Its Time to Buy Trees

Providing food for deer is not just planting some clover and corn, planting fruit and nut trees can add variety to a deer’s diet.  Now, the middle of winter, is a good time to order trees from places that will deliver them to you around April, just in time for planting.

In addition to food, deer need cover.  Having an area of coniferous trees will provide excellent cover for many years.  Once they get too big, they’ll no longer be cover.  Here in Wisconsin, my dad used to buy several thousand white pines each year.  He figures that around 80% survive.  These are excellent deer cover from around the fifth through the twentieth year after being planted when they were a foot tall.

There are many things that you need to know about trees:

  • Pears (I’m told) are easier to maintain than apple trees
  • You need more than one variety of apple/ pear trees in order to produce fruit (an orchard of only honey crisp apples will not produce fruit)
  • Most of the fruit and nut trees should be fenced and tubed, until they are big enough to survive the rabbits and deer that will eat them
  • The first year that you plant a tree it will usually not grow, becasue it is getting used to its surroundings, it’ll grow in year two
  • Lots of water can overcome an awful lot of problems like heat and poor soil
  • Pine trees grow faster, spruce trees provide cover for longer

There are lots of other things to know, but this should get you started.

One thing to look for in your tree varieties is the date of ripening.  Ideally you’ll have a group of trees that ripen the first week of the hunting season, and then you’ll know right were the deer will be.  Then another group of trees may ripen at varying points throughout the season, and so long as you know when those dates are, you can have a good idea of when want where the deer want to be.

Tree retailers:

Tree tubes & Accessories:

Ben Meadows

Where to Buy Hunting Land

So you want to shoot bucks?

Priority number 1: Have a good spot

If we want to be successful hunters we need to go where the deer are. Being where they aren’t won’t do us any good.

If you don’t have a good spot, then you need to forget everything else until you do.

We can look at places like Boone & Crockett for their data for where big bucks have been shot, to start.

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And we can see that lots of big bucks have been shot along the northern half of the Mississippi River and in South Texas. But there are problems with this. Firstly, how many people register their bucks? Secondly, many places may have more hunters than their surroundings and have more results because of that rather than just having more big bucks. And this map is out of date.

But we can still learn things from this map.  Lots of big bucks are shot along the Northern Mississippi River; so if you live in Ohio or Kentucky we may surmise that along the Ohio River might be quite good too.  And it’ll be lots closer than Eastern Illinois if you live in Kentucky.

If you live in Louisiana you’ll note that the place to be is along the big river and not along the coast.  Northern Missouri looks better than Southern Missouri.  And so on.

While you can improve the quality of the deer in your area with better cover and food you will also be limited by what your area can produce.  I have no doubt that Northern Michigan has deer there, but it cannot seem to produce big bucks.

One other thing to remember when picking land is that if all of your neighbors shoot all the bucks that they see, then they’ll never get big.  My uncle recently discovered that his neighbors shot 10 small bucks this past year.  When that happens no bucks are left to get big.  If all the neighbors shoot small bucks, then they may not ever get a chance to get big.

If you are in a place where there don’t seem to be any big bucks, then you’ll need to go as far out into the most impenetrable cover that you can find.  If you’re the only hunter around then you’ll have your pick.

When all the neighbors shoot big bucks, you’ve got a chance.  When they don’t you’re not likely to either.

The best specific location will be to find land in the thickest densest stuff in the area.  Particularly when there is hunting pressure.

Years ago, my dad knew that as soon as the woods filled with deer hunters on opening day all the deer would run to the nearest marsh.  After opening day, the guys in the marsh did well and nobody else saw anything.

If you can find the marsh that is surrounded by agricultural fields, then you may have a very good spot, even when there is minimal pressure.

Field & Stream’s Archery Myths

Somebody on archerytalk scanned and posted an article Field & Stream had last July on odd archery theories.  It is one of the most interesting things I’ve read, in a magazine, in a while.

