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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Hunters are a generous group; many sportsmen and women donate a portion of the harvest annually to benefit those less fortunate than themselves. After all, the whitetail deer is not only an amazing big-game animal but a tremendous protein resource as well. If your freezer is full of venison with hunting opportunities still ahead, why not consider donating your next animal to the needy? The National Shooting Sports Foundation tabulated the generosity of American sportsmen, and the results are quite impressive:

SD MZ 2012 003When you’re gathering with friends and family this holiday season, here’s a story to tell — thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of hunters, nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat makes its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.  Which state donates the most venison to the needy?  Where can you donate a deer?

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Take a seat. It’s a term most people have heard many times in their lives. Typically it’s a casual way to invite someone to sit, relax, and stay a while. When hunting, it’s important to take a seat. If you’ve ever propped against a tree trunk, waiting for wild turkeys for hours, or sat on your knees in a deer blind because you didn’t bring a stool along, the idea of taking a seat will ring true for you. Not all hunting seats are created equal. J.J. Reich offers factors to consider when choosing a seat so you can sit and hunt in comfort.

predator-gear-seat-large Photo by Military.com

Your ultimate objective is not only to sit still, but also to stay concealed and quiet. To do this, get a seat that is camouflaged. Also, high-quality padding, high backrests, elbow rests or an extra-large seat size will make a big difference. And finally, look for materials that will not make loud, scratchy noises, and avoid features that produce game-spooking squeaks, pops and clanks. Everyone has his or her own preferences when it comes to comfort.

Photos: Florida Turkey Hunting (top); Military.com (above)

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Campfires used to be the ultimate sharing medium for deer hunting stories. Then came Polaroid film and one-hour processing to share hunting memories. Today, the smartphone is the ultimate sharing device. Ask about any hunter how his season has gone and you’ll get a digital slide show. One step better is showing video, although this is much more of a challenge than it may seem. Capturing video isn’t difficult with a buddy acting as camera operator, yet going it alone is quite a challenge. Bowhuntingwhitetails.com has a thorough post listing the steps to take, the kinds of gear needed, and performance tips for shooting your own deer-hunt videos.

Jeff Harrison 09 072

Capturing hunts and outdoor adventures on film has dramatically increased in popularity over the past decade. Millions of deer hunters fixate on the television or computer screen weekly to watch their favorite hunting celebrity harvest trophy class animals at an alarmingly successful rate. Many of those same hunters often think, “Man, I would love to be able to record all of my successful hunts on video!” Unfortunately, their aspiration of capturing cool hunting footage ends there as they believe a camera man is necessary. Nothing could be more further from the truth. With the proper equipment, extra time, effort and a little patience, every hunter can successfully record quality video of themselves in hunting situations. Here’s how…

Since the Middle Ages, wool from the Merino sheep has been prized for its fine texture and its ability to both insulate and transmit body temperatures. Unlike regular wool, Merino is very soft and does not itch. That’s why savvy hunters use it when hunting both cold and hot climates.

The folks at Icebreaker just introduced a full line of base layers in Mossy Oak camouflage, which I was able to test extensively on a recent deer hunt in the Great Planes. Short story: I loved it, and here’s why. First, the layers are very light and thin enough to fold into your pocket. But they were still sufficient to insulate one on frosty cold mornings. One late afternoon, with the temperature near 60, I helped a buddy drag a big mule deer half a mile across the prairie, and I didn’t overheat. Now that’s wicking ability!

