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Tips & Tricks

Crossbow Hunting the Rut

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Crossbow Hunting the Rut

Crossbow hunting the rut is almost as fun as it is challenging. During this time of the season your tactics will have to be as dynamic and flexible as the environment you’re hunting in. That being said the rut can be confusing and if don’t have an understand what is going on during the different phases you could blow a rare opportunity at a trophy buck.

Here’s a rut breakdown that will help you figure out what phase of the rut you’re in and what  crossbow hunting tactics you can use to maximize your odds of success.

Seeking Phase

Normally occurring 1 or 2 weeks prior to peak of the rut, bucks will be starting to move around in order to locate does so you’ll begin seeing more buck. Also. look for an sudden increase in the number of rubs and scrapes in the area

  • Make Some Scrapes – Bucks will hit just about every scrape they see now, so mock up several in a transition area between feed and bed that’s already peppered with good buck sign. Quitely hand a stand in the early afternoon and get ready for a trophy to work over your creation.
  • Sit the side trail – You can find big buck gold now not more than 20 to 60 yards away off a prime feed field. Look for a faint trail or rub line that parallels the edge. Bucks will follow this discreet path to scent-check every trail leading to the field.

Chasing Phase

Usually one week prior to the peak when the does are just starting to come into estrus. Bucks will be wound right up and will be chasing does. The unpredictability of this period makes a favorite phase for most hunters.

  • Beat a buck to bed – Now’s the time to slip into a buck’s bedding area and catch him coming home late from a night of doe chasing. Pack in a light climber or hang-on and set up in the dark. If your stand placement isn’t perfect, calling will coax him in.
  • Fake him Out – Bucks run to just about every deer they see right now, so exploit that weakness with doe-and-subordinate buck decoys.

Peak Breeding

When the rut peaks almost all the does will be in estrus. During this period you will notice a decline in deer movement as the bucks will now be with the does.

  • Stay in the saddle – Almost every buck in the area has better things to do than walk by your stand. You’re looking for that one big buck who’s between doe’s and looking for his next mate. The way to find him is to site in a terrain funnel (like a saddle) and just hang in there all day, and call.
  • Check out the view – Find a breeding pair by setting up in an area where you can see a bunch of country, such as a fence line or high spot and just wear out your optics. When you spot a breeding pair, get down and make a stalk.

Post-Rut

One to two weeks after the peak breeding will be wound down and bucks will be returning to their home turf. After the rut you’ll notice the does reaaperaing at their food sources.

  • Return to Rubs – Mature bucks often revert to their old bed-to-feed travel routes marked by their pre-rut rubs. Watch for one or more to get freshened now, and then hang your stand within shooting distance.
  • Hunt the Grub -Bucks have been running steady for a month and they need to replenish. If by chance they are still looking for does, guess where they are going to find them. Right, the hottest food source. Focus on acorns, waste grain, cereal and young clear-cuts.

 2nd Rut

A month or so after the first rut peaks unbread does will go into estrus again. By the time this occurs the deer will be in winter survival mode and should be close to food. Hunt nearby to capitalize on this second chance.

RUT Rubs and Scrapes

For the most part bucks abandon rubs and scrapes once the rut kicks into full swing but there are two key exceptions that can put a rutting bucks with range.

  1. Core Area Sign
    1. Most of the rubs and scrapes that a buck makes in and around their core area during the pre-rut are largely ignored during the ruts peak. However, bucks will make regular return visits to his core area and he may freshen those rubs and scrapes, or make new ones.
  2. Doe Area Sign
    1. Rutting bucks will also open new rubs and scrapes just off prime doe feeding or bedding areas. This sign may be active for only a short time but can draw visits from multiple bucks when a member of a doe family group is nearing or in estrous.Don’t forget to keep an eye out for fresh rubs and scrapes that can tip you off that bucks are active in the area right now. This can be a great place to hand a stand or to still-hunt if the wind is right. As with the core areas, use trail cameras or speed-scout at midday to check for freshened spoor. With bucks preoccupied with does and moving unpredictably you can get away with more intrusions. So hunting that fresh sign as soon as you find it can really pay off.

Tips & Tricks

Climbing Treestand Tips

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Climbing treestand tips that will help you become a better crossbow hunter.

Climbing Treestand Tips

  1. Go Light –Ditch the backpack and that other gear that isn’t a necessity. It’s much easier to carry a climber in on your back if your not hauling a lot of additional weight. If you still need some gear try to pare down and use something lighter like a fanny pack or fill your pockets.
  2. Seek Cover – Straight, branch less trees lack cover and will not break up your silhouette. So look for a solid climbing tree that is growing in a cluster, near leafy saplings, or surrounded by conifers. Keep in mind that as the seasons change these spots will as well, depending on the type of cover chosen.
  3. Find a Fork – If cover is light, choose a tree that forks 18-20 feet up. This will give you a little more back cover to break up your pattern.
  4. Get Higher – Another trick for low-cover situations is to go higher and further remove yourself from your quarries site line. Keep in mind this added elevation will affect your shooting angle so don’t forget to account for this during shot placement.
  5. Don’t Hang Out – If your climbing stand kicks out from under your feet your harness will catch you. Don’t just leave yourself in a position where you are stuck, make sure you have a controlled decent device.
  6. Clang & Bang – Make sure your climber is strapped together and has padding in appropriate areas to reduce metal on metal sounds that comes from trekking through the woods. Pipe insulation and a little duct tape will go along way. Some climbers have noise reduction technology built in.
  7. Trim Lanes in Advance – You can always go in and climb a tree the day of. But if you can go in early trim your climbing tree and the lanes around it, you’ll ensure nothing will get between you and your trophy.
  8. Know Your Climber – Practice with your climber on different size and species of trees before the season. The exercise will not only help your climbing, but it will allow your to better recognize trees in your area which are perfectly suited for your climber.Climber Treestand Tips

Tips & Tricks

Fruit Stand Hunting

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Hunting near fruit can be action packed if you know to setup.