(You’d think a company like F&S would want to make their stuff, like, available, but apparently they want you to buy the old stuff instead.  No doubt they’ve tried a paywall for their website.  Pro-tip: rather than putting up a paywall, why not just delete your website?  You save hosting, etc costs and the same number of people will have looked at it.)

(And if F&S wants to complain about me “stealing” their “intellectual property” to post here, I’ll say: 1. if you hadn’t discovered this you wouldn’t know that anything was missing 2. I am bringing attention to an excellent article that your magazine published. The following is free advertising for F&S.)

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For some reason page 3 cannot be copied here. Summary: Whisker Biscuits are slightly slower than drop-away rests, but similarly accurate. Stabilizers may or may not improve accuracy, depending on you and your bow.

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This is one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a magazine. And surprisingly, very surprisingly, I agree with nearly all of their conclusions.

As ever, the moral of the story is that you are unique and different (just like everyone else) and so you should try different things to see what works best for you.

Shooting Does

I know a fair few successful deer hunters, and I’ve noticed a common trend among them: they [we] don’t shoot any does.

If you haven’t yet shot a deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you see.

If you want to hunt just for the meat, then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

If you enjoy hunting and are happy with shooting any deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you can.

If you have only very few days in the woods each year, then you should shoot does.

If you are required by law to shoot a doe before you can shoot a buck, then you should shoot the first doe that you can.

If you hunt where there are very, very few deer (and maybe lots of wolves, coyotes, and bears, like in Northern WI), then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

But if your goal is to shoot as many bucks as possible, or to shoot the biggest bucks possible, then every doe that you shoot will make it harder to shoot bucks.

If the does in your area are not comfortable where you hunt, then they will move elsewhere and take the bucks with them.  The does will be where the best food, water, and cover that they can find is.  When you shoot any deer you will, almost invariably, do more wandering around in the woods and make more noise exactly where you do not want to do any of that.

Many guys like to shoot the first doe they can and then hunt for bucks.  This can be a huge problem becasue when you cause all the ruckus in an area the deer may want to avoid it, and if there were several deer in a group when you shot one, then the others may well stay away from that area forever after.  And if those other group members avoid the area, then the bucks that will be after them during the rut won’t be around either.

If you need to shoot a doe, and still want to hunt bucks, then I would suggest shooting your doe at some public land that you do not normally hunt.

And the worst problem with shooting does is that bucks almost never lead does.  You may well shoot a doe that had a buck behind it that you did not see.

Absolutely nothing good (for your buck hunting) can come from shooting does.

Bow Sight Brightness

Many times you will need to be able to see in very low light in order to make a successful shot at a deer.  In these cases every extra minute of time that you get at dawn and dusk is worth some money.  The differences in the quality of optics (binoculars, riflescopes, etc) isn’t always obvious during the day, but better optics give you more minutes of shooting light.

With optics going up in quality (and therefore brightness) is almost as easy as going up in price.

Bow sights aren’t that easy to judge for quality (and brightness).  Almost every new bow sight today is of sufficient quality to do things like target shoot and hunt throughout the light hours of the day.  And if deer always came out during the day, then any ol’ sight would be fine.  But since we know that dawn and dusk are a deer’s most active times of the day, then every extra minute of light that you get is invaluable.   Otherwise you’ll be missing out on deer that you could’ve gotten.

There are two ways to get more brightness in modern bow sights: more fiber optics or artificial light.

The artificial light comes from a small battery and a small light illuminating the sight pins.  The cheaper options are just a small light stuck on the side of the sight.  (Twist to turn on/off.)  These light up the whole inside of the sight ring and are therefore less than ideal.

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The cleverer lighted sights place the light so that they only illuminate the ends of the fiber optic pins.  You can get these for as little as $50.  (The light is behind the bottom lump on the sight pictured below.)

outlaw sight

Those lighted sights are much better than the slightly cheaper versions, but lighted sights still have problems keeping them less than ideal.

