LABH Blog: You Gotta Start Somewhere

Sitting here this afternoon mid-October, 25’ up in a tree in a lock-on deer stand, I am thinking about how far I have come in all aspects of hunting and bow hunting.  For the most part without a teacher, mostly trial and error other than what I can glean from the experts I gravitate to.  I have come a long way, the hard way – from becoming an expert with my bow to reading the woods and signs and stand placement and scent control and, as important as anything, to be able to tolerate being more than 8 or 10 feet high.  Judging from the times I get busted as one measure of my progress I know I have yet a long way to go!

The stand height is clearly a big deal but so are the other aspects.  Seems like every serious bow hunter I know of considers 25’ to be the minimum for both concealment and scent control and even at that, a fat old doe will see you in a flash if not concealed in cover. Just this morning I was hunting an old 15’ ladder that was in the wrong place and that I moved this summer but did not know how it would look in the fall.  It was primarily a gun stand but I wanted to set it up so you could actually bow hunt out if it.  Only reason I hunted it was that it was quick and easy to find in the dark and I did not want to disturb the woods in the pre-dawn darkness going into my lock on which went through prime deer feeding area. So I sat and proceeded to have 3 groups of deer get on top of me including a 8 point inside of 15 yards and I could not manage a shot. I was in the thick canopy with no lanes and completely open on one side and a tangle of vines on the other. Couldn’t move for fear of being seen and the ladder did not facilitate turning and shooting behind the tree – 15’ felt like eye level.   In fact the vines and twigs actually got caught up in my cam when I was trying to draw on the buck, preventing the cam from rotating. The deer was standing there not ten yards away broadside unaware but it was not to be. So here was one more thing in a long list of things to consider. As I consider all the mistakes I have made over 30+years bow hunting I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I read a guys comment saying we try to get ‘less bad’, that there are no great bow hunters, only ‘less bad’ ones… this resonates perfect with me!  Some day I may make a long list of all the mistakes I have made. I’m sure I remember each of them!!   I imagine I am in pretty good albeit quiet company – my guess is that for every skilled and accomplished bow hunter posting pics on Louisiana Bowhunter of mature bucks killed there are 100, maybe 500 of us, who are still trying to figure it out, and that’s OK!  That’s a big part of the appeal and pleasure of it!

Bow hunting has not been a year round obsession and passion for me except for this last year or two when I had the desire and time to devote to getting better. I have gone 5 or 10 yrs at a time without even hunting as we concentrated during one period of time for one example on scuba diving and fishing and spear fishing on our Hatteras in the gulf year round. But bow hunting has taken hold of me now and I am craving skill and experience and success and enjoying the pursuit immensely.   I will share some thoughts on the similarities between spearfishing the oil rigs in the gulf and bow and arrow hunting deer soon….very similar and equally thrilling!

I remember my first mistake and it is still gut wrenching to think about. It may have been about my first bow hunting experience. Jackson and I had joined a cruddy little hunting club right before the season started, maybe it was a couple of hundred to join. This was the kind of club where in the rare case when somebody actually killed something, the 12 or 15 members would all join in the cleaning and divvy up the deer, each member (including the hunter) getting a tiny chunk of deer meat to take home.  The club had a few stands anyone could get in. The president took me to a spot he felt really good about. It was one of those ‘board in the fork of a live oak’ type stands about 10’ high with a couple of spikes in the tree. He showed me where he had smeared peanut butter on a log about 20’ in front of the tree and explained how much the deer loved peanut butter.  Of course I lapped up this cheap talk and had enthusiastic visions of what was about to happen.  Well on my first bow hunt I get up the tree and am sitting there admiring the view and imagining a fatty coming by to lick the peanut butter. Literally not 5 min into the hunt I hear a sound, a nice fat spike was coming up right behind me easing along. Right behind me, then under me, then right in front. Only problem was I had not nocked an arrow nor put on my release and there was zero cover between me and the deer. Of course the deer never paid a lick of attention to the peanut butter and eased right on out of my world. I was sick and I was only barely getting started.  I was (and still am) destined to be sick a lot over things ‘not to be’.

The thought about bow hunting we had when I was getting started was that it extended the deer (meaning doe) season. We planned out our hunting times around when the ‘doe days’ were, maybe there were 6 or so of them?  Now with does available for most of the whole Oct-Jan time period it was on!  Remember it was a different world 30 years ago.   Seems ancient in comparison to now – this was before the PC was invented, or the internet, or email or cell phones or smart phones, or digital cameras let alone game cameras, or electronic maps, or outfitters or TV hunting shows or personalities, or managed ranches or high fences or QDM, or scent free soap/detergent/clothes, or the general pre-occupation with antlers.  32gb SIM cards for $40 were not even a gleam in the distance – would have been unthinkable a few years ago.  There were no skilled young hunters like we see today, making use of vast amounts of technology and the instantly available collective experience of thousands and thousands of hunters.  There were very few deer in comparison to today.  People generally believed spikes were inferior deer with bad genes and should be shot on sight as a service.  It seems hard to imagine I know.

We had little interest in bucks and didn’t think they were in the cards for us but the chance to shoot some does which were comparatively plentiful seemed really appealing and more realistic. In fact it has only been until recently that, when it came to bow hunting, it was not ‘shoot the first legal deer you see’. Killing one with a bow, as casual-at-best bow hunters with mediocre skills, hunting with little scouting on the kinds of varied properties we have hunted where you have limited access, has always seemed like a monumental accomplishment and does were more than good enough.   There is still nothing easy under the conditions we hunt, about killing a fat old doe with a bow – maybe for some but not for everybody.  Fatness (or body size) was the virtue we were impressed with, not antlers.  We wanted to be able to enjoy the fruits of the labor on the table!

