The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
May 21, 2013 | By Will Brantley
I like a climbing stand best. We have an abundance of straight trees in the Southeast, and so a climber is a natural, convenient choice for moving with the wind and the deer. But there’s a lot to be said for slipping into a pre-set stand, particularly on a morning hunt. And for that, I prefer a lock-on set 20 feet up in the canopy of a big hardwood.
My appreciation for ladder stands is increasing, though. Most of the permanent stand sets I use are also used by other members of my family, including Michelle, who has short little arms and legs and a moderate fear of heights. She’s proficient with a climbing stand, but virtually refuses to hunt from a lock-on. So we set a bunch of single-person ladder stands, typically 16-footers that we purchase at Wal-Mart. Those stands are inexpensive, but solid and quite comfortable for the money. Hanging them is easy enough, but it requires two people and does make a lot of disturbance. Ladder stands are fine for bowhunting, provided you accept and adapt to their drawbacks. Keep these things in mind:
- Establish them. Whether the stand itself spooks deer is up for debate. I don’t think it matters much, but deer can see them, and deer are curious. They will look up at them. Like pop-up ground blinds, I like to give deer time to get used to a ladder stand before I hunt it. Well-established, easy-to-access areas that get continuous deer traffic all season, like food plot edges and bait sites, are good ladder stand choices.
- Sweat the set. Most ladders are 15 to 18 feet tall. In the woods, that means your feet are only going to be 12 to 15 feet above a deer’s head. And that’s a handicap for bowhunting. We can debate treestand height all day, but the fact is you’ll get busted far more often, both by sight and smell, when you’re sitting that low. I like to hang my ladders on a hillside above where I’m expecting the shot whenever possible. Double and triple-trunk trees give me extra cover for standing up, drawing my bow, and avoiding being sky-lined.
- Be extra still. You need to be doing this anyway. But it’s especially important in a ladder stand. You won’t see many bowhunting TV shows filmed from ladder stands simply because it requires too much movement. You have to be much pickier about standing up and drawing on deer from a ladder stand.
- Go for broke. Last season, I nearly killed a nice 8-pointer during my first sit in a ladder stand that Michelle and I had hung over the summer. He didn’t bust me, but he didn’t give me a shot. Just before I climbed down, a grown doe strolled through, picked me out and threw a snorting, stomping tantrum. Deer were noticeably wary of that spot for the remainder of the season. Plan your ladder stand hunts with a "go for broke" attitude – you’re either going to kill something or get busted. Most of the time, you won’t do either one, but that little bit of extra caution will keep you from climbing into that stand under the wrong wind, or from fiddling with your smart phone as a deer is wandering into range.
May 16, 2013 | By Will Brantley
It's a wholesome thing, seeing a grown man take a week’s worth of hard-earned money from a 12-year-old kid and then laugh aloud at the youngster's frustration. But such a display of tough, politically incorrect love has its place.
For a number of years, my dad and his hunting buddy Bobby spent virtually every summer evening practicing with their bows in the back yard. Sundays were spent on the 3D course. Soon as I was big enough to pull a 40-pound bow, the legal minimum hunting draw weight at that time, I was welcomed into the practice fold right alongside the men. But there was one condition: bring your money, because this crew pays their debts.
Every arrow fired during these practice sessions held the potential of either triumphant financial gain or disastrous shame and poverty. The game was simple. A spot on the target was designated, and arrows were fired at said spot. If all arrows hit or missed the spot, no money changed hands. But in the case of one hit and one miss, the superior archer was owed a quarter. The game became especially interesting with three shooters. If one shooter missed but the other two both hit, the inferior archer found himself doling out not one but two quarters.
It was not uncommon, then, for the poorest of the three archers to rack up a staggering $3 to $5 debt per session. To grown men with disposable income and decades of archery and bowhunting experience, it was a delightful game. To a 12-year-old boy, it was a source of constant worry equivalent to being indebted to the Mob. Each session became a hands-on lesson in shooting form, concentration, compound interest rates and the fundamentals of gambling. These are important things for a sixth-grader to learn.