The first problem is that you need to turn them on.  As in, “wait a minute deer.  Give me a second to turn my sight on.  Okay, time in.”  This can be somewhat avoided by turning your sight on whenever you become aware of any deer and turn it off when you know you don’t want to shoot it.  (Or just leave it on and burn through batteries.)

The more important problem with illuminated sights is that they can be too bright and cover everything past them.  The haze around too bright of a glow can mean that you cannot see past the sight.

Better than having an artificial light is having lots of fiberoptic cable all over the sight.  Sights that merely have an inch or three of fiber optics will not gather as much light as a sight that has its fiber optics wrapped around it somewhere.

The sight I use is from Toxonics, which may or may not still be in business.  (Their website still works though.)

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My sight is in black; only idiots pay more to get things in camo when it is not necessary.  Or maybe turkey hunters need all the camo they can get?

I can tell that there are a few places where my sight’s fiber optics are broken, with age.  Where they are broken means I’m not losing much brightness, but I am losing everything past the breaks.

So more fiber optics is best and you may need to replace them in a few years as it ages.

One thing to look out for in sights is to avoid the sights that have lots of fiber optics but for some unfathomable reason encase them in clear tubes.  Those tubes reduce the amount of light that gets to the sight and leaves it dimmer than it would be without the tubes.

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So I’m now researching mainly Trophy Ridge bow sights.  I may go with a 5 pin version this time, for maybe 70 yard shooting, but only if the top pin is as bright as possible.  I may also consider the Trophy Ridge Alpha 1 with 14 inches of fiber optics.  Because my number one pin needs to be as bright as possible.

Sight/ Nock Colors

Modern bow sights are brighter than they used to be becasue they all now use fiber optics.  Sights are brighter with longer lengths of the fibers leading to the sights or with the addition of artificial light sources.  And there is a third way to affect the brightness of these sights: color.

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If you look at most bow sights you will see that the different pins are of different colors.  As you can, maybe, see from the pictured sight there are three pins with three different colors.  There are two things to note with this.

Firstly different pins lead to ease of pin selection.  If you had three pins of all the same color you may well select the wrong pin when you go to shoot.  With different pins you can remember that the green pin is for 20 yard, the yellow for 30 yards, and the red pin for forty. for example.  Less confusion.

I have seen five pin sights with two green on top and two green on the bottom, with a red in the middle.  It may be worth avoiding those becasue you may well use the wrong pin when the pin selection is critical.

The second thing to take note of is that the different colors will be of varying brightness.  As the day gets brighter or darker at dawn and dusk different colors will appear differently.  Those of you who fish may well know things like dark red is basically the same as black when the water is very dark.

Imagine hunting in the evening.  Early in the hunt it is bright out and you can see for hundreds of yards.  as the night grows closer you can see fewer and fewer yards away, until it is too dark to see your hand in front of your face.  As this is occurring you can see all pin colors at the beginning of the hunt, and as it gets darker you will first lose the red pin to the night.  Theoretically this is the point when it is too dark to shoot safely out to forty yards, or wherever you have your bottom pin set to.

As it grows darker yet, the yellow pin will disappear.  And, theoretically, it is at this point when it is too dark to shoot safely out to thirty yards, or wherever you have you second sight set to.

And finally your green pin will stay visible longer into the night than the others, and when you can no longer see your pin it is too dark to shoot.

Two points of note:

  1. Your hunt may end earlier than your green pin disappears becasue your peep sight will only allow so much light through and it may well become black before your pins disappear
  2. Keep in mind your legal shooting hours

I have never seen a bow sight without a green pin on top, nor a single pin sight that was not green.  (Maybe I have seen a single red sight.)