Generally we believed the only ones who ever killed mature bucks did so by pure dumb luck – certainly not an intentional thing. Like the guy riding his 4-wheeler and noticed one standing in the woods, or the guy standing up in his ladder smoking a cigarette and a jumbo happens by. Or the guy who gets down out of his box stand to relieve himself and here comes the big rack, etc.  We literally did not know a soul who understood, appreciated and targeted only mature bucks back then, as is common today – I think what we see today is a relatively new phenomenon. 

But back to the beginning – 

My main hunting partner before Jackson had always been my brother Scott.   We were intrigued by the prospect of bow hunting since it seriously lengthened the season. So we would do it!  Only problem was I had just closed a business and had no job and no money for a bow. Scott stepped up and said ‘I got this!’   We went and picked out the most basic entry-level Bear bow they made and a few aluminum arrows. About $100 and we started trying to figure out how to shoot; which was no small feat. In those days bows, peeps, pins, arrows, releases, everything was crude by comparison to today. There were no real shops or ranges to learn in.  We managed to improve I think. Even if we couldn’t hit the bullseye we’d agree, “That would be a dead deer.” Heard that before?  Famous last words of guys destined to wound a lot of deer.   I can’t imagine a serious bow hunter today who would be satisfied if his best shooting from 20 yards was 6” groups.

In those days it was mostly public wildlife management areas like Sherburne. (Spelling and pronunciation varies based on your geographic origin) So the first climbing tree stand I invested in was a first generation API steel contraption. This thing was so unsteady and I was so afraid of heights that once I started getting up about 8 ft I’m thinking ‘this looks good’. Scott, who was a lineman for the cable company and was up and down poles all day, would get up 20’ in his climber. That looked impossible to me. My thought was that I was gonna have to figure out how to kill them without getting anything like that high.   If I saw a deer trail I would get about 8’ up in a tree right smack on the trail to give me a nice close 5-10 yd shot…….once in a while I actually saw one, or more accurately, saw the butt-end white-flagging of one.   (It was not until the last couple years when I began using my modern Muddy safety harness, in combination with either sticks and lock-ons or the Aluma-lite by Ole-Man that I got comfortable much higher up and it has made all the difference).

So with my bow and loud, squeaky and heavy climber, into the woods I’d go. Not a thought about scent control.  I’d pick a tree based on whatever under standing I had at the time of deer behavior and for the most part wouldn’t see a thing. Meantime brother being up 20’ with better skills was seeing deer, and shooting at them, but missing them left and right.. Among the many problems looking back was that we never practiced from an elevated position and we knew little if anything about tuning Thunderhead broadheads and our mostly seriously imperfect aluminum arrows. We had so much to learn.

One of the things that has helped me get the most out of my life is not being afraid to be a beginner. If you are going to learn anything new you are not going to come out of the blocks with fully formed and mature skills. You are going to be a beginner, clumsy and confused and over whelmed and self conscious – I’ve been all of those things many times. Want to learn how to play golf well?  Get ready for a humbling.  Likewise snow skiing, or any other serious but wonderful endeavor.  Being compulsive and competitive I have craved getting better and breathing the rare air with the guys I saw who were at the top – whether deer hunting with bow or otherwise, or snow skiing, or tennis or golf, or scuba diving and spear fishing, or cooking or vegetable gardening or a million other pursuits, as I like just about everything on the buffet of Life Experiences.  I start as a beginner and suffer through the myriad of beginner mistakes and with insane intensity learn fast and achieve a reasonable level of skill and expertise.   I am drawn to the people at the top of whatever I am trying to learn and for a season I feel really outclassed like all these seasoned bowhunters posting their pics on Louisiana Bowhunter.  I soak up information and work as hard at it as anybody, day and night, and pretty soon, considering where I came from, usually can achieve some success.   This comparatively small buck I shot this year on Oct 3 was years in the planning and literally no telling how many thousands of hours of prep and practice went into getting ready for him to appear, and when he did I pulled off the shot in spite of massive heart palpitations, and it was the greatest hunting thrill to date for me.

Bow hunting is a formidable, humbling undertaking particularly when you start passing does and yearlings and trying to set up on and wait for bucks – I bet I have been blown at 50 times this year by mature bucks and old does, over and over, but at least I am getting in close proximity.  In one hole, they had blown me so many times in my lock on, they would not even approach without wind checking me, so I hung a second stand on the opposite side of the hole leaving the first one in place, trying to trick them – well they got down wind of me in the new stand the first time I hunted it and I got blown three times that afternoon.  So it goes.  One thing for sure I have learned – to scout pressured property you do not own, trying to identify deer patterns with ‘hurry-up’ scouting and set up on them and hunt and kill mature bucks with a bow requires immense skills and dedication over many years.  These guys that do it do not rely on luck and I want to be like them. I love the challenge of getting better!    But I also love hanging out for hours and hours in the trees enjoying my thoughts and imagination and relishing all you see and hear – so if nothing happens I could not be happier.   I know my time is coming and I am happy learning and adjusting and growing in skill and experience, the long, slow, hard way.  And, like I heard said, I am learning to consider it a successful hunt if I do not get blown at.

 

  • Mark A. Wilson, Baton Rouge, LA

LABH Blog: Lost and Found

Everybody who has hunted any length of time has unforgettable memories and stories seared into their mind and heart.  Maybe these experiences were in the duck blind or deer camp, and maybe with loved ones now gone from view.

A few years after that ‘inauspicious’ introduction to deer hunting described in last weeks blog entry, Jackson and I had learned quite a lot about deer hunting, and had matured into Louisiana Bowhunters. We had taken a number of mature bucks as we grew in skill and experience.

