Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Useful Hunting Methods in Southern California: Part 2
As a whitetail hunter, I used to hunt primarily out of a treestand and the need to spot and stalk wasn’t a priority. I took it for granted that I always had private land to hunt and could leave a treestand up all year. Now that I live in California, I focus on hunting public land, off of the main trails and that is where I concentrate my preseason scouting. If the area has game trails and I have patterned the animals to a degree through use of trail cameras, I will entertain the thought of using a treestand. With that being said, it won’t be your typical stationary treestand left mounted to the tree. The main reasons are that it is public land and it is there for everyone to use. Leaving a stand up for a long period of time on public land doesn’t feel right to me. Also, a stationary treestand ultimately limits you to hunting a certain area. Unless you have multiple stands up, you are stuck hunting one spot. The other issue with them being on public land is, sadly, that they run the risk of being stolen. For those reasons I use a climbing treestand. I utilize a climber for many reasons, the first being that I paid good money for the stand and don’t want it growing legs and walking out of the woods. Also, when I hunt a wooden area and I need to get high in a tree, a climber offers me the freedom to go as high as I want to without the limitations that ladders have. Plus, when I use a climber, I can be more mobile and can move stand locations much faster than if I were using a stationary stand. Which stand would I recommend for California hunters? I have used a few different climbers from Summit, but they weigh a bit more than I like for the amount of hiking I do. The one I think works best for hunters having to hike in a long way is the Lone Wolf Assault climbing treestand. It weighs in less than 15 lbs. and is very easy to carry using the backpack straps. It is what I would call a minimalist climber.
It is easy to pack in, but does take some practice getting used to how it functions. I had to watch the online how-to videos a couple times and practice with it a few times before I mastered it. The Assault has a very small seat, which is the platform used to push off of as you are climbing, and requires a decent amount of upper body strength. Take note – don’t use a climber in a palm tree. They are prevalent down here and will be tempting to climb, but the descent is brutal. Another lesson I learned when using a climber is that wearing a binocular chest harness gets in the way. Californians love having their optics close at hand and many of us utilize chest harnesses. Leave it attached to your pack to be hauled up after you have made your ascent.
One of the differences with this climber vs. others is that instead of cables to go around the tree it uses traction belts. These belts are ribbed and grip the bark well. The small platform also has a built in bow holder that works rather well, just in case you forget to bring any hooks to screw into the tree.
Ground blinds can be used in a variety of situations, but I truly only use them if I have to. The most commonly used ground blinds are pop-up blinds. They are great for keeping you out of the elements and keeping your scent reduced. I use a Primos pop-up ground blind in Predator Camo when I turkey hunt or if I am hunting feral pigs, but I rarely use one for bear or deer. The Primos blind is nice because it goes up very quickly. It is beneficial because your movement is hidden for the most part and the animals won’t spot you. The downsides are that they are rather bulky and they can also be incredibly warm inside as the California temperatures rise. A pop-up blind can also be extremely limiting when it comes to archery shots. That being said, they ARE an effective tool for hunting feral pigs and turkey.
Rolled ground blinds are lightweight, convenient and easily portable, but you are only minimally covered. As a bowhunter, these work very well and allow you 360 degrees of motion. They are far less expensive than a pop-up ground blind and easier to set up. These work very well for uneven terrain and breaking up your pattern. I have utilized these far more because of their ease of use and the uneven terrain I hunt. A rolled ground blind also allows you set up quickly and pick up and move to a new location quickly if you need to. Making your own is a rewarding experience.
Then there is the blind you make when you get to the woods by using branches and material already found out there. While this can work well for many, I tend to shy away from building my own for a few reasons. First, I don’t like to trim too much off the trees on public land in the areas I hunt. The main reason is that there is poison oak all over down here and would hate to get it. Sure I wear gloves, but all it takes is one little mistake and BAM! you have it. That being said, using what nature offers is the best material to creating your own camouflage barrier between you and the animal. If the area is free of poison oak and there are dead branches around, or bushes, I can use combine them to provide a minimalist blind to give me some cover. The major benefit to making your own is that you don’t have to pack anything extra in and you can leave it there when you hike out.
After years of hunting in California, I will attest that it is tough to hunt here, but it can be enjoyable. Each person will have a different outlook. Increase your chances of filling your tags by doing some research followed by trying out some new tactics. I am constantly strategically planning for the next deer season and in hope of finding a legal buck. What if it was you doing the planning? Imagine the sheer excitement you’ll feel when you see that big buck on your trail camera. Additional scouting and glassing will commence and you’ll put miles on your boots. Finally, when the season opens, all the hard work you put in will seem like a distant memory as you set your sights on the prize. Will you plan on a spot and stalk hunt? Is the buck in an area where you can use a treestand? Maybe a ground blind will work best for the hunt. Every hunt can change at a moment’s notice and the methods you use are entirely up to you.