Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scouting for California Mule Deer in May

Last Saturday morning, Brett and I hit the road early to beat the holiday traffic and get to our scouting spot before sunrise. We had been told for months that our hunting area was now accessible via vehicle as the gates were open. It seems as though the US Forest Service office workers don't keep up on what's really happening in the forest as the gate was locked with a forest service lock. Good thing for us we planned on doing some serious hiking!

Brett was trying out his new Badlands Sacrifice and I had my trusty 2200 loaded up and ready to go. We hit the trail right away and the temps were 44 degrees with a light breeze. It felt a bit chilly, but we knew as soon as we started to hike we would warm up. It didn't take long either!

Before I go on, I would like to apologize for the poor quality photos. My iPhone took up little space on this hike and I opted for it over my Nikon.

At our turnoff to another trail, we stopped to check out some new trash that had been dumped in the last few months. (It wasn't there in December!) USFS says no one is coming back there, but someone brought a truck hood and dumped it. I beg to differ. As we discussed the garbage, I looked up to see a familiar shape skylined on the edge of a far ridge. Up came the MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars (my first day of testing them fully) and instantly I spotted two fawns. At first I thought they were yearlings, but as they turned you could see spots all over. It was great to see! Not long after mom stuck her head around as the fawns bounded out of sight. She followed them down the ridge and through some brush.

Here I am glassing with the MINOX BL 10x44s and utilizing the MINOX video camera.

As we began to hike again, I turned to see another brown shape on the edge of the foothill shadow. Binoculars up, I verified that two more deer were feeding and one was a buck! We hadn't been hiking an hour and we had located five deer. The day was looking better and better! We watched them for a half hour and ventured over a different ridge. The sandy soil made it very tough to get a foothold, but it was also good practice for deer season! Again, I looked and spotted another doe staring at us from the next ridge a quarter mile away as the crow flies. As I checked her out through the bino's, I also glanced to the ridge behind her and spotted yet another doe! Seven deer in total so far and it wasn't even 8:00 AM yet!

Brett glassing a hillside with the MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars. He approves.

Brett and I split up to glass for what we decided would be ten minutes. That quickly turned into twenty as I spotted four deer heading to the bottom of a valley to feed in the shadows. I also spotted yet another buck feeding. Both bucks were large spikes, but would be legal as they were well over 3" in length. I shot Brett a text informing him of the deer and he responded with one of his own. He had just spotted another doe with twin fawns heading down another ridge! Between us we had spotted fourteen deer. We had easily beaten our records for spotting deer in this spot.

After we met up and headed down the hill, we found ourselves in the shade of some trees as we walked. It felt great as the sun was heating up our surroundings quickly. We kept hearing a rustling in the brush, but couldn't see anything. I can't remember if Brett grabbed me or just said 'HEY!' to me under his breath, but he got my attention. I turned around to see him pointing up the hill at two more fawns and a doe. It was spectacular! The little ones were very small and mom was just ambling slowly at the base of the hill. As they walked out of sight we couldn't help but grin from ear to ear! Seventeen deer in four hours of hiking and glassing. For us that is unheard of!

Can you spot the fawn?

We picked up plenty of Mylar balloons on the hike, too. That and some other trash. I hate seeing them out there in the forest, as you can see from the expression on my face below. We also found plenty of spent brass along the way. I picked up some, but we could have spent a week out there picking up more.

On our way back to the truck I spotted movement along our trail and whispered for Brett to stop. As I peered around the corner I spotted two more fawns playing on the trail. They were completely oblivious to us, so I decided it was time to put a stalk on. It would be a test of us playing the wind because Brett and I had each showered with regular soap, I was wearing some fragrant deodorant and we were sweating like hogs. We took our time and played the wind. It was in our faces for most of the stalk, but about twenty yards from where they had been playing it shifted. The fawns were now in the brush, but we could hear them bounding around and playing. Closer and closer we stalked and then suddenly a little brown body with white speckles came tearing our of the grass next to Brett. The fawn was hauling butt and stopped just twenty-five yards away. It then bounded off slowly, but its sibling had no idea we were there. Seconds later it popped out just eight feet from Brett and stared at him. It was awesome and hilarious as it tried to figure out what Brett was. The wind was still good for us, so it stood there for a minute or so until the wind shifted. It turned on a dime and took off the opposite way, stopping on the road to look at us.