Even as a very young guy Jackson had a gift for killing mature deer. ‘What you learn early you learn best’, right?  We attributed it to beginners luck the first few years, telling him he didn’t yet have that “grown man stink”.  We told him ‘he still smelled sweet like a young boy’!  As you can imagine he loved hearing that.   

By the time he was about 14 he was in full competition with me about everything, not just hunting.  It was the classic way a young buck harasses the big 8 point, constantly needing to prove himself equal if not better.   At 14 Jackson knew everything about everything and certainly didn’t want or need any further instruction from me, thank you very much! So this was all a little amusing if not irritating and sets the stage for the most memorable and intense experience I have ever had in the woods.

Jackson and I arrived mid-afternoon for a long weekend at our family property and camp near Angie, LA.  We quickly scooted into the woods as you do to check for deer sign under the white oaks and pick our trees and place our climbing stands.  He picked his tree and we walked another 400 yards and I picked a spot and put my climber on the tree, so we could sneak in quiet in the morning.

We loved to get into the woods and up the tree well before first light, to let the woods settle.  So we got an early start the next morning.  We walked together to the place where we would separate, Jackson going his way and me the other. We said our goodbyes and wished each other good luck and each went into stealth mode.  I had at least 400 yds to walk along an overgrown logging road and crept along very slowly in the pitch black as quiet as I could be.  I didn’t care if it took 30 minutes to cover the distance, I did not want to crack a branch and alert the deer of my entrance into their woods.  I got to my tree and as slowly and quietly as I could possibly move, I ratcheted up the tree.   Finally I got up and settled into the blackness. I felt like I had gotten in as quietly as possible.  Ahhhh… all was calm, all was quiet, my favorite time of the morning.

All of a sudden, the black silence was shattered… from a distance I heard Jackson’s faint voice, ”DADDY!!! HELP!!!”  My heart stopped.  To this day the memory of this shatters me.   In those same woods where I had just methodically crept along, silently avoiding even crunching a dry leaf, I stood up and leaned his way and screamed into the blackness, hoping he could hear me….”JACKSON!!! I’M COMING!!!”

I flew down the tree without regard for anything but getting my feet on the ground and managed not to kill myself.  I turned on a light and took off bounding.  I can still remember how scared I felt.  I’d stop every few feet and scream, “JACKSON I’M COMING!!!”  I couldn’t imagine what had happened but I knew it wasn’t good.   I assumed he had fallen out of the tree.  Half way to him I stopped and screamed, “JACKSON!”  He screamed back, “DADDY!”   I could now zero in on the sound.

Finally I got close and then got to him.  Jackson was standing in the middle of a thicket turned around and lost.  That panic, that can and does happen to any of us when we get sure enough lost in the woods, had gotten in his mind.  I grabbed him so relieved he was ok. He was embarrassed as he told me he had lost his way and had gotten turned around and couldn’t find his tree.  “No problem Jackson. Thank you for calling for me, so happy you called for me Jackson” – those words didn’t even begin to convey how grateful I was that he would call on me like that in his time of distress, and that I could be there for him.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming Daddy”,  he said, a little sheepish.  Being vulnerable and needing me like that was definitely not part of his teenage persona of false bravado and emerging independence.

(That word “daddy” is such a powerful word to me….having lost my dad early and traumatically, I could barely utter the word, it would get stuck in my throat.  When Jackson would call me “daddy” it would thrill me and for a moment the grief that was always present in me would be diminished and I would feel full and happy and blessed.)

Together we found his tree and I watched him ratchet up as first light was ascending.  All was well.  We said our goodbyes again and so I headed back towards my stand.  However, this time I went without any regard for stealth or silence, plus it was plenty light.  I just clomped through the woods aware something big had just happened and that I would not be the same from this point forward.

I got back up my tree, sweating. Then the tears and snot came as I considered how happy I was, how moved, how relieved, and what a big deal it was to be called on by Jackson, to be able to answer the call, and to share that moment of trust and vulnerability and intimacy.  There is no way Jackson could know then or now what it meant to me to hear that scream and to be able to be there for him.  He couldn’t know how far and wide I would go for him.   He blessed me and honored me in ways I am sure he cannot comprehend.   The feelings I sat there with in that tree considering all this were overwhelming to me and remain so to this day.

Though not a religious man, the metaphor of Father and Son, and God and His Creation, was not lost on me and as I sat in the tree. I considered was it possible that God felt just as happy to be called on by us, His Creation, in our distress, as I had when my son called on me?  Who was the more blessed, the father or the son?  Both equally?  In that moment, alone in the tree, I understood these things, and more. Doors opened for me. There have been a few times in my life where I have been lost in the brambles, calling out,’Help me, I’m Lost!’  I think I understand more now about how the Creator responds to our distress.

Hunting and Fishing has provided Jackson and I a context, a setting, an opportunity of time and place to experience and know each other, and the natural world. To learn respect and reverence and balance, and observe the perfection in all things.  You  just never know how things are going to go.  By some miraculous twist of fate it turns out we both got deer that morning.  I don’t know how, as we had surely lit up the woods, but you truly never know.

 

 

Mark A. Wilson    Baton Rouge, LA

 

 

 

LABH Blog: Late Bloomer

Each of us travels our own distinct path in becoming Louisiana Bowhunters, some more direct paths than others.  This is my path, and the beginning of my story as a bow hunter.

Born in Bogalusa, LA and raised in the 60’s, what little hunting we did was on a piece of family property in the Pearl River swamp.  Decades of over-hunting left very few deer and I was thrilled growing up if we killed a squirrel or a rabbit.  A deer seemed mythical and unimaginable.  Around that time, the LWLF imported a good number of re-stocking deer from Wisconsin and they, along with the local deer, have since made a great comeback as conservation measures took hold.