Fruit is nature’s candy and wild animals can’t resist it. This is why abundant fall fruit like apples are key early season hunting spots. Whether it’s a full blown orchard or lone crab apple tree, you can’t go wrong setting up nearby if you consider these 4 tips:

Find the Fruit: If your not hunting an orchard this maybe easier said than done especially since some fruit may drop earlier than others. Also, sometimes you may find the big game will prefer different types of apples over others for no apparent reason. To figure out their favorites you need to scout the different varieties, looking for lots of tracks, chewed apple bits, and rubs on nearby trees.

Trails: Several trails may lead to the fruit trees you choose to hunt over. Trying following these trails until you find one with largest tracks, rubs, or scrapes. Pick a spot in to setup that will put that you in perfect position to intercept anything moving on the trail toward or away from that fruit tree.

Stay Low:  Most fruit tree aren’t suitable for treestands and often the areas they thrive in lack other nearby timber for a treestand. As an alternative you can setup a ground blind or pit blind within shooting range. Try to hide the blind the best you can by utilizing local brush and cover. Set it up at least a couple days in advance.

Timing: When you go into hunt near fruit try to arrive early afternoon. Big game aren’t heavily pressured during early season and will often stop by fruit tree as a appetizer before they make their way to an agricultural field.Crossbow Hunting Apples

Tips & Tricks

A Deer Nose Knows

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A whitetail deer has legendary sense of that is equally underestimated as it is overestimated.

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Tips & Tricks

Make a Game Trail

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Make a Game Trail & Improve Your Odds

Whether you’re setting up a mineral lick, trail camera our picking a hunt site, we use game trails as one of the primary factors for picking that location. Once located we hunker down, setup our stand, camera or lick and hope we can intercept an animal coming down that trail. This rarely goes perfectly as planned as wild game often use multiple trails in an area or branch on and off a trail.

So how do we get them to go where we need them to go?

You make a trail, that’s how. Of course you still want to locate a well traveled trail in your area in to ensure there will be traffic. However, once that is done you can take steps to increase your odds the animal will head in your direction.

  • Remove fallen limbs or debris that could encourage them to abandon parts the trail.
  • Locate and block other know trails with some type of obstacle that will deter game from those paths.
  • Use elevation to your advantage and create a new trail which is easier to travel.
  • Plant brush or trees that will grow, eventually forcing them in another direction.
  • Create uneven surfaces that will discourage ungulates (hoofed animals) from traveling over them.
  • In thick brush trim out a new path (be sure to leave some cover)

Wild game is never predictable but given the option most animals will more often than not take the path of least resistance. So use your landscape to your advantage to create the irresistible trophy trail.

TechnologyTips & Tricks

Trail Camera Testing

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Trail cameras are the primary scouting tool for the modern hunter, capturing footage of the wild game in your area that you can use to give you the edge.

There are dozens of trail camera brands and models to choose from.  Each one has varying capabilities and setting that you can configure. While some are easier to setup and use than others, you want to make sure the model you’re using is setup to take the best images/video possible.  There’s nothing worse than spending all that money and timing setting up a trail camera, only to find out later that it wasn’t properly configured. So to ensure you don’t miss capturing that elusive trophy, spend 20 minutes and test your setting.

This is a quick test that will guarantee your flash range; focal point, image clarity and trigger speed are dialed in and ready to capture the perfect shot.

  1. Program your camera as you would before taking it into the field (use default settings, gives you a solid starting point)
  2. Now mount it 4-6 feet high on a tree, telephone pole or tripod. Try to do this in an relatively open area.
  3. Stand next to the camera and measure 10 feet directly in front of the lens.
  4. Place a stake or easily visible object at this spot.
  5. Measure out another off another 10 feet and repeat until you have a straight line of stakes/objects every 10 feet, for 50 feet.
  6. Turn on your trail camera and let it arm itself.
  7. Go behind the camera and loop around, outside the camera field of view but in line with the 10 foot marker.
  8. Now walk past the camera at the first 10 foot marker (make sure your camera has time to capture your image)
  9. Then allow it to rearm and repeat this step for each of the stakes/objects.

This test will provide you if visual evidence of your cameras following capabilities:

  • Maximum Detection Range in Distance (the farthest stake at which the camera can detect you),
  • Maximum Detection Width (how far into the field of view you had to walk)
  • Image Clarity (will tell you the ideal focal distance)

If you’re also interested in testing your  Trigger Speed you can reuse this setup and try running by your camera at the various distances. If running isn’t your thing you can drive by on an ATV, or have a family pet do the running.  This test allows you to determine whether you are happy with your current systems trigger speed or whether you believe it’s time for an upgrade.