You could see the happiness in Brett's smile as the fawn bounded off. The doe was in the brush some place, but she never appeared. With the two fawns that made nineteen deer spotted and it all happened before 10:30 AM. We were excited and happy to have had such a successful outing. We couldn't stop taking about it on the way back home. The California deer season is right around the corner and we can't wait to get back up and scout some more.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How the Lack of Motivation Hurt My Pride

Over the weekend I was pondering many things. Would we see deer on our deer scouting trip? Would I be able to get everything done around the house that I wanted to? How were people remembering our fallen Veterans? The one thing I was not thinking about was my own physical fitness. 

My wife was talking to me about her own fitness level and how she really wanted to step it up a notch. She has been working hard at the gym (I canceled my membership due to a gym opening at my work) and she felt she needed to do more. I thought she was doing great so I didn't say much of anything. She explained she has no one around to really motivate her. That was when I heard these words from my wife...

'You really don't motivate me.'

In a word, I was crushed. She said it kindly, but I sat completely silent. Here I am a husband, father, provider, and I was blinded by my own laziness and self-centered ideals of getting projects completed to realize I was lacking in a key area. I was failing to motivate my best friend and soul mate.

Now don't go placing judgement on my wife. I love her with everything I am and I know she didn't mean it in the way I took it. You see, we used to go to the same gym, workout a few times a week and keep each other motivated to keep the excess weight off.
She works out on nearly a daily basis and looks great because of it. Plus, last year I was training for my elk hunt and I was hiking and working out four to five times per week. This year things didn't work out like that. We bought a house and the stress of everything at the beginning had me wiped out. I decided that in order to keep my sanity I needed to focus on getting things done at the house and with my family. That was a bit narrow-minded though as I lacked the foresight to understand the effect it would have on my family and their perception of me. Then I just got plain lazy and stopped working out.

What some of you do no know is that I have severe arthritis in my hip and something very wrong with my wrist. The hip issue I have had for years, but these past few months it has been extremely painful. The best way to fight it is to stay moving and workout. I opted to do the opposite. The doctor seems to think I might need a hip replacement at some point in my near future and while that may be true I need to plan that around hunting season. (I'm kinda stubborn like that.) The wrist is supposedly tendonitis, but I don't believe that. I know it hurts everyday, like the hip, and stands in the way of me lifting any considerable weight. So, I allowed both of these hurdles to get in my way and that was a big mistake.

Then this past weekend, Brett and I hit the foothills to scout for deer. (That post is coming.) It would be the earliest we'd ever get out to scout. On our hike in we were cruising up the trail and I noticed Brett was a good ten to fifteen paces ahead of me and not sucking wind like last year. He was barely out of breath. I, on the other hand, was breathing hard and my legs were screaming. My laziness had caught up with me and I felt truly depressed.

Throughout the day, Brett and I discussed our physical fitness, how he's been working out a little more and how he really wants to get in better shape. Brett has done a great job over the past year of slimming down and increasing his leg strength. The great motivational factor was our discussion of our 2014 planned elk hunt in Colorado. Yes, we are planning a trip out there together. When I started training for my 2012 hunt it was just nine months before the actual hunt. We now have over a year and it is time to focus. It was good hearing Brett's thoughts on training and how we both need a little kick in the pants every now and then.

I knew I needed to talk to my wife about how I felt, so instead of sitting on it I shared how her words initially hurt, and howI knew she didn't mean them to hit me the way they did. You see, they hit me hard because I knew they were true. She apologized and I explained that she had nothing to apologize for as it was my issue for not working out. I have a great wife who is very supportive and while the words may have hurt me, they were there for a reason. I feel God let them come through at just the right time because I needed to hear them. It just so happened that they came on the same weekend Brett and I went on our hike and discussed how we needed to hike more on our hunts. Perfect timing if you ask me.

In truth, the weekend was tough to get through mentally for me. I felt down, slow and honestly like a failure. Then I realized my wife and daughter still looked up to me and loved me no matter what. I prayed and understood what I needed to do. I also knew my friends were my friends no matter what and that the only thing standing in the way of my success was me.