Once in a while the men would organize a dog hunt. They would line us up on the trail surrounding a big section of woods, a few hundred yards apart, and the dog driver would work through the property and hopefully run a deer on top of somebody.  Usually I recall a deer getting shot at 10 times or more by every one of the standers as they all took ‘hail mary’ shots at the deer running wide open through the woods.  So this was my experience of deer hunting growing up.  Futile!   And not very sexy, certainly not very stealthy and not much skill involved.  I can’t remember ever eating a piece of deer meat growing up.

I did very little hunting of any form until about 1990. I was about 36 and my son Jackson had come along. He was 6 or so.  He started pestering me to go deer hunting and with him it suddenly sounded like a great idea!  (He also wanted to go duck hunting, and we knew as much about ducks as deer, but that is a story for another day).   I mean ‘how hard can it be, really’?   I bought my first rifle, a Remington Woodsmaster 30-06 package deal for $500 on the no-interest-time-payment plan from that beautiful old Steinberg’s Sporting Goods in downtown Baton Rouge.  (A few years earlier they had let me put my homemade cypress display on the counter with my very own homemade spinner baits…the ‘Bayou Bigshot’).  Wonder how many remember Steinberg’s… like a museum store before its time, with those wood plank floors.

So off Jackson and I go deer hunting knowing less than nothing about what to do and how to do it.  We were just going to ‘figure it out’.  How hard could it be?

Our first deer hunting experience was this – on that same family property in the Pearl River Swamp, we headed out early one morning loaded down with gear and supplies to a ‘community’ homemade box stand sitting in the now famous ‘90 degree bend under the big white oak’ with intention to stay until we got one, I mean, ‘how hard can it be?’ I had Jackson wrapped up in a big comforter nestled in beside me.  I would bribe him with chunks of a Snickers bar.” Quiet Jackson. Sit still 3 more minutes and you’ll get some more Snickers!’  About every ten minutes I’d give him a piece of snickers and non-stop pleading with him to sit still and quiet.  Meantime I had a thermos of coffee, my Marlboro’s, I’m sure my own supply of Snickers.  I’d drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and every now and again, stand up in the box stand and pee over the side 15’ down.   I didn’t see any problem with that, right?   Human scent control?  That would’ve sounded like Arabic to me back then.

So this is our rather inauspicious beginnings as deer hunters…….smoking, drinking, squirming, peeing, laughing and jabbering, snacking on Snickers.  Oh and about high noon after 6 hours of this, I see three deer sneak across the trail…. bloop, bloop, bloop….. so, I jump down like a fireman out of the box stand with my rifle tearing down the trail, and think ‘I can run down to where they crossed and get a shot’.  NOT! I felt foolish, like a cartoon character, and defeated, and like maybe this was not going to be our game.

It’s a wonder guys like us ever killed anything. Most guys like us would’ve given it up right after that first trip.  It seemed to me that 95% of the deer were getting killed by 5% of the hunters and I couldn’t see any way we would ever get one.

But fortune smiled. We moved to a new house and our neighbor (Steve Clary) was one of the greatest deer hunters and woodsmen in Louisiana, if not the world.  In those years he was insane for deer hunting.   I saw him eyeballing my tractor and implements, and we quickly made a deal for me to work the land he had access to in St Francisville, LA, and in turn he would let us hunt with him (and teach us a few things).

So at the ripe age of 38 I manage to shoot my first deer and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I still shake thinking about it now.  I was found, had come into my own!  I remember every detail and I am 62 now.   Jackson got his first one when he was 9 (and with his bow when he was 11).  So I learned late and he learned young, but learn we did as partners every step of the way!  We moved to bows and arrows very quickly and have loved every minute of it.   For a few years we did indeed take some serious revenge on the deer and venison became a staple of our diet.   We have truly been blessed in these intervening years and have managed to get into that 5%!

… and that’s how we became to call ourselves a Louisiana Bowhunter!

 

  • Mark A. Wilson (Baton Rouge, LA)

Early Season Rattling Success

I know a lot of people who use rattle bags or antlers to rattle in bucks during the rut. However, most of the people I talk to have very little success rattling. I prefer using a rattle bag over actual antlers, mainly due to it being compact and lightweight. It’s also easy to put down if a deer comes in. The bag I use is an OLD Knight and Hale rattle bag that I bought because I liked the sound of it. I don’t like it when the tone is too low and it sounds like two 180″ deer are fighting with heavy massed antlers. Your average buck isn’t going to want to tackle something that sounds like that. I like a “medium to high” tone in my rattling calls, because it sounds like younger bucks.

I have the best luck rattling in the first three weeks of October. Yes, even in the Louisiana heat. This is fairly surprising to most hunters, since it is usually still in the mid to upper 90’s for a high. I attribute this early season luck to bucks still running together in bachelor groups so there is more sparring going on early than any other time of year. Come November/December they’re no longer sparring. They’re actually fighting for a reason and many bucks just don’t want to fight so they’ll turn and leave, unless they’re just curious or rut crazed hoping to steal a doe. I have rattled bucks in during late season but not as often as I have in the pre-rut. I think the biggest keys to having rattling success are having a buck in ear shot, how you rattle, and the timing and location.

