Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
"How should I set up for bowhunting turkeys?"
This is a question I'm asked each spring. Here are my thoughts:
I generally shun short bows whether they're compound or traditional. But when the subject turns to turkeys I lighten up on that conviction. This is directly related to how turkeys are bowhunted. You're either operating from inside a pop-up (most popular today) or sitting flat on your butt in natural cover. Though, I've certainly bagged plenty of birds with longer compounds and true longbows from inside blinds and hunting on the ground.
That said, short bows when combined with short-range shooting (anything more than 30 yards is pushing your luck with turkey and their baseball-sized vitals) give you more maneuverability in both cases. The industry trend of bow lengths under 34 inches, seems ideal for turkey hunting, Bows of those lengths are easier to handle and make avoiding top-limb contact with pop-up roofs easier and bottom-limb collisions with the ground less likely, especially if you're short in stature.
Other than that, my turkey bows exactly mirror big-game rigs with 70 pounds of draw weight as suited to turkeys as moose (or 45 to 65 pounds if that's your preferred draw weight).
When bowhunting big game my preferences typically lean toward ultra-bright fletchings and solid, fixed-blade broadheads. I want to see where my arrow goes after release, and I prefer the rock-solid reliability of such broadhead designs on big game.
When targeting turkeys my preferences take a complete 180. Bright fletchings for turkeys are a mistake. This is especially true when hunting off the ground (which I prefer). Birds, unlike big game animals, perceive the full color spectrum. Bright fletchings are as glaring to them as they are to you and me. When fletching turkey arrows I choose camouflage browns, greens and black. Even better are camouflaged or barred versions of these colors. I even go so far as choosing Realtree versions of Easton's Axis, as an example, instead of plain black shafts. Turkeys live by their vision. I'll take every advantage I can get.
The biggest difference -- and perhaps most important to bowhunting success on turkeys -- is aggressive, wide-cutting broadheads. In the dark ages of bowhunting we added washers behind standard broadheads, filed notches into broadhead blades, fixating primarily on imparting shock. Sadly we still lost lots of birds. After tagging 60 gobblers by bow I've come to understand punching big holes is much more important than inflicting shock.
There's plenty of turkey ammo for the archer to choose from today. Some of the heads I've used to deadly effect include New Archery Products' Gobbler Getter (1 1/2" cutting diameter with blunted tip to impede penetration), Rocket Hammerhead, Vortex Mini-Max 3 and Rage (the latter all 2-inch cuts). These heads create big holes, turn marginal hits into dead gobblers, and slow penetration enough to regularly leave arrows in the bird and discourage locomotion.
My Deer Are Smarter Than Yours.
Have you ever heard even one bowhunter brag about how lucky they are to bowhunt the dumbest whitetails in North America? The answer is no. You'll never, ever hear this sentence uttered out loud by anyone who bowhunts whitetails. Everyone's deer are the smartest. Worthy of MacArthur Foundation Genius Grants. But they're wrong. My deer are smartest...
My whitetails are subjected not only to intense rifle-hunting pressure two months of the year, but year-round mountain lion attacks and, more recently, threats from wolves, which as everyone knows are responsible for every single failing of the Idaho Fish and Game Department's questionable game-management schemes. Getting bows drawn on these jumpy bucks requires the quietest wool garments and impeccable shot-timing. You learn to shoot while seated. It would be a joke to even attempt standing to shoot. These deer jump out of their skins if you so much as think too loudly.
My Kansas buddy, on the other hand, thinks his deer are real smart - despite a lack of predators and 14,000 acres of prime habitat receiving very light hunting pressure (a handful of relatives and friends annually) and zero rifle hunting. I bowhunt with him periodically and find his deer downright stupid, actually. I stand to shoot if I wish, play with my video camera atop its creaky tree-pod while deer walk directly beneath me. They pause, have a look around, twitch their tails and continue about their business. But my buddy insists his whitetail can smell things even my neurotic Idaho bucks cannot. The reason I didn't see a shooter buck near my Kansas stand last fall, he says, is because I blew my nose 200 yards away while we were walking in to hang a stand just before a rain shower.
My Iowa buddy really cracks me up. He, of course, thinks his deer are prodigies. He kills a 160-plus inch buck every friggin' year, without fail, but somehow needs me to understand how difficult his bowhunting is, how many long days he spends on stand. The only time in my life I managed to tag a bigger buck than him - not incidentally, bowhunting other property near his Iowa home - I arrowed a 163-inch buck my first day hunting, so I really don't buy it.
