, I was in the northwest corner of South Dakota bowhunting mule deer. On Halloween morning, the mercury registered 9 degrees. As soon as the sun started to shine on the clay-like mud, a lone buck worked its way up against a cut bank and bedded. Two hours later I was within 17 yards of him. The shot hit the mark and the 29-inch, four-point went only a short distance.
A few days later I was back in my home state, hunting Columbian blacktails on a special draw tag. Unfortunately, I only had a couple days and on day two, I had my four-year-old son, Kazden, by my side. More than anything he wanted to skin a deer with his new knife. I’ve been fortunate to take a number of record-book blacktails, so I told Kazden that the first legal buck we saw, we’d take. It was only a spike, but Kazden got to be a part of the whole hunt and even skinned the entire deer by himself, which made it the most gratifying hunt of the season.
Prior to Thanksgiving I was on the road to Idaho in search of western whitetails. Working the rugged ridges in the Clearwater region, I saw a good buck atop a shale slide. Given the buck’s position there was no way of inching closer. At 340 yards, the bullet found its mark dropping the 5×5 buck.
Early in December I was on Kodiak Island, chasing Sitka blacktails. While setting up to rattle everything felt good. The synthetic bag blasted high-pitched sounds into the heavy air and a buck responded. When it first emerged from the thick brush I knew it was big, but when it turned sideways I saw it was a great buck.
A perfect 4×4 with eye guards, his heavy and dark rack commanded my attention as he moved through the gently falling snow. When he turned broadside I stopped him with a mouth grunt and the .300 Winchester Magnum roared. The record-class buck was a true Sitka blacktail of a lifetime.
January found me in Mexico, hunting Sonora for prized Coues whitetail deer. The conditions were tough as a record-setting, two-week cold spell put bucks in the brush. The rut was also delayed and over the course of a few days, I only saw one. Just as I got set to shoot, the buck bolted. My guide, Jeremy Toman, and I pushed on and found the buck standing next to a doe. Soon the shot was on its way, hitting the mark. Approaching the downed deer, he turned out to be even bigger than I thought.
A couple days later a hunt for desert mule deer in Sonora was underway. A pair of battling muleys caught our eyes. We could see one was pushing 30 inches wide, but he had some broken tines. The buck he fought, however, was high and heavy, and as he cleared, I let him have it.
At season’s onset, attaining a single-season deer slam seemed a stretch. But by taking it one hunt at a time, I was fortunate to experience a dream season.
Simply having the opportunity to spend time in some of North America’s greatest deer habitat is all I really asked for; everything else was just a bonus. ASJ
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s book, Trophy Blacktails: The Science Of The Hunt, you can visit his website at scotthaugen.com.
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]I[/su_dropcap] sat back inquisitively, watching in amazement as Howard Meyer of Chipewa Kennels and dog trainer, handled his dogs with utmost patience. “C’mon, Violet, get in, get in here,” Meyer encouraged in a soft voice. Sure enough, Violet waded into the water and got into the canoe on her own. As Meyer began paddling across the small river, two other adult dogs followed, swimming by his side. Two pups, eight-month-old brothers, hesitated at first, but their anticipation mounted the further away Meyer and the other dogs got.
“C’mon, hop in … C’mon,” Meyer kept enticing the pups in his calm voice as he and the other dogs continued paddling. Soon both pups were having their first swimming session, part of the training Meyer initiates in the spring and throughout the summer.
“The key is not to force them, but make it fun,” smiled Meyer as he pulled the canoe ashore. The training session lasted nearly two hours, and all five dogs did great, even the pups. During that time, Meyer didn’t raise his voice once.
Now is the time to be training your dog for the upcoming hunting season. As is the case with hunters, dogs need to be in shape for the hunt too, and just because summer days are hot doesn’t mean dog training should be delayed.
Good training starts with clear communication. Meyer, who I’ve been working with over the past year, has been training dogs for over 40 years. For 25 years he was a professor of animal breeding and genetics at Oregon State University, and watching him patiently work his dogs is something to behold. His willingness to help me, a first-time hunting dog owner, speaks a lot of what kind of man he is. His eagerness and dedication is addicting, and his passion to see dogs succeed is admirable.
“The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize you don’t need to holler at a dog to get it to do something,” shares Meyer. “They just need to know what you’re expecting of them. If they don’t respond the way I want them to, it’s likely due to miscommunication on my part.”
I’ve been on several training sessions with Meyer and never once heard him raise his voice towards a dog. They always respond to him no matter their breed or age. Patience and keeping it fun and positive are key elements of Meyer’s training foundation, and a good starting point for all dog owners looking to build a better dog.
Swimming is one of the best ways to get a dog in shape so they don’t overheat.
Meyer regularly swims his dogs all summer long. “Swimming is one of the best ways to get a dog in shape this time of year so they don’t overheat,” he notes. “You can’t get this kind of conditioning by repeatedly tossing a bumper into the water. In fact, when I’m training with a bumper, I’ll only toss it in four or five times – that’s it.”
Meyers’ swim training usually lasts a couple of hours. He’ll paddle the canoe to one shore, let the dogs get out to play and warm up, then do it again … and again … and again. He ends every training session on a positive note, with the dogs wanting more and this includes swimming.
Jess Spradley, trainer and owner of Cabin Creek Gundogs, offered this advice when asked about summer training tips: “Get the dog’s feet in shape. Just like a human’s, a dog’s
feet have to be in good condition for the hunt.”
Spradley’s favorite training surface is gravel followed by pavement. This time of year, do it early or late in the day when temperatures aren’t overly hot. Be sure to have plenty of water for the dog to drink. Shaving their coat this time of year will also help keep them cool, as will pouring water over them during training sessions.
“Don’t mix play and work,” Meyer advised me. “When training a dog for the hunt, make sure they know it. When playing with them for fun, make sure they know the difference. Don’t use training bumpers as fun toys or vice versa.”
Spradley points out that pointing breeds need to be regularly exercised, while Labs are happy with a stroll down the street. Spradley prefers to train dogs that have been exposed to at least one season of hunting and were taught basic guidelines by their owner. “When they bring a dog to me, I ask what they’ve done and they often say, ‘Nothing; we didn’t want to screw it up.’ That’s valid, but not a good idea as the pup’s gotta learn some basic guidelines in order to achieve a higher level of training.”
This summer, make time to start building a good hunting dog. Practice patience, clearly communicate your expectations and make it fun for your dog. When those elements are solid, everything else will fall into place. ASJ
Author’s note: You can visit Howard Meyer with Chipewa Kennels at chippewa-gsp.com, and Jess Spradley with Cabin Creek Gun Dogs at cabincreekgundogs.com. For amazing Pudelpointer’s visit talltimberpudelpointers.com.
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: Cabin Creek Gun Dogs, Chipewa Kennels, Dog trainer, Gun dogs, Howard Meyer, hunting dogs, Jess Spradley, Oregon State University, Pudelpointers, Scott Haugen, Tall Timber Pudelpointers, training