Most of the time on TV, you see people bashing the horns together in a knock down drag out “I’m gonna kill you” type of fight. I don’t necessarily think that’s the wisest approach when it comes to rattling, especially here in Louisiana. In south Texas or Missouri or locations with higher populations and less pressured deer, I’m sure it works well. However, it does not produce as often (never for me actually) as a less aggressive style of rattling. I’ve hunted bucks specifically for the past 8-10yrs and that’s put me in areas with a higher concentration of bucks. What I mean by saying I hunt bucks is that I am not simply just trying to fill tags. I am scouting out specific deer to hunt during the summer and focusing on those bucks throughout season. The benefit to this is it has put me in areas that bucks like to frequent and by default put me in the vicinity of more bucks. Because of this, I’ve been privileged to hear one or more fights throughout season for the past  several years. These experiences have allowed me to hear what a fight actually sounds like.

I’ve never heard a constant, “clang clang clang crash clang clack clang!!” like you see on television while watching a buck fight. You have to think about what deer are doing when they fight. They aren’t putting their horns together and shaking their heads like a bull dog with a ragdoll. Ninety percent of the fight, they are pushing their body weight into each other. You only hear the horns click when they are shifting their weight to get better footing. It’s mostly antlers grinding against each other, then a click of antler, then a long pause of silence (because they’re pushing), then another click click, then another long pause. And it will often last ten straight minutes or more. This is what I try to mimic when I rattle.

During the early season, don’t include many, if any, vocalizations. Just start rattling. Later in the year as the rut kicks in, start off your sequence by throwing in some grunts and maybe a snort wheeze. Regardless of the time of year, I rattle for 5 to 15 minutes straight every time. However, it is a very “laid back” rattling sequence. Click click-pause for 20seconds, click -pause for 10secs, click click click- pause for 30secs (something along these lines) real easy and non aggressive. Sometimes I will wait for a minute or more before I click my “horns” together again. It shouldn’t really disturb the woods around you much if you rattle like this. Birds and squirrels should still be out and about doing their thing and not running for the nearest cover. I’ve had does walk up while I was rattling and never act alarmed. Bucks usually walk in cautiously, but on occasion (usually in the rut) they’ll run in. Bucks are more likely to come in out of curiosity than out of wanting to fight, especially in the early season. They’ll often show 20 minutes after you’re through rattling, because they took their time closing the distance. Keeping it low key will lessen the chances of spooking the buck before he gets in range.

Wait to rattle until 1.5-2 hours after daylight or before dark. Bucks are on their feet more often during these daylight hours than any other time of day, so you will have higher odds of a buck hearing you. Areas with freshly hit scrapes are great places to rattle from since typically numerous bucks work the same scrape. Another great location is inside the edge of thickets in places where deer cannot see as far. If you decide to rattle in open timber, employ the help of a decoy. This will often help seal the deal. Otherwise, a buck will stop once he can see the location you are rattling from. If he does not see another deer, good luck getting him to come any closer. Once a buck is headed your way, you need to be able to read the deer to know what to do next. Generally it is best to quit rattling once the buck commits. If he hangs up, then a few low grunts or a snort wheeze will often draw him closer. Experience is the best teacher to know how to handle each scenario. Next time you decide to wake the woods with the clash of antler, take a moment to try this subtle approach. You may be surprised at what may come slipping through the brush.

Harmon’s Equipment List

Bow- Blackwidow PSA III

Stand- Muddy Vantage

Camo- First Lite Fusion

Essentials- Simmons Tiger Shark Broadheads, HCB Strings, Black Eagle Deep Impacts, Knight & Hale Rattling Bag

 

Harmon Carson- LABH Contributor (Haughton, LA)

@bayoubowhunter

Hunting Buddies are Forever

Here’s a story about the bond between brothers. The bond not only by blood, but through hundreds of hours spent together in the deer woods. We all have that one special partner, mentor, relative or friend in our lives. Let this story of personal reflection, a first hand account of loss be a reminder that hunting is about far more than time in the woods. It’s about sharing the memories you make with the ones you love the most!

“I remember growing up how some families were known for certain things around my hometown. My family, we were known for hunting. Specifically bow hunting. It’s one of those things that we just did. Nobody pushed us to do it. I have hunted for over half of my life and I can remember every deer I have taken. Even more that I I remember the ones I haven’t for one reason or another. The one that stands out the most happened this last year in the fall of 2016. I can honestly tell you that it will likely remain the most memorable. You see I lost my brother to pneumonia in April of that year. I didn’t however just lose a brother I lost my hunting companion and best friend.

It was pretty common as we were growing up for the two of us to be ultra competitive at just about anything. You see we were pretty close in age only separated by three years. However, as we grew older that competition became the root of a relationship that would bind us together. I almost never set foot in the timber without my brother knowing about it, and the same went for him. As cell phones came into the picture we began to text each other from the treestand with constant updates on deer movements. Many times we were only hundreds of yards apart on the same property. Of course, there was still some friendly rivalry and even a little teasing that would occur about who shot the smallest deer. However, there was always one thing I could count on. Once I had shot he would be the first call to help me retrieve my prize!

As this deer season approached I found myself not really wanting to hunt. How was I supposed to go to the timber without my brother. Finally as the weeks went by with some pressure from family and friends alike I went hunting. Then came the phone call from my sister-in-law, she had some hunting stuff of my brothers she wanted me to have. When I brought it home and went through it I realized it contained his scent proof clothing. I decided that I would wear it the next time I went. Fast Forward a few weeks and I go again. The rut is beginning to come in and deer are starting to be aggressive. It was a rainy morning and a cool front was coming in. I was soaked to the bone and about ready to give it up when something made me think just give it fifteen more minutes. All of a sudden a young buck comes walking through working a rub line. As I watch him I notice a larger bodied deer on the far hillside. It didn’t take long for him to dispatch the youngster and he turned to go away from me. I thought now or never, I gave him an aggressive grunt. He turned and immediately came up the hill like a man on a mission. It couldn’t have worked out any better, 30 yards quartered away, he didn’t make it forty yards from where I shot him.