I also tested a hooded top and used it as an outer layer in moderate temperatures as shown in the photo above. Aside from a cool camouflage pattern, these guys get what works for hunters, as the garment came with a hood, side pockets, and a vest pocket. In really cold biting winds, wear the hood up and put your hat over it for ultimate insulation. Here’s the official word from the company; I found all the elements to be spot on:

SD 2013 Rifle Deer 742Unlike synthetics, Icebreaker merino is an ‘active’ fiber that works to keep your body at its ideal temperature in all conditions – whether you’re stationary hunting from a tree stand at the end of the season, or hunting in open country in late summer. Icebreaker Merino combines all the best performance qualities of traditional wool, synthetics, cotton and everything else you’ve worn hunting or fishing:

Warm in the cold/cool in the heat–Comfortable–Dry–Odor resistant–Freedom of movement–Quiet–Low bulk–Easy care

“Hunting and fishing is all about reconnecting to the outdoors, so it makes sense to wear a natural fiber in nature,” said Jeremy Moon, founder and CEO of Icebreaker. “Icebreaker is an active fiber that works to keep you comfortable in all climates and conditions, from the field to the riverbank to the woods. There’s nothing better to wear in the outdoors.”

Visit http://tinyurl.com/IcebreakerMossyOak to learn more about Icebreaker’s great features for hunters and how to layer the collection for ultimate performance. For more information or to buy, log on to icebreaker.com.

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Of all the rut trick tools a hunter can employ, a grunt tube is one of the easiest to use and can be the most effective. As with any device, you may worry about improper calling that may actually be chasing deer away rather than bringing them closer. Last week, I found myself 15 yards from a mature doe enjoying my big buck attractant as daylight faded. I didn’t want to reveal the blind location, so I picked up a grunt tube and gave a solid puff, hoping to scare her away. Not so much as an ear twitched. Next, I gave a series of aggressive grunts… nothing. Finally, I blew the tube like a bugle and the old doe casually looked up.

The point here is that a grunt tube may not always help, but it rarely hurts. Some hunters reserve grunt calls until a buck is in sight, yet I’ve interviewed many hunters who randomly use a grunt call and bucks suddenly SD Deer 2013 2 140appear. Call variations range from a few grunts to a steady series often called the “tending grunt” to the “buck roar,” a very loud grunt that mimics a bellow. Since a buck could be just over the ridge, begin on the mild side and increase the volume and aggressive tone of calling with time. Grunt tubes often offer multiple options; take for example the Flextone Extinguisher, which uses a convenient slide to change from buck grunts to doe bleats to fawn sounds. Doe bleats can be very effective during the rut, and using multiple calls can up your odds for success. Also, fawn bleats aren’t usually effective on big bucks, but can be dynamite on coyotes should you hear one howl nearby.

High wind is one of the worst hunting conditions to deal with, yet I knew of a thick deer-extinguisher[2]patch of cedars that was practically a whitetail bed-and-breakfast. I circled down wind of the thick cover and began grunting. With no response, I moved 150 yards and began calling again. This time, I lured a good 8-point to 20 yards within minutes. The grunt tube transformed a terrible hunting condition into a cool success story.

If you’d like more information about the Flextone Extinguisher, visit flextonegamecalls.com.

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Every deer camp has enough knives to carve up a deer, yet marginal cuts are often left over. While they can be excellent in stew, spaghetti, and other dishes, it’s venison burger that’s the real treat. All you need is a grinder and seasoning, and you’ll have enough burgers for the whole gang. You can also sear it for great tacos, chili, or meat sauce. Electric grinders, like the ones offered by The Sportsman’s Guide, range in price from $60–$107 and are perfect for any hunting camp, with the size depending on the amount of meat SD Deer 2013 2 264processing you’ll do. If you consider the price of buying burgers at a local restaurant, the grinder will pay for itself the first time you use it. And once you learn how easily venison is transformed into burger, you’ll use it time after time. Since venison gets more tender with age, why not let your group’s deer hang in cold temperatures and process them in bulk? In this way, a grinder and other processing tools really save money. A grinder operates as easily as a coffee maker: Plug in the machine, put meat in the top, and ground venison comes out of the bottom.

