Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Insights- Potential Deer Urine Ban

The crew at WOODY's had a great time at the 2016 ATA show in Louisville KY this year. As always we look forward to bringing our customers the best products we can, from our core items to new things the industry has to offer.

As some of you may be aware, the PAGC is considering a ban on natural deer urine over fear it may encourage the spread of CWD. Obviously this is a concern to retailers across the state who enjoy offering their customers natural deer lures.

Throughout the ATA show we spoke to the manufacturers of these products and voiced our concerns over placing orders while the PAGC is mulling over the decision. There are many in the natural deer lure industry who are great people working very hard already to suppress the impacts of this disease. This was very comforting to us. What is more comforting to know is that Mitch King, the ATA Director of Government Relations has been working on this issue in an effort to offer the PAGC a workable solution. Mitch was kind enough to sit with us and discuss his progress with the powers that be. The ATA is aiming to deflect regulations by offering a business to business solution that will allow retailers to sell urine based products and for hunters to feel confident in using them. Their solution is to require deer urine suppliers to fit certain operating guidelines and proprietors who package the urine to use a label bearing a mark of ATA approval.

The measures the ATA will require participating scent manufacturers to abide by include; increased herd monitoring, severely restricting importation and exportation of animals, double fencing their herd, annual inspections of facilities and herds, and working with state agencies to advance our understanding of CWD. There are several categories of participation beginning with urine production facilities, to scent manufacturers, and then distributors/retailers.

The idea being that if the PAGC agrees to this solution, retailers can make this product available to the consumer and hopefully we can curb resolutions that involve more regulations. Some of the participating manufacturers should sound very familiar; Buck Bomb, Code Blue, Hunter's Specialties, Tink's and Mrs. Doe Pee just to name a few.

According to the current issue of Pennsylvania Outdoor News, the board has "no apparent consensus" about what to do. However the conversations around a ban have been taking place since last fall, and Commissioner Putnam is "leaning toward introducing a deer urine-use ban at the upcoming meeting (Jan 31-Feb 2)." Other board members are not so convinced these products are contributing to the spread of CWD. It seems some are even suggesting a "targeted depopulation" in certain areas of the state, whereby sharpshooters would cull portions of the herd in areas where CWD was found.
As CWD continues to be a concern for PA deer, one can only assume some action will be taken at some point, what that action is remains to be seen. Unfortunately an entire industry hangs in the balance.

Needless to say there are a variety of other economic and political loose ends to sew up in the process, but we all have a voice and if you're a hunter or a retailer, you need to speak up and write your representative and the PAGC...NOW! Chronic Wasting Disease is obviously a cause for concern and something we all need to take seriously, without a healthy deer heard our PA hunting heritage is at risk.

I will do my best to offer follow up articles on this matter. Mitch King's contact information is available at www.archerytrade.org.



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Practice from your stand!

An amazing August sight, arrows, target, and treestand in the background!
August is dwindling; you’ll hear no complaints from me! To put it plainly the heat and humidity make me sad. I enjoy the warm times of year, but I’m always chomping at the bit for autumn. You’d be hard pressed to find a hunter from the north east who has an issue with the crisp air and changing leaves. Jeeze, I even opened one of my hunting packs yesterday and was hit with the smell of my year old doe urine scented candles, some people might have gagged, I reveled in the moment! …then again I just might be weird.

Having put a little more effort into property I have permission to hunt I moved a stand to a different location last weekend. One trail cam showed a lot of traffic; Spike bucks, 6 pointers, fawns, yearlings, and most important, multiple Doe. For a meat hunter like me there was no contesting the fact I needed to put the stand closer to that cam.

I felt it was important to actually shoot from the new stand location. The night after I moved the stand I was overcome by worries of shooting lanes and misjudged distances. I had put all the labor in of hauling 90 lbs. of awkward metal through the brush but failed to consider the all-important details of shooting from the dang thing! I think this is something we all should consider. And much to consider there be.

As mentioned it is late August, hunting season is getting closer and closer. My personal strategy is to regularly scope things out through the summer but then not disturb the stand area for the few weeks prior to the season. If I wanted to practice from the stand it was this weekend or not at all.
Today’s high temps being only mid 80’s the morning was a little cooler. The first thing I considered was NOT beating the heat and going in too early. This was not a stealth mission so I wanted to make sure the deer weren’t on the move while I was there. Whether checking cams or looking for sign make sure if you’re going on the deer’s turf this time of year it is during a time of day you can safely assume they are bedded down somewhere.