I watched him go down in a heap, I had watched many deer do this over the years, but this one was different. Immediately my hand went for my pocket, time to make that phone call. As I pulled the phone from my pocket it hit me, he wouldn’t answer this call. I shed several tears over the next few minutes. When that feeling of despair finally subsided I realized he wasn’t with me physically he was with me spiritually. He was the reason I had stayed fifteen more minutes, and he would always be there on every hunt, in the memories he left me with. He is always there in the memories I continue to make as I pass down a love for nature to my son, as well as his. I am thankful that I had every memory I ever had in the woods with him, because that is my healing, my place to be with my brother.”

-Louis Maliongas

Freedom of Expression or Are We Poking a Giant

*OPINION- Many of you will disagree with what you’re about to read. That’s ok. I’m not telling you to change the way you’ve been doing things. I’m only asking you to think about  what long-term consequences our actions on social media can have.

The freedom to express ourselves, as individuals, as Americans, as hunters, is something we enjoy in this country. We can get away with saying almost anything these days. That’s especially true when hidden behind a keyboard. You have undoubtedly seen arguments over personal opinion that the owner expressed as a fact, starting an opinion war in forums, blogs, or social media. The great thing about being a human is we are all different, with different opinions and ideas. I see things a little differently; however, when it comes to expressing opinions and gallivanting our hunting heritage for the world full of “antis” to see. Let me explain:

Hunters are less than 6% of the population. Keep that number in your head. Are you aware of what minority opinion groups in this country are doing right now to monuments, outside rallies, and on the lawn of the white house? People have taken freedom to express themselves to a new limit in 2017. “I can do whatever I want, and say whatever I want”, is the current definition to most. If it offends them, they want it gone. What worries me most is when I see hunters have this attitude.

I’ve seen hoards of hunters since the dawn of social media defend their photos and videos that the majority of the remaining 94% of the country may find despicable. “I’m not changing for anyone”. Or, “If they don’t like it they don’t have to look.”  No one is getting politically correct here. I too could not care less what an “anti” thinks about my kill photos. I don’t say harvest, I say kill. I don’t hide the real reason I hunt behind the excuse that, “I only want to provide clean meat for my family.” That’s not why most of us started hunting and its only a nice perk to why I hunt. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. We do it because we love the chase. We love the feeling it gives us. We love being outdoors and we love sharing the experience with our friends. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Continue to be proud of the title ” Bowhunter”. Don’t hide that!

However, what needs to change with hunters, and fisherman alike (PETA doesn’t like fishing either… FYI) is the blatant poking of the majority GIANT, and the neglect of animals in our kill photos that we choose to post online. Remember how many hunters there are? 6% of Americans! We are a tiny percentage of the total population. That alone is what makes our opposition a giant. Not their scare factor or ability to threaten. If they really got fired up enough, lets be honest, there’s not much we could do to stop them. With that being said, I don’t find the PETA profile picture trend cute… at all. It puts our way of life in a light we don’t want it to be in. While I too found it hilarious at first, I am reminded that both they and Facebook are on the same side, which happens to be the opposite of ours. Doing something because you can, and it’s funny doesn’t make it right.

The other instance is being more respectful in our kill photos. Why give the opposition more fuel? Why not be proud of the animal we worked so hard to outsmart, and why not make a lasting memory and nice looking photo? If we didn’t respect the animal we hunt we would not go to such great lengths to chase and ultimately kill them. It’s no secret that they successfully outsmart us most of the time. Why downgrade the instincts, intelligence and beauty of our quarry by leaving them a bloody mess in photos?  Cut the tongue off or tuck it in. Take the photo on the ground, not in the back of your truck. Clean the excessive blood off. This is a blood sport indeed, but there’s just no need to have the animal covered in blood when you take a photo for all the world to see.

I have probably upset some of you with this opinion. That’s ok. I’m not telling you to change the way you’ve been doing things. I’m only asking you to reflect; to think about who sees your photos and what long-term consequences poking the “majority giant” will have on the sport, passion, and way of life we all enjoy and love so dearly. While being a proud hunter, protect and defend hunting. Don’t plaster it in what will surely be taken as negative light for the “antis” to see. The actions of a Louisiana Bowhunter should be a reflection of the evolution we’ve experienced as hunters. We have grown up! We have accepted a tougher challenge, welcomed the handicap of a bow and pursue an animal much more familiar with the turf in which we pursue it. Let our actions reflect the level of hunting we take part in.

LABH BLOG: LABH Goes to ATA

Throughout my life I have always heard the saying “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life.” Well I still don’t know that feeling or experience, but this past week at the 2017 ATA show was about the closest I have come to seeing and experiencing that first hand being a truth.  Since being a child I have wanted to be involved in the outdoor industry one way or another. Whether that is a career, TV show, staff member, or anything that is just more than casual hunting. All that being said, with a dream like mine the ATA show has always been my personal Superbowl since I really got into archery and bow hunting. The personalities, products, innovation, and everything else I saw on a yearly basis were something I thought I would only see through various outlets supplying me the overwhelming amount of wallet reaching news. That was until 2017. Through my decision to stop dreaming and start doing back in August when my fiancé, Krystle Mahoney, and I created Whitetail Widow Makers we were able to form some wonderful relationships that allowed us to attend the ATA show this year. I bounced around helping out with Advanced Treestands, and gathering info about new products to bring the followers of Louisiana Bowhunter. That brings me back to my opening statement.  Krystle and I left the show all three days after working from 8am-6pm as exhausted as we have ever been, but instead of the normal response to an exhausting workday we would literally get to our hotel room to relax for a moment before dinner and laugh as we talked about the excitement of the show.  It was an experience I will never forget and that I hope to be a part of for years to come. That’s enough about me though. Let’s talk about some of the new and innovative products I saw while I was there. I am going to break them down into categories and go over the ones I thought stood out from the rest. No rankings so just because it is first of last doesn’t necessarily mean I think it was best or worst.