This color difference may affect you particularly if you are left handed.  Many reversible bow sights just flip the sight over, this is fine except you do not want your top pin red and bottom pin green.  Otherwise you will end up with a situation where you cannot see your twenty yard pin, can see your forty yard pin, cannot see out forty yards, and can see out twenty yards.  If you are a lefty, you want a sight that has the green pin on top.

This color difference should also influence your illuminated nock choice.  You don’t have much choice with sights as nearly all are green, yellow, red when going top to bottom, but illuminated nocks come in multiple colors.

Nockturnal illuminated nocks are the way to go.  They come in four colors: red, pink, blue, and green.  Pink is only used by girls who want all pink, and while I don’t like girls who don’t like pink, you girl hunters should pick what is best not what is the “best” color.  And pink is not the brightest illuminated nock.

For some reason, they say its becasue they think they can see red better against foliage, red is far and away the best selling color.  However if you have ever looked at your bow sight as I have, and have described above, you’ll know that red is easily the dimmest in low light.

That leaves blue and green.  I may need to buy a pack of each to see which is better in low light, but until then green is the way to go.

I say green with my 20/20 eyes, and my dad says green with his less than 20/20 colorblind eyes.  Green is the way to go.

One final note:

It surprises me how few hunters notice things like their bow sights despite, supposedly, hunting a lot.  If you aren’t noticing things like this, then you are either missing things which can cost you deer, or you don’t hunt enough.

If you don’t have all the numbers and letters on your bow and gun memorized by the end of the season, then you haven’t hunted enough.

Arrow Selection

I’ve already pointed out that you want to buy a new bow, not a used one. To go with that bow you will need arrows.

Just before writing that post I discovered a website that has done a very good job of describing compound bows. That website also does a good job describing arrows and their differences.

Hunter’s Friend: Arrow Selection Guide

Rather than doing a worse job of it here, I suggest that you go read that.

For those of you who want the short version:

  • Have someone who knows what he is doing measure your arrows for you. Take your bow to a shop and have them measure you and your bow for a proper fit. At least the first time.
  • “Most carbon arrows are advertised to have a specific straightness tolerance between .001″ and .006″. The straighter the arrow, the more expensive they will typically be. Before we get too deep into this topic, it’s worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be an accepted universal method for HOW arrow straightness is measured.”
  • “For the purposes of big game hunting and general target use, standard-grade shafts are more than adequate.”
  • “While a carbon arrow’s advertised specs may be no straighter than a typical aluminum shaft, carbon arrows resist distorting and “bending out of shape” much better than aluminum arrows.”
  • “But the fact is, lighter arrows fly faster with less loss of trajectory. A faster arrow won’t necessarily penetrate better, but it will make it to the target more quickly.”
  • “Shooting an arrow that is too light can be dangerous, both to you and your expensive compound bow. Shooting an underweight arrow has a similar effect as dry-firing your bow. Without sufficient arrow weight, the string and limbs of your compound bow move too quickly and violently.”
  • “But when that same arrow is in motion, it’s stiffness is a matter of dynamic spine – which adds more ingredients into our consideration pot. So pay attention. This gets a little tricky.”
  • “Every arrow should have a tip.”
  • “Some arrow manufacturers have very complex charts that take many variables into account. But other arrow manufacturers offer a more simplified chart with an arbitrary number system, like the sample chart on the right which just references draw weight and arrow length.”
  • “We strongly suggest you choose fletching that will yield more accuracy rather than more speed, especially if you’re a bowhunter.”
  • “Right or wrong, speed is a major consideration for most archers.”
  • “With all other variables constant, your bow will have more knock-down power when shooting heavier arrows.”
  • ” In the field you’ll encounter unpredictable and complex variables that limit any mathematical model to just a “best guess.””

I happen to shoot Easton Axis arrows.  I’m of the opinion that there are some things that you don’t want cheap versions of.  Cheap razors for your face, cheap tires, and cheap arrows are not things that you want to  deal with.

So its Easton Axis arrows with feathers (2 pink one white) special ordered from Easton for me.