It's time to have cameras out and put t yourself through the misery of 90+ degree heat, bugs, etc. You can see from the photo above the at 7PM it was still 87 degrees. But more importantly the deer are growing rapidly and the three young bucks in the photo are going well and finding plenty of browse.
We have been seeing fawns staying close to the does as well.
Finally, we are getting enough rain to green the woods up and make the mosquitos and yellow flies happy! The open hammock above is typical of an area I would scout and hunt.
It was way too warm, the deer were not moving until after dark. However on the third day of our four day quota hunt it was bit cooler, and overcast raising our hopes a little. Hoginator and I thought that hunting the pinch point that I found the year before was the best course of action. We pulled out of our campsite about 4:15 AM and headed to the Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
We hiked with our climbers and packs, taking a path around the oak ridge in the hope of not laying down our scent where it might spook the deer. Upon reaching the 50 yard wide pinch point where two large swaps nearly touch, we decided that Hoginator would set up in the pinch point and I would go through and set up a short distance around the corner and call as well as glass the couple hundred acres in open pine and palmetto where I hoped to see and pattern deer.
About every 30 minutes or so I would bleat followed by a short sequence of non-agrresive grunts. Not long after 8 am an 8 pointer came down through the adjacent oak ridge and headed down towards the pinch point.
He came into the draw as if he was a fish being reeled in and started to take a short cut through the edge of the swamp directly for my tree when he paused for a moment and Hoginator took the quartering away shot. The arrow hit exactly where it was needed and cutting through vitals and lodging in the bucks front shoulder making for a quick clean kill.
The last day's AM hunt didn't produce any deer but we were rewarded with a Black Bear sow and cubs coming through the funnel...see the video below.
What makes a great Archery Shop?...go to Alachua Farm and Lumber in Alachua Florida and see Terry to find out.
After a recent easy shot I took at a doe but missed @#$%!? and a session at the range where my groups were not consistent and with too many "flyers"...even for my middle ages eyes, I realized that my Mathews bow needed adjusting. I hadn't had it to the shop since being restrung more than a year ago and I had been shooting a good deal.
As soon as I opened the door and entered Alachua Farm and Lumber and when I could see Terry behind the archery counter, I knew there was hope left in the world.
I had emailed Mathews website support some photos and a narrative the day before and showed Terry their response. Terry looked it over, frowned and made a huffing noise that sounded like a combination of a deer snort and human sigh. He then put the bow in his vice and in a very short time had made the adjustments. While doing so he examined my fall away arrow rest and said bring in your arrows. I thought he wanted me to shoot to make final adjustments but instead he examined the fletchings and then showed me another issue I was having. Two faint lines on some of the fletchings indicated that my fall away rest was not staying in the down position but instead was at least some of the time "jumping" back up and making contact with the fletchings!!!! YIKES! Now I was the one snorting and wheezing like a buck sensing trouble. That, may have been the reason my arrow went under that doe!
After replacing my arrow rest we went into the indoor range and took turns shooting while Terry made some final adjustments. I immediately was shooting more accurate and tighter groups!
So thank you Terry and Alachua Farm and Lumber, for your expertise and all around good nature. If your in North / Central Florida stop in and deal with them or go to their website.
Ok, with only one doe down and one un-recovered hog so far, yes, the early part of archery season has not been very successful. In fact it's been challenging. The very hot weather, hurricanes, resulting high water, mosquitoes of biblical proportion, etc., have not helped. The good news, its the second week in October and the weather is starting to turn.
I'll get right to the lessons learned:
The intense heat, wet, mosquitoes of July and August didn’t let up when September arrived. It actually became worse with the arrival of Hurricane Hermine for Labor Day weekend. I made the commitment to keep up a regular regiment of scouting and it paid off with some great sightings of quality bucks, but would we be able to kill one? On opening day Douglas aka Hoginator, John aka Deadeye and I set off to our chosen areas on the first day of Devils Hammock WMA Quota Hunt. Always wanting my companions to be in the best locations I chose a tree for Hoginator that overlooked a trail/cutover lane and two pinch points within bow range. We put John, aka Deadeye on an attractive edge and near a trail that led to a bedding area. I went to a small hammock about a ¼ mile from the others closer on the edge of the river bottom.