So today starts a new day for me. I am getting back in the swing of things and I must be held accountable. Today I have a date with three miles of asphalt, my Badlands 2200 filled with sandbags, and some tunes during my lunch hour. I need a good sweat, a good leg burn and I thank my wife and Brett for the motivation this past weekend. I have a great family and great friends. I won't say it will be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Helping Hunters - A Letter from a New Bowhunter

Al Quackenbush giving one of his many hunting seminars in 2012.

Every once in a blue moon I receive an email from someone who attended one of my Bass Pro Shops seminars in the past couple years.  It's an honor to be giving the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience in the hopes someone will learn something, get outdoors and have fun. The email I received from Keith Johnson a couple days ago had me grinning from ear-to-ear and not just because he took part in a seminar, but because his story he shares is exciting! I loved reading about his experience and I hope you do, too!


Here is the letter from Keith followed by my response to him.


I doubt very much you remember me, but I contacted you just before the fall turkey hunt last season asking for info. Long story short I found tons of birds, but wasn't able to get one in to shooting range. That was still ok because I had lots of fun. This spring I was able to hunt them closer to home (Bakersfield) and found birds. On Easter Sunday I was hunting alone in the Kern River Valley area and was able to call a hen and a jake in to me. I was sitting next to a large oak tree as they came walking right at me. The hen was no more then 20 feet from me at one point. As luck would have it she was walking between me and the jake so no good shot ever presented its self to me as they both walked away. Being that close to a hen and a jake cutting and clucking was probably the second coolest hunting experience I have had. Second only to my first dove season when I was a kid. I was at Bass Pro in Rancho and randomly sat in your bow hunting seminar, did some research, and started hunting. Needless to say my archery hunting experance has been influenced by you, your class, and your website. THANK YOU!!!

Today after work I was talking with a customer about deer season this year and remembered that I needed to apply for tags by [June 2nd]. This will be my first deer hunt ever and I'm already excited about it. I put in for [these zones]. My second tag I put in for [a different zone]. I also purchased five open zone deer app's. I know the area in all these places kind of well but could use some tips and techniques to hunt deer. For example I'm I better of [spot and stalk] hunting or setting up a ground blind or tree stand? Is there any equipment you would recemond like calls, sent cover, or estrogen sent?

Hunting packs: Just before you did your review on the last Badlands pack I purchased a [different brand backpack] that I'm not very happy with. The pack is ok for turkey hunting because it lets me move free, but the belt and shoulder straps are so big it's hard for me to get the pack tight to my back. I'm not a big guy at all (5'5" about 165 lbs) but the pack should still fit better then what it does. I will not be using it to hunt deer this year. I would like some advice on what you would recommend for me in the $150 to $200 range. I would prefer the pack had a boot so I don't have to carry my bow or rifle in to hunt. The area I will be hunting does not have a ton of road access so there will probably be plenty of walking.

If there is any thing I didn't ask that you think I should look in to please let me know. Like I said this will be my first hunt and I don't known exactly what to expect. Thanks for your help and advice.

P.S. Do you know any thing about the deer herds in the zone's I put in for. I'm hoping they are ok. I'd like to see some deer this season.

Thank You,
Keith Johnson


Here is my response to Keith and my advice.

Hi Keith!

I do remember you and your emails! Sounds like you had an exciting hunt! It's great to hear stories from the field like this and getting feedback on my seminars is always welcomed. I haven't done a seminar since last year because I am now required to have insurance for me to talk to you guys. [I am thankful I was able to share what I could when I could with you all!]

As far as deer hunting, scents and such can be ok, but honestly a good cover scent works best. If you have a good area where you know the deer are coming frequently then a blind or stand is great, but I don't really use them out here. Why? The deer are seemingly always on the move! Last year I took a guy out and I spotted deer first thing in the AM. They stayed put, so we hiked an hour and a half just so I could let him put a stalk on them. He got to 80 yards and they smelled him. You really just need to glass, play the wind and be able to shoot well!

Backpacks - funny you should ask, but I stick with one and only one brand - BADLANDS! I have owned two Badlands packs for years and they are incredible. I use them for training, hunting and scouting. I have a Badlands 2200 and a Hybrid. When I was giving my seminar I had the Hybrid with me [see the photo above]. It's perfect for those day hikes and turkey hunts. For deer hunting I break out the 2200. You can find deals on the 2200 on [quite often]. I am on the Badlands Pro Staff and will be testing some of the new packs in the next couple months. I packed out my elk last year using my 2200. It has a boot for a bow or a rifle and it is my go-to pack. [You will love it, Keith!]