For the best results, here are few tips:

  • Trim the meat thoroughly, removing fat, sinew, and gristle so that you have pure red meat going into the process.
  • Don’t hesitate to grind bacon, sausage, or beef tallow with the venison. Although this dilutes the incredible low-fat benefits of venison, it provides more fat and moisture to the burger.
  • With a grinder, you can put the cheese on the inside of the burger by SD Deer 2013 2 267grinding the two together.
  • Don’t forget the seasonings. Our camp chef added three eggs and a batch of seasoning to a dozen large burgers. He didn’t like onions, but they add flavor to any prepared meat.
  • Don’t overcook. Heat them at a setting no higher than medium. If you prepare burgers on the grill, cook just past rare, place them in foil off the grill, and allow them to sit for at least five minutes. The burgers will continue to cook and the juices will be sealed in.

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Most brothers have had their fair share of disagreements over the years. After all, there’s no one who knows your quirks and secrets throughout your life like a sibling. For Mark and Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors, their typical brotherly love turned into a near knock-down, drag-out fight while hunting in a treestand many years ago. For Mossy Oak, Mark shares his funniest hunting memory.

markdrury1_llPhoto by Mossy Oak

One time in the early 1990s, Terry and I were sitting in different trees to film a deer hunt. I planned to be the videographer, and Terry would shoot and call. We set up over a greenfield, and several bucks started chasing a doe. Two of the bucks’ antlers would score more than 170 points on Pope & Young. Our emotions and adrenaline had risen to a very-high point in anticipation of filming this rutting activity and harvesting one of these giant bucks…

Photos: Listerine (top); Mossy Oak (above)

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No matter the weather, when you’re prepared for hot, cold, or wet conditions, your whole outdoor experience will be more enjoyable. For anglers, hunters, and any outdoor adventurer who may endure wet weather, there’s one main factor that can ruin the day: leaky boots. Once your feet get wet and/or cold, it’s tough to think about anything else. Take Me Fishing’s Tom Keer says to take along a 10-piece patch kit that just may save your day.

Well-worn-boots-will-spring-a-leak.-Patch-em-up-in-the-off-season.-300x199 Photo by Take Me Fishing

Patch Kit Materials and Purpose: Small pouch or zip-lock bag for patch kit storage. Tube of Aquaseal for glue. Bottle of Cotol-240 to speed up dry time. Alcohol swabs for cleaning the area to be patched. Small bristle brush for spreading Aquaseal. Women’s nylons are great, flexible patch materials.Knife or straight-edge razor blade for cutting a patch or nylon. Rubber glove to keep fingers from sticking. Lighter for melting neoprene. Masking tape for holding a cut together. Keer also explains in detail how to patch neoprene waders and breathable, canvas, or rubber waders.

Photos: Outdoor Life (top); Take Me Fishing (above)

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A pickup in the Great Plains is like a horse in the Rocky Mountains. The distances are expansive and the best way to get around is by four-wheel drive, an excellent test track for Nissan’s new Titan 4X4. I picked up the rig at the airport in Rapid City and my first impression was, “Wow!” The Titan just grabs your attention with its Cayenne red paint and charcoal interior and just won’t let go. 

Diamond Willow Deer 156After piling my gear in the extended cab area behind the seat, I headed for Fort Thompson, just beyond the Missouri River. Highway speeds would be the first challenge; the posted 75 mph limit on I-90 and the 5.6 Liter V8 with 317 horsepower quickly got me up to speed, and the next 150 miles flew by. The Titan was steady and stable despite a 20-mph crosswind, and road construction bumps and road damage from the recent blizzard were barely noticeable. With just 1,800 miles on the new truck, the fuel gauge average was 14.3, which I expected that to plummet at the ultra highway speeds. Ironically, I’d learn that the posted MPG (14) rating was accurate regardless of road conditions and is about average for 4X4 pickups. 

I arrived in Fort Thompson at dusk and drove to a few agricultural spots to glass for SD Deer 2013 2 043the morning hunt. Later I met my hunting buddies at the restaurant for dinner where a stranger approached and said that he’d seen me earlier glassing for deer. Reading the curious look on my face, he went onto explain that he recognized me from the truck in the parking lot. As the week went on, this same scenario happened repeatedly as the red Titan captured everyone’s attention: “Where’d you get that truck?” “Is it yours?” “I love your ride!”  