We had all climbed our trees and were in place with about an hour before there was enough light to shoot. Unfortunately, my hunt was disturbed before it even started by a hunter walking in late to an area too close to my set up. Public land hunting is difficult enough with our having to contend with hunters that don’t consider others, sleep in or generally not prepared.
Fast forward to mid-morning. Douglas had killed a small doe; the first kill of the quota hunt. Deadeye had seen a large deer pass by early when it was too dark to shoot and I saw no deer.
We did get in a few more hunts but the bucks never materialized. Was it the full moon, the fact that that moon was full, hunter pressure???
Not long after the Devils Hammock closed another one of our favorite refuges, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge opened. It was still hot, wet and generally miserable but Max and I trekked in to one of my favorite hammocks. Following an old logging tram trail we picked our way around the blowdown from the recent hurricane. I left Max to set up in a quality location and I pushed in another ¼ mile or so, wondering why I carrying 55 pounds of gear (25 lb. climber and a 30 lb. pack and bow).
The hammocks in the Suwannee River basin often have dense tree canopy with a mix of live oaks, palms, pines, and smaller understory trees. The sunrise comes slower and later in these areas and on moonless nights you can’t see your hand in front of your face before first light. I prefer the dark nights for walking and getting set up. It was one of those nights as I climbed about 25’ up in a palm tree about 30 yards off a game trail and overlooking a hammock with oaks and grasses surrounded on three sides by swamp and a tram trail that formed the fourth edge. There is no guarantee that the deer and hogs will follow edges, they have no hesitation to going right through a swamp, even swimming when they want to but they also and often follow the natural and man-made edges. Additionally, those edges often provide longer view and shot windows.
Mid-morning, I heard then saw a large hog come into the hammock. I quickly put my range finder crosshairs on him and at 30 yards he was in right in my 20 to 40-yard favorite kill zone. He was stopped and broadside when I put my 30-yard pin on the edge of his shoulder, wanting to miss the shoulder plate but perhaps get close to or even hit some lung. The preferred shot on wild hog is a quartering away shot, but that wasn’t going to happen.
The arrow struck with that solid sound you hope for, not a hollow gut shot sound, nor a sharper bone only sound that can sound like you shot a piece of plywood. The impact made the hog turn 180 degrees and take off running. I didn’t see the arrow and assumed it was a pass through. I hunted another hour then texted Max with a plan to meet up and track the hog.
When we made it to the location where the hog was hit, I expected to see the arrow. No arrow, no blood, what the f!@#. Fortunately, the blood trail started less than 20 yards away and within a 100 yards we came across the arrow, the entire shaft and vanes covered in rich red blood and the tip of the Magnus Buzzcut broadhead very slightly bent…bone I suspected. The arrow must have made it at least part of the way through the hog and he either pulled it out or it worked it’s self though while he was running. Now the blood trail was easy to follow and we were convinced that it was a solid lung shot and we would find him dead. After approximately a ¼ mile the hog entered a swamp with water deep enough that we lost the trail. Max and I worked the area kept moving out further and further from the swamp hoping that the hog decided to get back to dryer ground. Max fell into a hole in the swamp, over topping his tall boots and against my recommendation, continued into the deeper areas and areas with very thick reeds. I warned him that gators like those reeds and I had no desire to recover the hog and Max’s body; at least not in the same day.
After a long and thorough search, we determined that the hog kept going deeper into the swamp and not finding any further blood trail we reluctantly called off the search, made our way back to the trail, packed up our gear and headed out, disappointed.
This is how it goes at times hunting public lands where there is always lots of territory you have never seen before. There are also many rewards to exploring and hunting new areas, especially well off trail where few venture.
Here are a couple images to serve as a refresher on where to place you arrow / bullet.
Having a rangefinder that you can set to compute the calculations for you makes it very easy.
The illustration below is of a Leupold Range finder that has the True Ballistic Range feature. There are a number of manufacturers that offer this feature.
The rangefinder in the illustration below is set for older bows with draw weights below 50 pounds. The deer is 40 yards away (Line of Sight), at a 40 degree angle from the archer. The range finder has calculated that effective range is 34 yards.