Best advice I can give you on deer hunting this year is get a good set of binoculars and get a great pair of boots! I am using the MINOX 10x44 binos and wear Schnee's Wilderness boots. I would recommend anything by either company. If you are on a budget (which most of us are) feel free to let me know what gear you are looking at and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

Feel free to give me a call sometime if you have any questions or want to talk hunting. Thanks for sharing your hunt story and the kudos. I appreciate the feedback!

Al Quackenbush 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Application Deadline for California Tags - June 2

A quick reminder for everyone dragging their heels out there. You have until June 2 to get your applications in for California hunting tags this year. In case you don't have a calendar... that's about a week away. Get on it!

You can go to a local store and buy them, or do what I did and purchase them online. I had my OTC tags in my hands in a few days. I have to wait until June 3 to see if I drew any tag, but I already have one Archery Only (AO) tag in my hands. 

Bring on deer season!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why You Should Practice at Close Range

Originally posted on the Pocket Ranger blog.

Close range archery practice is something that isn’t mentioned much these days. Most times bowhunters will say they sighted in their bows between 20-80 yards and are very happy with that. What about when that animal surprises you and comes in at 10 yards or maybe even 5 yards? Have you practiced shooting at those ranges? Here are a few tips to be sure you can hit your target at all ranges.

When I was first starting out bowhunting, I had the fortune to shoot at a nice six-point whitetail with a recurve. I was young and had not practiced at close range. At less than five yards I shot right over his back. I aimed to what I thought was a true shot and whiffed. I was heartbroken and deflated. After that, practicing at close range was a must. I stuck with it for many years and then when I moved to California I stopped for a while.

As I began to shoot at longer distances, I slowly forgot about shooting in close. One day at the range, I set up a 3D deer target and got to thinking. What if this deer surprised me closer than 10 yards? Would I be ready? I knew I wouldn’t be, so I tried a few things.

First, I set up a bag target and moved just a few feet away from it. This was to get my body in tune and to erase any target panic I might have. Here’s what you should do – as you are directly in front of the target, draw your bow, close your eyes and when ready squeeze the trigger on your release. This tells you how it should feel and to make sure you don’t punch the trigger. This might take a couple shots to get the cobwebs out and to relax.

Now that you have the target set, you use either the lowest setting for your single-pin sight (like 5 yards) or the setting for 10 yards on your multi-pin sight. Move back to 5 yards and aim for a spot on the bag target. Release an arrow and see how low (or high) you are. Here is where the adjustment comes in. For every archer this will be different, so you will have to take great care in your next steps. You can lower your bow and get the sight pin where you think you need to be and fire off another arrow. Complete this step until you hit the spot you are aiming for. Don't go adjusting any sight pins! All you are doing is moving the bow down and then shooting. Focus on either your top pin and how far down it needs to be to shoot, or focus on a part of the sight ring. You should choose whatever makes you feel comfortable and shoot well at close range.

Once you have the 5 yard sighting completed try some things. Crouch down, sit down, lean in front of a mock ‘tree’ or just make something up for how you think an animal will approach. Practice like this from 5 yards from time to time. This will ensure that when you are faced with a close yardage shot you can make it happen without blinking an eye. Best of luck and shoot straight!

Friday, May 17, 2013

California AB 711 - The Anti's Are At It Again...and Winning

Today I am infuriated as a hunter, not only as a bowhunter, but a hunter because the anti's and the government are one step closer to ending hunting altogether in California. Yesterday, AB 711 passed in the California State Assembly by a vote of 44-21. What is AB 711? The Bill is to end all use of lead ammunition in ALL (yes ALL) of California. No bird shot (which has been like this for a while), no slugs, no BULLETS in any way, shape or form.The bill was co-written by a Democrat from Lakewood, CA - Assemblyman Anthony Rendon. It now heads to the Senate floor.