On the Prairie

SD Deer 2013 2 275The first morning of the hunt I was asked to leave the truck behind (what???) as the property we’d hunt had limited access, and I was to be a stander in a modified deer stalk/drive. I finally relented, but luck was on my side and I took a big eight-point whitetail in mid-morning. I called back to the lodge and asked someone to bring the truck to me, where we loaded the deer and I finally got to run off road. The Titan 4X4 PRO-4X has a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system that operates with the twist of a switch and drops to 4WD low range by pushing the switch to avoid accidental engagement. As anxious as I was to turn on the 4WD, the Titan handled the hills and gullies of the prairie in 2WD. We used an ice sled to load my buck; this also kept fluids from the bed of the truck, which came with a bed liner standard.

Truck Turned Taxi

My early success allowed me to carry my fellow hunters to their areas, fill the bed SD Deer 2013 2 318with whitetails and mule deer, and seek out some really cool photography spots. One location featured a series of the Badlands bluffs that are beautifully backlit in the afternoon. I had three buddies with me on one trip and the normally raucous conversation suddenly grew silent as I zoomed over open terrain at 30 miles per hour. The Titan ran over rough ground about the same as the interstate, and I took notice of my passengers’ silence as I was pushing the off-road envelope.

Climbing in and out of a pickup bed can normally be a challenge, but the fold-down step under the rear bumper made a safe and sure step. Push the step toward the rear and it pops down and easily reverses with a push of the foot, then stores out of the way. 

Amenities Galore

SD Deer 2013 2 376The Titan came with the PRO-4X luxury package, which includes a 5.8-inch navigation display that was easy to read at a glance. The leather-appointed seats were super comfortable and included heat on the driver and passenger’s side. The seat was eight-way adjustable and the memory feature made for easy exit and entry. 

On the outside, the cab-mounted cargo lights were incredibly helpful at night and made closing western-style gates much easier in the dark. The driver’s side of the bed has lockable storage, and the two-inch hitch receiver linked perfectly with our Sportsman’s Guide deer hoist. Backing up between other hunting vehicles was a snap with the back-up camera; a rear sonar system sounded if we got too close. When traveling the prairie roads alone, the Sirius XM satellite radio came in handy and sounded like a symphony through eight speakers including subwoofer and center speaker. Built in Canton, Ohio, I felt good about the American jobs I was supporting. 

ShortcomingsDiamond Willow Deer 013

The one improvement needed was situational. Since I often had two or three passengers, the King Cab model with four full-size doors and six seats may have been more appropriate. On the other hand, both back seats in the five-seat model fold up and the smaller doors open 168 degrees, allowing for great storage space for two passengers. Also, in a perfect world I’d like my 4X4 to get 50 MPG, but the Titan with the 3.357:1 final gear ratio has plenty of pull and power and still got respectable mileage.

Conclusion

The Titan had many more features that I haven’t covered, yet I can say unequivocally that I’ve never driven or ridden in a pickup that received so much positive acclaim. The seats were comfortable, and the ride was smooth on the highway and pleasant over rough terrain, handling most conditions in 2WD. The bed is very functional and can be modified for hauling cargo much larger than our deer. If the Titan were a hunting dog, it would surely be a red lab — cool enough that your wife and kids will love it, great around the house,  and terrific enough in the field to bring home the bacon. For all the details, go to nissanusa.com.

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When you’re lost or looking for direction, there’s nothing better than a map. The same is especially true when you’re hunting. Your next great hunting spot could be within reach with a map and some planning. But did you know having an updated map also can help you gain access to more hunting land? The National Wild Turkey Federation’s J.J. Reich explains how, and offers four other reasons maps mean power.

GPS and binoculars on topographical Map

Having a county plat book or land parcel map that provides names of landowners is a definite advantage, when asking for permission on private land. Other mapping resources lack this information. Land ownership changes constantly and land layout is also subject to modification. Purchasing the latest issue of a county plat book will provide you with these updates while also benefiting you with the new mapping features, indexes and navigational tools added with every new annual edition.

Photos: ISOWhitetails (top); NWTF (above)