One would think two grown men would “take it easy on the kid,” but it was quite the opposite. Bobby reveled in drawing my bow with his pinkie at the outset of every session, and then chuckling at my spindly arms and weakling muscles. Dad was more phsycological, waiting for me to come to full draw before simply saying aloud, “don’t miss or you’ll owe us all money.” And after a shot, I could depend on him to say, "Well, Son, looks like you owe Bobby another quarter."
Of course, if I couldn’t pay up at the end, which was at times a reality for a kid with a gambling problem, that was no reason to exclude me from future games. I was always allowed to work off my debts with chores around the house.
I’d love to write about how I became a prodigy of childhood archery, regularly schooling the old men and ultimately funding my higher education, one quarter at a time. But the truth is, my folks paid for my college, and prior to it, I ended up expending considerable cash, mowing a lot of grass and shoveling mounds of horse turds as a result of the “shoot for quarters” game.
Thing is, I never considered not shooting for quarters. I didn’t go on to become a champion archer, but at some point, I did begin walking away from practice sessions with some extra jingle in my pocket. And to this day, I can hold my composure better than most while at full draw. That’s handy when aiming at a 3D target in front of a crowd of strangers. It’s even handier when a deer is ambling into bow range.
I think maybe that’s the lesson Dad and Bobby were trying to teach all along. And that, my friends, was certainly worth every quarter.
May 10, 2013 | By Tony Hansen
This is a tale that began in 1996. That was the year when a fairly unknown organization called the Humane Society of the United States came into my home state of Michigan. Their intentions were simple: Eliminate bear hunting.
HSUS spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on polls and surveys to determine exactly which types of hunting people seemed most opposed to. The end game? Pick off the low-hanging fruit of the hunting world before moving onto the next in a systematic effort to bring all hunting to an end. They were and remain anti-hunters. Rabid, manic, immensely ignorant people who believe animals have the same rights as humans and that anyone who dares hunt animals is on the same level as a serial killer.
Their polling had shown that non-hunters were uncomfortable with the idea of using dogs and bait to hunt bears. So that’s what they attempted to stop. They paid several hundred thousand dollars to collect enough signatures to put bear hunting to a vote. In response, conservation and sportsmen groups in Michigan rallied together and not only soundly defeated HSUS efforts but also launched a counter-measure known as Proposal G mandating wildlife management decisions be based in sound science. The measure passed with overwhelming support. It was believed HSUS had been defeated. It wasn’t.
In 2006, HSUS returned to Michigan, spending several million dollars to overturn a science-based decision by Michigan’s legislature to allow dove hunting. Michigan’s hunters failed to step up and turn HSUS away. Without a strong history of dove hunting in the state, hunters simply didn’t think they should weigh in. They weren’t dove hunters after all, so they didn’t think they needed to fight for something that didn’t impact them. It was a massively selfish mistake.
HSUS won overwhelmingly. With the victory under its belt and arrogance on its mind, HSUS vowed to return to take away more of Michigan’s hunting rights.
In 2012, nearly 15 years after meeting the recovery goals set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wolves were finally removed from the endangered species list in Michigan. As part of that delisting process, Michigan was required to design and implement a science-based wildlife management plan to ensure the wolf population did not fall below levels that would again require federal protection.
Michigan’s plan included active, science-based management including a hunting season when and if necessary. The plan is based on the North American Model of Conservation, a model which has enjoyed 100 percent success in every instance it's been applied over the past century. With some 700 wolves living in Michigan and population trends indicating a continued rate of population growth (Yes, the 2012 survey shows a moderate decline. That's normal and does not mean the population is declining. To state otherwise shows that you know nothing about population dynamics and proves that you should remain on the sidelines while the adults are talking), the Michigan legislature voted to add wolves to the list of Michigan game species and allow Proposal G to go into effect.
HSUS, as you may have guessed, didn’t like that. Once again, the group came into Michigan and paid more than $300,000 to a California group to buy signatures to overturn the legislation with a statewide vote and once again paid for polls to determine which words and phrases it could use to trick the public. The lies they told were outrageous. Their level of arrogance appalling. And it bit them squarely in the ass.