They say it is easy for hunters to make the switch to non-lead ammo. Really? Is the CA state government going to start handing us vouchers for discounts on copper bullets? Not a chance. I think the gov't fails to have any foresight here. Think about this; if we can't afford to buy non-lead ammo, ammo sales will drop leading to hunting license sales dropping and pretty soon there will a huge loss of revenue for our CA gov't. Yeah, I am going to go out on a limb and say the Assembly is disillusioned and has blinders on as they are not thinking of the ramifications of this bill. Am I sounding off in the extreme? I don't think so. I am also a proponent of hunting. PERIOD. I continually encourage people to get out and hunt and enjoy the outdoors. Our government is trying to take that way from us. 

You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of PROHIBITION. We all remember how that played out. Bottoms up!

Watch this video from and listen to the Game Commission heads who were against it. Listen to the scientists who dismiss the 'evidence' because it isn't substantiated because there is no evidence that says lead bullets are THE main cause to blame.

My brothers and sisters in California, this is an attack on hunting. They outlawed hunting with lead ammunition in the 'Condor Zone' because they said the condors were getting poisoned from lead bullets. While that may be true, the condors are STILL GETTING SICK and it isn't strictly from lead bullets or fragments. How about them eating lead paint or getting it naturally in the environment? There are plenty of other ways they can get sick. It's a smoke screen and a myth if you think the condors are getting sick STRICTLY from lead bullets. Where is the evidence of this in other states? Nowhere. Why? The HSUS and other anti-hunting organizations are targeting California because it's easier for them to get the easily-swayed government officials to change their minds and not get into any confrontation. They are using negative, fabricated media to sway them. We Californians need to band together and fight this with everything we have!!

Phillip Loughlin, who authors The Hog Blog and is an avid hunter, has been posting about the lead ammo issues for years. His latest post on the issue was on May 4th and he makes some great points:

Why wasn’t this risk assessed before the first condor was released back into the wild?  Why wasn’t this dialogue started, on a wide scale, before there were a bunch of zoo-bred birds flying around CA and AZ, dining on hunters’ deer, pig, and elk carcasses?

If I were planning to implement a program on federal land, I’d have to develop and complete a study on the program’s impacts to the environment.  I’d have to know what flora and fauna my activities might put at risk, and I might have to mitigate those risks.  If my activity impacted an endangered or threatened species, I’d have to jump through a series of additional, exhaustive processes and procedures to mitgate that impact or my project would have to be cancelled.  With this in mind, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that, before releasing an endangered or threatened species into the wild ecosystem, a similar set of studies and reports should also be completed, and risks addressed and mitigated before the project goes forward… especially considering that the species is being released right back into the same habitat conditions that nearly brought it to extinction in the first place.

Here are some other great points made by Robert Faraga at The Truth About Guns - AB 711 Could Kill Hunting in California. They are spot on and must be read!

A couple years ago, my friend Bill Howard wrote about the EPA going after lead ammo. It was written two (2) years ago.He makes some great points and even discusses the rising cost of ammo for everyday hunters and new hunters.

"Shotshells would not be the only ammunition regulated either.  Most hunting cartridges consist of a lead projectile.  A young hunter’s first rifle is often a .22 caliber.  Ammunition is cheap, so the youth can become familiar with the operation of the rifle by shooting many times.  A box of 100 .22 cartridges runs approximately $7.50.  Changing the composition of the bullet could increase the cost by 4 times that amount.  Again, the increase would likely eliminate many new hunter's first excursion, or at least repeated excursions into the outdoors."

The CA government thinks it will be easy for hunters to make the switch to non-lead ammo. Easy for whom? Copper bullets are expensive as hell!! You can't just go out and sight in your rifle without watching it squeeze blood out of your wallet. Have they tried buying shotgun ammo lately? Plus, have you tried to find any ammo these days? It's damn near impossible to locate it just to target practice... and that is expensive, too!

We ALL need to write our state Assembly, Senators and fight! We MUST do this! You can search for your local representatives here. Scroll down to 'My Elected Officials'. We need to flood them with phone calls, emails and letters and stand strong. If there was ever a time to fight for your rights as hunters it is NOW! Please write, call and let them know that you oppose this ban with heart and soul.

Oh, and today is Endangered Species Day. What an interesting thought as pretty soon hunters are going to be the endangered species in California.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Product Review: Trophy Ridge React Sight

It's not often that I have guest authors contribute to the SoCal Bowhunter, but every so often it calls for it. Chris Turgeon, one of the guys have have been hunting hogs with recently, was asking me about some new sights a couple months ago and mentioned the Trophy Ridge React Sight. I mentioned that I had not used one, but that it looked pretty cool. As usual, I was skeptical about the claims of quick, easy set up and such. Chris did some research on his own and has been shooting the React Sight for a couple weeks. Here is his in depth gear review.