 

First I will talk about arguably everyone’s favorite new item to learn about year to year and see what new crazy design companies have come up with to attempt to poke out.  Yep you guessed it BROADHEADS!!!! This was probably the most widely displayed product at the show with a large percentage of booths offering some type of tip for your arrow with the claim to provide the most accuracy and most devastating result.

  • Cheap Shot Affordable Broadheads made by Cold Steel. These things really stood out to me because they look like a Native American arrow head, are made out of hard plastic and are $5 for a 10 pack. Not to mention they have videos of testing done where they perform through ballistic gel and wood very similar to high priced name brand broadheads. Very honest people admitting that they were not going to stand up to the same abuse as a metal head, but if you have a varmit problem these would be a great alternative to wasting a good head on a pig or coyote.
  • Dead Ringer broadheads. I didn’t even name them all due to the fact that they released new ones and redesigned almost their entire existing line. They use Switchback technology that gives you the option to shoot fixed or expandable, but also released a few true fixed blade heads and a bow fishing head. Oh did I mention that Uncle Ted shoots one of the new fixed blade heads???
  • Trypan by Rage. Had to throw this one in there for all the Rage lovers. This head is very similar to the hypodermic, but with a redesigned tougher ferrule and the thickest blades from Rage ever. They also released a Turkey Xtreme broadhead and a new designed 3 blade chisel tip broadhead.
  • X Shot Ti from Hot Shot Archery. This is one wicked looking fixed blade broadhead. It had 4 super tough Titanium blades that create a 1 1/8” cutting diameter. It may look small but this thing is going to be as tough, accurate, and deadly as they come.

 

Next up is another product that people will argue is the best all day long, but at the end of the day with this product I have found to each his own. I am talking about BOWS!!!! Compound bows to be exact. These new speed demons are taking archery to the next level.  Here are a few that peaked my interest.

  • The whole Bear Archery line was extremely impressive. Offering something to every hunter whether you were looking for speed, a smooth experience draw to release, something for women, something for kids, or something for the target range Bear had you covered.

  • Elite continued to stand true to its claim to be the “Most Shootable Bow”. This was honestly my first time to shoot an Elite and boy that claim is very accurate. Their new lineup is so forgiving and just feels from draw to release so comfortable in the hand.
  • The Mathews line that includes the Halon 32, Avail, and the Stoke. These bows continue to carry on the Mathews reputation of being extremely well designed and engineered bows. The Avail is one of the best designed womens bows I have ever witnessed and the Stoke is the first high performance youth bow.
  • The PSE Evolve and New Carbon Air. Both use the new Evolve cam system that gives a 90% let off option that truly allows for almost endless amount of draw time before having to release.  The air is a true carbon frame that when you pick it up you will see where it got the name “air” from. The absolute perfect mix of speed and feel in a bow.

 

The next item is something everyone seems to just have hanging around all over the place.  You guessed it TREESTANDS!!! Another product that there just seemed to be endless variations around the show.

  • Advanced Treestands released a new stand called the Swing Down that will come with their newly released 20ft set of climbing stick for a total price of only $229. The sticks have a unique hook that fits into the side of the stand allowing easy hanging. They will also be sold separately.
  • Millennium Treestands released the M360 Revolution which you just have to see to truly appreciate. It is a round platform with a swivel trademark Millennium lounge seat in the center allowing 360 degrees of vision and range of motion.
  • Hawk announced a new partnership with the Bone Collectors and released multiple newly designed stands, seats, and chairs. The one that really stood out to me was their newly introduced climbing stand with the unique Hawk designed cables and the trademark Hawk comfort.

 

This next category is for all you smelly folks out there that really need an advantage during hunting season. I am talking SCENT CONTROL gear or items. This will include gadgets, attractants, and clothing..

  • Wind Pro, who are the makers of a very successful mock scrape system, released a new synthetic ultra-absorbing licking branch vine so that you can now create a mock scrape and licking branch anywhere you desire.
  • Scent Lok is getting into the fashion game with the release of an all new line of dress socks that I must admit look right up my alley. They also introduced an upgraded model of their mid weight best-selling suit.
  • Scent Blocker probably had the coolest looking booth at ATA. It was a giant yellow spider, synonymous with their safety harness logo, that spread out over their entire booth floor where they used the legs as places to display various items. They released an unnamed mystery suit that will not be named until a later date, but was chock full of innovation, comfort additions, and very sharp looking.

 

This next category of items probably provokes the most excitement and optimism following a scouting trip or routine trip to the woods. I am talking about TRAIL CAMERAS and that giddiness that we all get when we are about to put that sd card into our readers or computer to figure out how to pattern that big buck you have creatively named.

  • Reconyx released a trail camera that looks very similar to a mall security camera called the MicroFire. With an easy to mount system, its own cell phone app that is wifi enabled to connect directly to your phone, and cellular options this camera is in a class of its own.
  • SpyPoint officially made it able to own a cellular camera at an affordable price with the Link-EVO that will sell for an industry first $249. They also offer the same camera in their trademark integrated solar panel version so you never have to worry about dead batteries again.

 

At some point if you are unlike me this season you are going to harvest an animal or if you are like me you are just going to need one of these to keep your camp food and drinks cold.  Either way these COOLERS will help you out for sure.