This "my-bucks-are-smarter-than-yours" mentality is akin to my fly-fishing partners claiming a particular pea-brained, cold-blooded trophy trout living beneath the county-road bridge or near a certain submerged stump possesses cognitive powers simply because they can't manage to catch it. I mean, do you really want to contemplate being outwitted by a barely-sentient fish?
One thing's for certain: Anyone who has ever killed a trophy-sized buck (no matter where it came from) is an expert in all things whitetail. They killed that buck not because he was a dumb animal unable to summon abstract thought, but because they're darn savvy hunters. That's why I know I'm a heck of an outdoorsman - because my deer are the smartest of all. . .
Should You Use Deer Mineral This Spring?
If you view marketing claims from sellers of deer mineral with skepticism, you're not alone. They'll promise 10-15 percent gains in antler growth and claim that you're contributing to healthier deer herds overall. But the hunting world is filled with dubious products promising the success we all crave. We see the photos of the guy sitting behind a monster buck and envision ourselves in that enviable position. We're suckers deceived by our own pipe-dream fantasies.
These were my very thoughts while despensing my first deer mineral a couple of springs ago. To be brutally honest, I didn't pay for that mineral. I'd been working on a magazine assignment discussing deer feed and a manufacturer sent it up hoping I'd have something nice to say about it in way of promotion. It was painless to dump it somewhere and forget about it. I had few expectations. Immediately after moving to Idaho I tossed cattle salt blocks all over our property hoping to attract and observe whitetails in my own backyard (feeding deer is legal in Idaho but hunting those spots is not). Deer weren't one bit interested. Those blocks slowly dissolved into the dirt unmolested.
Late that summer while scouting new stand sites I swung by that mineral site to have a look. Not one speck of the mineral remained, the ground pawed into a depression by little cloven hooves! So obviously they loved it. Hmmm...this might come in handy in some other location where hunting mineral is legal.
The man who sent me that mineral, Jeff Williams, owner of Dr. James Kroll-approved Nutra Deer, was summoned and more Antler Builder ordered. I was now willing to pay for it, and dispensed the subsequent bags more thoughtfully last spring. Sure enough, deer again attacked it with vigor.
What's most interesting, is the same deer that won't even touch livestock blocks of any color or flavor (although New Mexico deer couldn't get enough of the same products) would gobble this stuff like candy. Which might be the key. Besides the vitamins (A, D3 and E, for instance), minerals (calcium, phosphorous and salt, most specifically) and "micro minerals" (copper, iodine, zinc and selenium), Nutra Deer's Antler Builder is infused with artificial flavors. I'm certain this is the secret to geting deer to consume the mixture initially.
And why is this important? While far from a scientifically-controlled experiment, I can truthfully say I observed a perceivable increase in antler growth last season. Before I started feeding Antler Builder my top end trailcam photos were nearly all 4x5 bucks. Last year, a couple hundred pounds of free-fed mineral later, I was picking up few 4x5s and many more 5x5s. Nothing changed in way of weather or moisture -- only that mineral.
So is deer mineral worth the extra effort and expense? I think so. And I'd like to think I'm also producing healthier does dropping stronger fawns as well. The time to deploy minerals is now.
How about you? Anyone out there share similar experiences?
What's the best arrow for bowhunting?
Recently, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I asked bowhunting friends and industry acquaintances, via e-mail, what their favorite arrow for bowhunting was and to explain why. I received 66 responses.
*Who: These folks ranged from average weekend warriors to those who live, breathe and eat bowhunting; casual backyard whitetail hunters to absolute fanatics - relatively poor to truly rich. I felt is was a pretty decent cross-section of American bowhunting.
*Where: Of the 66 responses, 25 of these guys and gals bowhunt primarily in the "East" (whitetail, turkey, maybe hogs), 32 primarily in the "West" (mule deer, pronghorn, elk, bear; when they draw tags), nine traveling extensively while pursuing sexier game animals.
*Brands: Four arrow brands showed up more than any others: 17 shooting Easton, 13 each Gold Tip and Victory Archery and 11 Carbon Express. Beman received three thumbs up, PSE/Carbon Force, Carbon Tech and Acme Port Orford cedar two apiece; Bloodsport, Trophy Ridge (discontinued) and Arrow Dymanics one each. Brand loyalty leaned heavily to Gold Tip and Victory in the West; Easton in the East; Carbon Express fans evenly divided East and West. Carbon arrows dominated the favorites, only two wood-arrow fans responding, no one voting for aluminum (I didn't have Chuck Adams' e-mail address...)