Like most of you, I watch hunting shows on TV whenever I'm not at work, working on honey-dos, or out in the field. I see all kinds of new bells and whistles available to hunters these days. I am the kind of person that is willing to try just about anything to see if it will work better for me than what I am already using. I am a very aggressive hunter and usually it's my gear that pays the price, so I am constantly replacing items due to damage.

Recently, I talked to my friend Al about wanting to try the new React Sight by Trophy Ridge, but was having a hard time deciding if it were worth spending that much money on. After a few weeks I finally got my hands on one and my first impression while in the box was great it's just gonna be another plastic sight that I am going to break in a few trips.

Well I was wrong about that! It is a very well built and solid sight. So I pulled it out of the box and played with it in my hands for a few minutes before mounting it to my bow.

From the Trophy Ridge website:

This is the new Trophy Ridge React sight with Smart Pin Technology, a revolutionary, tool-less sight system that once calibrated at 20 and 30 yards, makes your 40, 50, and 60 yard pins mathematically impossible to be inaccurate. Perfect precision. Season after season. In less than 10 minutes.


  • Ballistix CoPolymer System
  • Reversible Sight Mount
  • Designed for use with left or right hand bows and high or low anchor points.
  • Multiple mounting holes for more versatility
  • 100% Tool-less micro-adjustment
  • Rheostat light
  • .019 Fiber optic pins
  • Sight level
  1. Sight in your 20 yard pin using the tool-less micro windage and elevation adjustments.
  2. For the next pin step back to 30 yards and fine tune at that distance before shooting the remaining pins.
  3. Once you have 2 pins sighted in accurately the rest of your pins will be automatically set, it’s that easy.

I then headed to the range to see if the sight is as easy to get dialed in as they say. After 9 shots at 20 yards I was splitting arrows! I locked down the sight ring and moved back to the 30 yard marker, made a guess of where my pin should be and let an arrow fly. It hit about one inch low from where I was aiming so I gave the dial a third of a turn and let another arrow fly and it hit perfect. I shot another just to be sure and split the arrow. I then locked the dial down so no more adjustments could be made and dropped back to sixty yards. I let 3 arrows fly and walked up to see what it looked like. I was very impressed with what I saw! I am confident in saying that if I take a shot at anything inside of sixty yard it will be human error if I miss the shot.

I know how hard it is for some people in So Cal to get out to a range where you can practice shots out to sixty yards. Most places have indoor ranges that only have 20-30 yard shots available. I know with this sight that I can hit one of those indoor ranges and feel 100% confident in all my longer yardages.

As far as durability goes, I have high hopes for this sight. I am hard on my gear and only time will tell how this bad boy holds up in the field this season. I have more than a few hog hunts coming up soon and if it can make it through that then my hat will be off to Trophy Ridge.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Patience Leads to Perfect Practice

My latest article for PSE Archery.

Perfect practice leads to success in the field. We have all heard it many times, but it rings true. Not mentioned often is the art of practicing patience both on the range and in the woods, both with you and with other archers. Learning to harness it is something that does indeed take practice.

One of the reasons I like to get to the local archery range early in the morning is that there is less pressure than later in the day. When I lived in New York I had the luxury of having a target set up in my backyard and could practice at a moment’s notice. I could shoot anytime and I didn’t have to wait for others to finish up. Here in California it’s a different story. In the city where I live, I am not allowed to shoot in my backyard. It’s a safety issue that I understand. The other options are to go to a local pro shop to shoot up to 30 yards, or to go to the local outdoor archery range. The outdoor range I speak of is the site of the 1984 Olympic archery competition. It’s a large range where you can shoot out to 110 yards if you like. On Saturdays and Sundays the range fills up quickly, so it is in your best interest to get up early and claim a bale target.