  • Boss Buck has officially entered the cooler game with the Rotomolded Cooler. These things have a rugged and tough look that goes hand in hand with the Boss Buck name you have grown accustomed to. They have an integrated LED light inside the cooler to provide light in dark situation, a very unique push button opening system, and are made right here in the USA!!!!
  • Orion Coolers was an unknown brand to me before the show, but I will never forget what I saw at their booth during my visit. A truly unique to the word graphic system to where no two coolers are the same color or design no matter if I ordered 100 of the same color. A customizable cooler top pad, standard cutting board with utensils, and just about every connectable accessory option you can truly dream up plus about 10 more.
  • Yeti now has colors and lots of them!!! Not only that but they will custom design their famous cup variations to fit your needs and desires. They also released a smaller version of the very popular Hopper which is called the Hopper Flip. That’s not all though. They now offer a Yeti rambler in half gallon and gallon size with a carrying handle, accessory options, and best of all a magnetic screw top that sticks to the top of your rambler so no worries of losing the top.

 

No catchy way of introducing this last category. I know your disappointed.  These are just all the archery accessories I wanted to cover or any item that didn’t necessarily fit into a category previously stated.

  • Advanced Treestands not only released sticks and a stand, but they introduced what I believe to be a true game changer in the hunting world and a soon to be must have on every stand, camera, and anything else needing protection or safety. It’s called the Lockdown and it is a steel cable ratchet strap with a integrated locking system. Don’t overcomplicate the mental picture it really is just that simple.
  • HHA Sports released an HHA first 3 pin sight for some folks that want the single pin adjustment, but with two set pins for that Murphy’s Law moment. They also released a new fall away rest that looks to be very well built and a new serious player in the bow rest game.
  • Spot Hogg released some new sights, but the real eye catcher(literally) was their new neon yellow/green ring system around the house of the sight designed to optimize the visibility of your eyes in any light condition.
  • Sitka released a new camo pattern called sub alpine for us folks that need more of a green camo pattern. It is also going to be available in some lighter weight options than the existing super warm sitka gear. They also released a full women’s line and a partnership with Lacrosse boots.
  • Thermacell gave their already must have early season gadget a facelift. Same great effectiveness. Same ability to fit all your existing holsters, butane cartridges, and blue pads. Just a new slick black design.
  • The Pro Master Sight Level is truly probably one of the most simple, but also most effective items I found during my time at the show. It is a piece of hardware that mounts to your sight, but faces toward the shooter rather than downrange like the sight. At the end of the hardware it angles into your line of sight of whatever sight you are using and has two strings vertically parallel to each other. They idea behind it, which I must say I now own one because it truly does work, is that if your pins are in between the two strings after you anchor your release and look through the peep then you are using proper technique, but if the pins are on or outside the strings your anchor point is off or you are torqueing your bow. Truly genius!!!!!

 

Obviously there were tons of other items that were great items so I encourage you to do your research to find out all the new and innovative products released this year. Last two things before I finish.  First, if you love the sport of archery and you ever have the opportunity to attend the ATA show I encourage you to do so. It truly is an eye opening and unforgettable experience. Lastly, if you have a dream no matter what it might be don’t be afraid to go for it. You will never know where it may lead you if you just quit dreaming and start doing.

 

 

Taylor Hance/ whitetailwidowmakers3@yahoo.com

LABH BLOG: Spring Hog Control

Introducing our newest category of online content, the”LABH Blog”. This category will feature stories, experiences, hunts, journeys, and lessons learned from our team of Contributors. We hope you enjoy reading it, are able to take away a few pointers, or maybe just a laugh or relaxing read. Feel free to leave us feedback, ask questions, or comments at the end of the blog entry. Thanks for being a Louisiana Bowhunter and we hope you enjoy!

 

We have effectively taken 34 hogs off of our lease in Beauregard parish since the end of deer season. Using multiple techniques including snares, box traps, corral traps and good old fashioned carbon and lead we have managed to remove most of the smart ones. That being said it is getting a little easier to get on the remaining sounders. There is a group of orphaned piglets around 2 months old and another group of 2 previous sounders that joined together to form one smaller group after we took our taxes out of them early on. This group is made up of pigs 4-5 month old. If you know anything about hogs you know they’re a ticking time bomb. At 4 months they become sexually mature and ready to multiply… rapidly! This particular group is high on the hit list because of their age.

One of the big ones that continues to evade us

I have an On-Time Tomahawk feeder set up with a solar light on the side. This has made for multiple successful night hunts eliminating the sow and older boars from the group. Lacking all adult supervision the pigs are now much easier to hunt. Today for instance, I drove to the property and arrived around 5:30 pm. As most of you already know I can’t walk very well, and not very far from a treestand fall last summer. With South winds in the 25 mph range I decided to ride within 60 yards of the feeder and sit on my ATV. I draped my camo cover over the front to hide the bike and wore my Scentblocker Beast ghillie suit. Not 30 minutes after I cut the engine the pigs began to gather under the feeder. I waited for them to bunch up and fired my 3 1/2″ 000 buckshot into them. One dropped immediately and the rest scattered like underage drinkers when the cops arrive. I was able to recover 1 while at least 2 others managed to get deep into the briar thicket that was the 5 year old pine plantation.

When it comes to managing pigs I tend to put my bow aside. The more you can kill in one hunt the better. Research shows that in order to keep your pig problem from growing you must kill an estimated 73% annually! That means you have to hunt them all year long. If you feed, plant food plots, or just want to see deer in general you must join the fight against the feral hogs. We need a few good men and women to join us in this fight. Will you?

 

  • Justin Lanclos /  info@louisianabowhunter.com

Hunter Hill

Doug LeJeune