*What: Answers to many of the questions I initially had in mind remained somewhat subjective after compiling this informal data, but one trend clearly burst through. "Heavy" (average 10 gpi) and/or low-diameter (Easton Injexion/Axis, Victory VAP, Gold Tip Kinetic, Carbon Express PileDriver PTX) arrows are currently bowhunting favorites with 31 of 66 respondents choosing a heavy or heavy-skinny arrow regardless of region or most commonly-targeted game.
Interestingly, only eight people chose lightweight shafts marketed primarily for speed (divided evenly between East, West and Traveling bowhunters; Gold Tip Velocity, Victory HV-V1, Easton Flatliner and Bloodsport HT1, as examples), 19 of 66 choosing standard-diameter, mid-weight shafts (evenly distributed by region, with examples including Carbon Force Radial X Weave, Beman ICS Hunter, Carbon Express Maxima Hunter, Easton A/C/C and Gold Tip XT Hunter). The balance - 10 - was made up of traditional and/or "specialized" shafts (such as tapered, super-heavy spine, or wood, for instance).
Twenty of 66 shooters specifically indicated they were willing to pay more for best-quality shafts with the tightest specs (Gold Tip Pro, Victory V1, Easton A/C/C, Carbon Express Maxima Hunter KV, for instance).
*Why: Here's where things got confusing. I had heavy-arrow shooters quoting speed as their reason for choosing a particular shaft. I had speed-arrow guys quoting superior penetration and/or toughness as their driving force for selecting certain models. So the "Why' in this survey is obviously a bit arbitrary, but does at least show what's on bowhunters' minds.
Bowhunters' No. 1 concern was arrow toughness, with 33 responses pointing to it specifically. Following close behind were 31 bowhunters who called penetration important to choosing arrows. Accuracy was third with 26 specific mentions. Interestingly, only four bowhunters made buying decisions based on affordable price, and 11 on the fastest arrow speeds. Other specific notes included straightness (5), heavy weight (7), quality components (4), reduced wind drift (6), good balance between speed and weight (5) - safety, versatility, easy tuning, trust and silence getting single mentions.
So how about you? Let us know what is your favorite arrow and why!
Learing how to intall a peep sight isn't difficult. It can be done in just a few steps.
The first step in the process is to relax bowstring tension and a bow press is the safest way to do it. This is a necesary step to install a peep, string silencers or eliminator button.
Begin by knotting a scrap of serving material around string and drawing to check alignment. Adjust until serving knot centers the sight aperture when locked into your natural anchor. Mark that point with silver ink.
Insert peep square to sight, placing equal string bundles to each side of peep aperture. With string tension removed, also insert string silencers or install eliminator buttons (leave extras at speed buttons) if needed.
Put tension back on the string and and confirm alignment, drawing several times to double-check. (Note: Leave peep cocked slightly left for a right-hand bow as serving will pull it straight). If you find peep is off axis, relax bowstring tension again and move a single bowstring strand from each side of peep to the other, according to needs, and reapply tension. This requires some amount of trial-and-error tweaking, so patience is important. Nothing's more annoying than peeps which don't turn flush to the sight in the heat of battle. Slightly off-axis peeps can be "trained" to sit straight by turning well past center repeatedly under tension.
After peep height and attitude are firmly established, cut a 2-foot-long piece of thin serving material. Starting below the peep, tie an overhand know 1/2-inch below peep and begin wrapping upward, neatly and tightly, over bowstring and serving tag. After five or six wraps, pull tag away from string and continue serving around bowstring only, pulling bottom V created by wedged peep tight at bottom point. When the wedged string strands can no longer be pulled together, make three to four turns inside one half of V wedge until reaching peep.
Take two tight turns around peep aperture, and thread serving around opposite half of strand bundle, creating three to four turns before serving around entire bowstring once more. After you have created the same number of wraps above the peep as below, lay a loop of scrap serving material along string, leaving long tags exposed at bottom, serving over the loop six to seven turns tight to existing wraps, insert serving end through loop and remove slack. Pull scrap loop and contained serving end beneath final wraps and pull tight. Grasp top and bottom tags in turn, pulling firmly toward peep with smooth-jawed pliers, cinching knots and pulling completed serving groups toward V split above and below peep. Trim, carefully melt tag ends, and rub super glue into each serving end. Your peep's secure. Reconirm alignment.