Number two, scent control. Even though hunting season is still weeks away you don’t want to risk them being aware of your presence, so “de-stink” yourself the same as you would in October. This morning it was particularly important as I was going to be touching a lot of cover in the area, and though my clothes were treated I couldn’t stop the sweat, so I tried not to get to grabby with limbs and brush. (As I understand it a deer can smell dead human skin cells that flaked of us 24-36 hours later!)

Now on to the fun part, the Shootin’!

If you’re not aware by now, suspending your target is a great way to extend its life. Whether a $32 bag target or a $150 one, hang it and it’ll last longer. My practice session today would be no exception. I used a spare haul line to suspend the bag between trees. Just a little off the ground to represent the area a deer’s vitals would be. There are 5 possible places I can shoot a deer from this stand, so I moved the target to each one and put multiple rounds in each time, some standing, and some while sitting.

Using a rangefinder helped today, just for reference though. I use a single pin sight and leave it locked in at 25 yards for any shot up to 30 yards. I find when shooting from an elevation the true accuracy of your shot comes from knowing how low to aim at varying distances. Some people invest a ton of money into range finders that account for the angle and stand elevation…that still doesn’t mean I have time to fiddle with my pin setting when a deer is moving through my effective range, so not too unlike a recurve shooter I’m just going to get to know my bow and arrow and what they do.

This post is not going to give you the magic code for pushing tacks from an elevated position at varying distances, rather I am just trying to impart on you that being able to do it requires practice. At 20 yards I need to aim 2 inches low, at 23 yards it was 3 inches low, at my 16 yards bag it was probably 4 inches low, mind you this was all with my pin set to 25 yards. If you want to Google this topic you will find a ton of neat little drawings with triangles and grids and arcs and all of that. You can try wrapping your brain around it or you can simply get in a tree and see for yourself. I don't recommend shooting at a deer until you do.

No two hunters set up is exactly the same. Me shooting my bow from 18 feet up at a 22 yard target means I need to aim 2-3 inches low, this doesn’t mean you will too, so this is an exercise that EACH and EVERY hunter needs to practice on their own. Additionally anytime something about your rig changes, ie. draw weight, arrow weight, tip weight, you can be sure your trajectory will too!

Shooting from the stand also helped me understand any pruning I had to do to clear shooting lanes. Most of the little stuff will be dead or dying come hunting season, but any branch I could see while shooting that was even 3/16” was getting eliminated. Brush still has time to grow so I wasn’t taking any chances.

Consider this exercise a dress rehearsal. You are after all getting up there with some of your gear and you darn well better be wearing your harness too. Any stand maintenance or necessary adjustments will become evident while shooting out of it, so make sure you take an extra ratchet strap and some tools in case you need to do a little work while you’re there.

Elevated shooting can be tricky; it’s probably the most intimidating part of bow hunting for me to be honest. The true distance given elevation, the arc of the arrow, it’s enough to make my head hurt. In the end the best shots I made on the bag where the ones where it just felt right to let the arrow lose, overthinking can be detrimental to your experience afield.  The closest range I practiced actually didn’t require aiming terribly low, how’s that for confusing? My guess is between my pin being set to 25 yards and the bag only being at 12 yards (half the distance) the arc of the arrow got to its peak at that range…or not, trigonometry was never my strong suit anyways. Point is I know where to aim at that range now.

I hope some of my experiences from today help you all too, especially if you’re using a single pin like me. I love the adjustable HHA for 3D shoots, but in the field it’s locked in and the rest is on me.

A few pointers-
  • Even though we’re trying to be scent free, bug spray isn’t a bad idea!
  • Don’t do this exercise from your actual hunting stand unless it’s a time of day when the deer aren’t coming through, even if that means dealing with August heat.
  • Bring plenty of arrows, it's no fun having to climb down from your tree every time you make a few shots.
  • When pruning and trimming shooting lanes don’t radically change the landscape, just take off what you need and leave the area still appealing for deer.
  • Your first shot at each target location should be lower than you think it needs to be, this helps you understand the shot better and will cost you fewer arrows sailing through the woods.