Recently, my friend Brett and I have been hitting the range around 7:30 AM on Saturday mornings. The weather is cool, a bit overcast and we can almost always grab our favorite target area – the one on the very end. On two separate occasions, we have watched the range fill up quickly. This causes a bit of congestion. Here is where focusing on being patient comes into play. If you are late to the range, you must be patient and wait for a target to open up. If you are like Brett and I, we must be patient with ourselves. You have one of three decisions to make. You can give up your target to allow someone else to shoot. Not a likely choice as you made the effort to get there early. You can cave under the pressure and rush through your practice to accommodate the people waiting for you. This would be the absolute worst decision as it would cause poor form, poor technique, and quite honestly poor practice. The best thing you can do is shoot like you would during a perfect practice session. Take your time, focus on technique and worry about you and no one else.

If you have ever gone golfing in a foursome there is bound to be someone in your group that is slower than the rest. Usually it is me, but that is beside the point. Before long, the foursome behind you is on your heels. You have three choices. You may continue to play slow and irritate the other group. You may allow them to play through. Or you can stress out under the pressure to speed up and totally mess up your day of relaxing on the course. The same will happen on the archery range should you allow it.

We had a gentleman come sit right by us at 40 yards after we had only been there a half hour. We usually shoot for two hours or so and I was sighting in a new single-pin sight, so I was patient. As the minutes went by, arrows flew downrange and we had a blast. Before long two and a half hours had elapsed and our arms were spent. We offered up our target and the man graciously took it. He was patient and so were we. Everyone was happy.

My favorite part of the day was toward the end of our range session. A young boy walked up beside us and started shooting. You can see him in the left side of this photo. His first arrow in his aim was true and he exclaimed to his teacher, ‘I hit the target! Look, I hit the target!!’ His enthusiasm was pure and full of energy. It totally made my day to see someone so excited about archery. I hope all of us can get out there and let that inner child out as often as we can. We should all carry that enthusiasm and have fun when we hit where we are aiming. Even after nearly thirty years of shooting a bow and arrow, I still get a thrill out of my arrow hitting exactly where I am aiming.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Grunts, and Squeals, and Pigs Oh MY!

With rain clouds appearing in the sky, Chris and I shot out Sunday afternoon to try and intercept some pigs. It didn't turn out with a kill, but there was good reason for it.

My day started off very early for a Sunday. I was at the archery range at 7:00 AM ready to fight the masses. Fortunately for me, the range was nearly dead. The cloud cover and threat of much needed rain kept most indoors. I stuck with short range shooting to work my arm and focus. I had a great time and felt incredibly at peace shooting that early. I wish I had a backyard where I could shoot because I would be out there each and every day!

As the day progressed, I packed up the car, and cleaned up with some 'dirt' soap and hit the road to meet up with Chris. According to the trail cam pics the pigs... ok, there are no cam pics because the camera broke down! We have some great pics of darkness. Fortunately, Wildgame Innovations is going to replace the camera as it has a malfunction. Without pics we decided to get into the area that we know holds pigs and do a spot and stalk.

Let me just say I am super thankful for ThermaCELL! With the cloud cover and tree canopy the mosquitoes came out to battle. Damn things were relentless, but we both cranked up the ThermaCELLs and we were safe for most of the evening. As we crept along and kept searching the brush for odd shapes we heard a branch break and stopped. It was an eternity as more branches broke and we hunkered down to wait out whatever was out there. We uncomfortably sat for nearly an hour and a half as we heard grunts, squeals and lots of brush breaking. There were pigs, but they didn't seem happy (not good) and were weary or us. They stayed just out of sight until darkness started to fall.

As dusk settled, they made their way through a clear opening and while I couldn't see them Chris had the angle and could see one boar looking right at us. His head was lifting up and dropping down for a few moments and then they all disappeared.

We hiked out at the end of legal shooting light and ran into a guy who said he was camping right by where we stopped. It was no wonder the pigs were on edge, the damn campers were throwing off their patterns. We were thankful to have been able to get out and hunt, but disappointed because of the camper setting up shop. We must have just missed his campsite as we stalked through the gnarly brush.

The drive home was filled with wet roads and cold rain. We were finally getting rain! It poured and I am stoked that we hunted when we did, because the rain will probably throw off their pattern even more.

Overall, we had a great time. Cheers to Chris for sharing his knowledge of the pigs and for the great hunting stories. I am thankful to have the opportunity to get out and hunt on a whim and give it another go. A big thank you to my wife and daughter for sharing dad with the great outdoors, too. I was able to set some 'honey-do's' aside so I could get out there. Here's to all the bowhunters going after game this week! Good luck and God Bless!