So what did we do before all these fancy rangefinders? What I did was the old fashioned, pick my tree stand location and pace off a two or three trees as distance guides, climb up the desired height and estimated where my sight pin would need to be based upon previous experience. For longer distance rifle shots, we would estimate ranges based upon experience and take the shot. In other words practice and experience is key. Spending time on the archery and rifle range is also key. Technology may not always be there for you.
Scent control in Florida is an oxymoron: "A combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings" - Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Ok, having made that pronouncement, and knowing we may have joined a serious debate. We will now go even go further, if you buy scent control sprays, etc., you are probably throwing your money away.
........Yes, we said it.......and now that the scent control industry is busy preparing concrete hunting boots for us, we would like to offer some additional information
We enter the following article into evidence:
Furthermore, it's my personal experience that often it's so f-ing hot during bow season that there is nothing known to mankind that can effectively mask your scent.
While the debate and marketing campaigns rage on, we will offer a few honest tips and techniques that have worked for us. Most of these are unrelated to the scent discussion but work.
1. Getting to you stand location: Yes, get there in the dark. It's better to sit in your tree stand of an hour or so in the dark then get all the game upset during daylight hours.
2. If you can stay off the game trials, do it. If you can walk through water, do it. If you can avoid touching trees and brush, do it.
3. When you climb the tree you're going to hunt from, climb at least 20 feet up. Higher is better.
4. When you get settled, check the wind direction and for thermals.
5. Deer scent and calls can work. Deer are curious.
So have our lessons been proven effective?
We have killed many deer and hogs that have walked close to or under our stands even when we wet with sweat. Why, because were high enough that our scent did not translate to ground level.
One final tip: When you are are hunting at high tree stand elevations,adjust your bow shots according to the trajectory of your arrow. Many range finders will do this automatically but don't take it for granted. If your high in tree, 35 yards from your target but only 25 yards line of sight, you should probably use your 25 yard pin!
The photos are of the skull of a wild hog killed in the Big Bend region of Florida during the 2015 muzzleloader season. What was the hog eating or rooting in that caused the black staining on his tusks?
He was large and Paul and I were a good distance from where we parked and completely off trail so we packed out the hams and shoulders by lashing them to a sapling that Paul cut with his survival knife. That meant we had to leave the carcass behind. We went back a couple months later and I found the wild hog's skull. Even though his carcass has ben picked clean and bones scattered or carried off, his tusks were still as black as the day he was shot and remain so almost a year later.
....more Late August Archery Season Scouting in Florida's Big Bend...or why would anyone do such a thing?
With less than three weeks before our first quota hunt, there is no the to waste. Yes it is hot, the mosquitos thick, snakes and gators abundant, tropical storms brewing, but also the early acorns are maturing and the bucks are beginning to rub and patterns beginning to emerge. And this is is very valuable time for archery hunters, especially on public lands where there are no feeders, food plots or high fences to ensure game patterns and movement.
This is difficult scouting with no assurance of success, or as my grandfather would say, "if was easy, everybody would be doing it".
The first acorns are falling from the Post Oaks or Iron Oaks as they are also called. with the swamps filled there are clear "edges" and hogs and deer moving along them.
Bucks are beginning too mark there territory with rubs and scrapes.
And yearlings are loosing their spots.
Even the young bucks seen to be acting more deliberate these days.
Fred Bear (1902-1988) is an American legend and considered the father of bow hunting and founder of Bear Archery.
Bear Archery's manufacturing facility has a great archery range for those of us, like Hoginator and I that need lots of practice, enjoy shooting on a professionally set up range and having the occasional conversation with other archers.
We sincerely thank Bear Archery for allowing us to practice at their proving grounds range in Gainesville, Florida and encourage bow hunters and competition shooters to check out the high quality bows that Bear produces. I own a Bear long bow that is great quality and a pleasure to shoot.
Although Fred Bear didn't start bow hunting until he was in his late 20's he became an accomplshed archer and deadly bow hunter, killing small and big game including dangerous game around the world. Just about of us that bow hunt have been influenced by and benefitted from the talent and innovation that Fred Bear brought to our sport and industry.
One of the 40 yard shooting lanes at the Bear Archery Proving Grounds in Gainesville FL.
A weird grouping at the range...acceptable hunting group but I'm sure it can get tighter with more practice.