Be safe out there and keep shooting, the season isn’t too far off!

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Check out Tom's other Blog

Friday, June 26, 2015

Off Season Scouting

For me scouting begins at the close of the previous season. The deer find themselves at desperate odds with their own environment. Their survival habits will be more evident as they struggle to make it through the winter. Late season hunters get a preview of this, especially in the aftermath of rifle seasons. A hunter willing to put some frozen ground under heel, use trail cameras, and glass deer during the winter, will be privy to habits earlier observations may not have shown them. Chances are a hunter will see sign more than actual deer, with the leaves bare and the ground hard we need to focus more on turned leaves, scrapes, and scat. I think it goes without saying to get your rear in the woods after a snowfall and study those tracks! 

I've often thought of the winter scouting as a great way to figure out my "wild card" stand location, that option for where to be when, due to hunting pressure, I'm not seeing as much activity as I'd like to from normal stand locations. 

Then of course comes shed hunting season. For some of us this is incredibly exciting! Maybe we get lucky and find a shed that tells us the buck that was always one step ahead of us survived. Or it can alert us to other bucks in the area. Coming up empty shouldn't dishearten anyone, however. Finding a shed is merely a sign that a buck was there, the best thing to do is consider where that shed was found in proximity to food or bedding areas and make a mental note.

Spring into Summer scouting can be fun. As temps get friendlier and nutrients become more plentiful deer will move from the recesses and security of the deep woods more frequently. Obviously this makes them easier to observe. This is usually a time when many of us begin our scouting. Early summer scouting gets me excited for the fall by reaffirming deer are in my hunting areas, and that is important, who doesn't want that confidence heading into bow season? It also shows us how healthy the herd is.

This is also a good time of year to consider pruning a path to your stand or blind. Why not get a jump on this? I've been lax some off seasons and it is no fun needing to "machete" your way through to put up a stand or camera. You will make yourself less detectable with a clearer path, and also a little strategic trimming around your stand offers the deer a path of less resistance, which they happen to appreciate just as much as we do!

The end of summer can be dicey, as this is when we really want to try and pattern deer, but should not disturb the hunting grounds too much. Trail cams are especially useful in late summer for those reasons, but as we go to check them it should be with little frequency and we should practice the same stealthy tactics we do while hunting.

For many seasoned hunters it is easy to know roughly where the deer are and when under "normal circumstances." Most of us understand natural funnels, bedding areas, feeding areas, and cover areas, but with all that in mind I'd also use scouting to think out of the box. What I mean here is understanding where to be under "abnormal circumstances," like say, a Saturday during the season when a multitude of hunters descend upon the woods. Remember, you're not just trying to get ahead of the deer, but other hunters as well. This means having a great plan A, but also a B, C, and D, with each giving you a worthwhile opportunity. 

It may seem trivial but even understanding common wind directions and topography of an area will help with stand location and travel routes to stands. Try to find a route allowing a downwind approach, that also avoids deer paths. Some hunters like using a side hill to avoid their outline being detected, but be cautious in this as deer also use side hills for the same reason, so avoid them at times of day a deer will perhaps use that same hill en route to your stand. This is all part of off season scouting because guessing things on the fly is rarely part of a successful hunt. I've been known to spent quite a few summer evenings sitting at great distances from my potential stand with binoculars just watching where deer come and go from.

I won't go much into using attractants because not everyone likes the tactic. In the end I do like using them because it brings deer to my camera or to the area where I'm considering sitting. With that in mind I always consider the location of natural food sources and usually use attractants in close proximity to them. In PA there is no baiting allowed and all "deer candy" has to be gone within so many weeks of the season opener, so I hedge my bets with things like acorns and clover anyways.

In the end I believe all these things just help me create a bit more luck for myself. As a self taught hunter I have made quite a few mistakes, the one thing I have learned about hunting, public lands in particular, is to think one step ahead. Deer are a living breathing and THINKING being. They are always in survival mode and will not give up too easily. Always be thinking and be creative. Chances are that one extra step you thought was just you "over thinking" a situation, could be the very idea that has you drawing back on a nice buck or doe this fall!

Happy Scouting,