Monday, May 6, 2013

NASP Program Growing in New York (via the Outdoor Wire)

This press release arrived in my email this morning and I had to share. My home state of New York is a great place to get into archery and to bow hunt. It makes me very happy to see the Nation Archery in the Schools Program being more readily accepted nowadays. When I was growing up I had my family to help me and to motivate me. For me that was enough, but some people don't get those opportunities. Three cheers to the NASP and the New York Bowhunters Inc.

School districts from across New York State are invited to enroll in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The winners of this year's competition were recently recognized at the New York Bowhunters Inc banquet in Canandaigua, Ontario County.

 "The National Archery in the Schools Program is growing rapidly in New York," said Commissioner Martens. "Under Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative, this cooperative effort between conservation agencies, school systems and private organizations is a great way to bring the sport of archery to millions of students across the United States and other countries. Archery is one of only a handful of sports that enables students of all ages and athletic abilities to compete at the same level for top honors, and as a sport dominated by precision and practice rather than age and brawn." 

The overall top female archer in the tournament was Beth Bush with a score of 271; she attends Fabius-Pompey High School in Onondaga County. The top male archer in the tournament was Derrick Daniels with a score of 279; he attends Bainbridge-Guilford High School in Chenango County. Each will receive a plaque, a trophy for display at the school, a Genesis bow, a Morrell target and a dozen arrows at the New York Bowhunters (NYB) annual banquet this month. The New York chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Sportspeople Helping Others Through Sharing and NYB sponsored the tournament and have been strong supporters of NY-NASP. Awards are also given out in each of the three divisions for first through fifth places. 

Students that placed in the top five in each of the three divisions qualify to compete and represent New York at the national NASP tournament held in Louisville, Kentucky on May 10th and 11th. Last year, eleven students from New York participated in the national NASP tournament in Kentucky.

The fifth annual school-based state tournament was a great success with 566 students from 19 schools participating in this competition during the first two weeks of March. A school-based tournament is where the students compete at their respective schools and send their scores to the NASP state coordinator. Each competitor could achieve a maximum score of 300 points. There are three divisions: High School, grades 9-12; Middle School, grades 7-8; and Elementary School, grades 4-6. 

NASP is designed to engage more students in the educational process and improve participation in outdoor-type activities among students of all athletic abilities. DEC is involved in the program to introduce young people to archery and other shooting sports, a common way to become interested in hunting and the outdoors. NASP continues to grow at the national level with 1.7 million students participating in the program during the 2010-11 school year. More than 9,000 schools in 47 states, Washington D.C., Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have adopted the program. In New York 178 schools from 115 school districts participate in the program. 

Connie Frasier, a volunteer who teaches NASP at Mohawk Valley Christian Academy, in Herkimer County and had three students attend the national tournament last year said: "NASP is a fantastic program, it is fun and it keeps the students focused, which is a great life skill. Going to the national tournament was a great experience; I wish every student could go."

Robin Bartholomew, a physical education teacher at Cato Meridian, in Cayuga County said: "NASP is a very well organized and methodical approach to teaching Archery to students. It helps to have an activity to offer to students who are not interested or skilled in team sports. I have found that it is one sport that many of the students look forward to doing in class as well as participating outside of the school setting. Those students who enjoy it seem to quickly pick up on the skills and grow tremendously in the areas of self-confidence and esteem when participating in the program. I would have to say that NASP is right on target for many students." 

For more information on NASP and to view the NASP photo gallery, see this site: 

DEC is looking for volunteers to assist in training physical education teachers for the NASP. Those interested in volunteering or know of a school that would like to join the program, please contact Melissa Bailey, the state program coordinator for NY-NASP at 315-793-2515 or e-mail at 

Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of hunting and fishing licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state, and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions.

Friday, May 3, 2013

10th Annual Big Bear Carp Roundup June 22-23, 2013

The 10th Annual Big Bear Carp Roundup will take place at Big Bear Lake on June 22-23, 2013. I am actually hoping to participate this year! It would be a great way to meet a few of the local archers and be fun to get out and thin the population of carp through some bowfishing. Anyone else planning on going?

The actual PDF file is linked above, but for those who want to read it right away - here is the information from the flyer.