Michigan’s hunters and residents had finally had enough of out-of-state radicals throwing money around to force their views on others. A group led by Michigan United Conservation Clubs (whom I do communications work for), the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, U.P. Bear Houndsmen and others began working on a bill with Sen. Tom Casperson and Rep. Jon Bumstead that would fully implement Proposal G by allowing the Natural Resources Commission to designate game species and to ensure wildlife management decisions are made by biologists instead of bankers. It was called the Scientific Wildlife Management Package.
HSUS, apparently, was more concerned with parading around its spray-tanned leader Wayne Pacelle and crowing over how many signatures they’d paid for than they were about a group of "wildlife terrorists and murdering rednecks." They were cocky, arrogant and confident they’d spent enough to get their way.
What happened wasn't what they expected. In fact, they were completely and systematically dismantled. They were outclassed, outthought, outmatched.
The Scientific Wildlife Management package moved through the state legislature and was signed into law by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday. The package also states that Michigan residents have a right to hunt, fish and trap. Best read that again, HSUS fans.
HSUS reaction has been both predictable and pathetic. They’ve vowed to continue with their ballot initiative even though it has absolutely no meaning. They’ve also threatened to spend millions of dollars to smear Gov. Snyder over his decision to sign the bills. They intend, again, to spend money not to protect the wildlife they claim to love but to "punish" those who don't share their views.
HSUS doesn’t like to lose and doesn't believe in freedom or the democratic process. It has absolutely no interest in saving wildlife. It wants only to stop hunting, no matter how many species it hurts along the way. Pacelle is like that spoiled brat that used to kick and scream on the playground when she didn’t get her way. If they can't win fair and square, it's time to change the rules. Lie, cheat, pout.
Wayne-O, you didn’t get your way. And if you decide to come back to Michigan, you won’t get your way that time either. Michigan’s hunting community has shown that it’s willing to stand together to stop your efforts. Every time that you come back, we intend to kick you squarely in your proverbial nuts. Repeatedly.
April 29, 2013 | By Will Brantley
Remember that crazy picture of Stephanie I posted last week? The one where she’s attacking with the deer femur? No? Well, I posted it again below, just to remind you. Now, when you have nightmares about a crazy blond soccer mom jumping out of her mini-van and attacking you with a primitive, cave-woman-like weapon, you can thank me.
Stephanie has since threatened my life for making that post, but she doesn’t scare me. I’m sticking the course, and as promised, I’ve spent a good deal of time (well, actually only about 10 minutes) reviewing all the wonderful captions you folks wrote about that photo. Several made me laugh, but there was only one winner worthy of this brand-new Trophy Ridge React Bow Sight that I have sitting on my desk. And that was GarySmoot, who quoted Norman Bates for his caption:
“Mother isn’t herself these days.”
Simple, clever and to the point. As good writing should be. So Gary, e-mail your mailing address to rteditorial [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line “Caption Contest Winner,” and I’ll get this sight into the mail for you pronto. As for everyone else, Stephanie included, thanks for playing along.
April 17, 2013 | By Will Brantley
Maybe you haven’t picked this up about Realtree.com, but we’ve got a bunch of camo-clad women on staff. And a couple weeks ago, several of them converged in western Kentucky for the second-annual Realtree Ladies Bow Test. To my knowledge, the test is the only one of its kind. It’s a pretty grueling review. Our panel of female shooters takes a selection of brand new women's bows and sends hundreds of arrows through them over the course of a couple days. The bows are evaluated and scored on a wide range of performance factors.
More on the test to come very soon. But for now, I leave you with this photo of one of the panel testers, blogger Stephanie Mallory, gentle mother of four seen here wielding a deer femur as a weapon. She's rarely grumpy about anything, but apparently, this bow test was her breaking point. Outdoor photographer Bill Konway snapped the photo and now, I'm posting it on the Internet for your benefit. See, this picture is not only entertaining, but also potentially worth some new gear for you. Whoever can come up with the best caption for this photo and write it in the comments section below will win a new, and free, Trophy Ridge React bow sight. I'll announce the winner in another blog post, so write those captions and keep on checking the site.
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- » Caption This Photo, Win a Trophy Ridge Bow Sight
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