Blacktail Deer Hunting: Public Land Blacktails on Oregon’s Pacific Coast Part 2

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Oregon_Hunting_Access_Map_buttonPublic land is great choice for any DIY hunter, its widely available you just have to know where to look.  Surveying Google Maps on my computer I saw an interesting national forest near Oregon’s coast and wanted to check it out.  Choosing a few hunting locations in the Suislaw National Forest is a daunting task, it stretches for 991miles across the Pacific coast line of Oregon and provides ample hunting opportunity.  “If you have never hunted this particular area how do you chose a location?” Firstly I read some information on blacktails provided by Oregon Department of Fish and Game, and checked out their Interactive hunting map. Secondly, I concentrated my efforts on one particular area on a system of clear cuts, using one specific road.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 11.55.58 AMI also studied the game regulations provided by ODFG and found the particular GMU’s which I was allowed to hunt. I decided to hunt National Forest because it is the easiest way to find yourself in a legal hunting area if you are a DIY public land hunter and have a tag in your pocket.  Reading everything I possibly could online about blacktail hunting, I learned that hunters have mixed success from tree stand hunting, still hunting, and spot and stalk techniques.  Hunting the edge of clear cuts whenever possible also provides hunters with success.  These tactics aren’t to much different from the way whitetails are pursued, although the terrain, diet, and behaviors of the blacktails are slightly different.  I find that trees and forage are the key to any deer species, and having an understanding of the trees helps hone my hunting approach.  I found myself studying trees more during the hunting season than studying deer, mainly because I couldn’t find any blacktails.

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Using my iPhone maps app I drive to the selected national forest road a few miles outside a small surf town on the coast of Oregon.  One man can only cover so much terrain on one hunt, and from what I have read/heard it’s not to easy to walk up on the said “ghost of the coast”.   Drawing on previous experience from my 2013 blacktail hunt where I harvested a beautiful blacktail doe, I knew one particular tactic that would give me a great place to start.  I got to the road where I was legal to hunt and started looking, slowly driving to find animal “highways” that cross the road.  I took the first day to scout/hunt keeping my eyes open for any deer sign possible.  I had one tree stand in my tool kit to hang, thus adding to my strategy for these blacktails.  Kind of mind numbing to think that your hunting 991 square miles sitting in a tree waiting for one deer to show up though.  I like my odds…..  Finding a concealed blocked off logging road, I march a mile or so deep finding rubs and deer sign the whole way.  I hung my stand and took off to search for more sign in the area not limiting myself to only one option.

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Finding another meadow bound by a clear cut and a stream, there was an animal highway dividing the lands features.  I knew I had found my secondary hunting location.  There was a large stump over turned with a ball of dirt and tree roots in which I could sit approximately 8-10 feet off the ground perched perfectly for a 5-10 yard shot.  If I sat at either location long enough I may just have a shot at a buck.   Not seeing an animal in my new “spot” for the first few days, I was starting to get a little discouraged.

Sitting on the up-turned stump for the morning with no action, I decided to visit the tree stand.  Again to no avail, I pound out the hours in the stand answering emails, Face-booking, Instagraming, and tweeting(guilty)…. The second day hunting was once again a total bust, there were deer tracks under both of my stand locations but no deer.  It appeared as if they were coming through both of my trails at dark.   Based upon the winds direction I decided on the third day that I would sit on-top the stump for the morning hunt and hit my tree stand for the afternoon hunt.  At 10:30 am the wind changed for the worse and rendered both of my hunting locations null.  Thinking fast I walk back to the car and drove to a small clear cut I had previously book marked for a two hour hiking appointment.   Having just enough time for a short stalk and spot hunt, I followed my instinct and decided to hunt the closest possible public land bordering private land.  The game plan was to rattle and grunt with the wind in my face working my way to a forked forest road, then walk my way back to the car.  Luckily my 3G was working and gave me a pinpoint location of where I was relative to my vehicle, the private land, and the public land.  Without having to fuss with any other GPS the iPhone was a great tool for the hunt, this allowed me to distinguish exactly where the private and public land boundaries were; a beneficial tool to the 21st century hunter.

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There was as small road closed to all motor and atv vehicles, a great place to go with minimal if any foot traffic.  The terrain consisted of rolling hills lined with douglas fir, the western hemlock, and small stands of big leaf maples.  I headed up the steepest hill to find a few small rolling benches protected from the wind, the perfect location to rattle in a bedded buck.   Calling to me is like painting a picture, the first step is to set up and begin the rattling sequence after a 5-10 minute silent pause.  Light tickling of the antlers works to coax a closer buck, after 10-15 minutes the rattling will increase intensity crescendoing into a couple of bucks locked for the title of alpha buck and breeding rights.  Rubbing the antlers on trees, scraping the ground, raking tree bark, simultaneously grunting, and doe bleating these all work.  In this instance, nothing came to my beautifully painted buck fight in forest surrounded by red cedar trees amongst the tangles of a recently thinned clear cut.  I continued to paint the entire clear cut as if there was a battle royal of the biggest bucks in the area all throwing down for the hootenanny. Nothing.  Nothing came to the rattle, maybe I’m like a finger paint artist or something….

Working my way towards the opposing forest road, I let down my guard and begin to march toward the “pin dropped” location on my google maps app on the smart phone.  Looking at my phone I have a pretty good barring of which direction to walk, I crammed the phone in my pocket and zipped it.  Realizing the “pin dropped” location was further than anticipated, I knew I had a extra mile or so to the car and needed to get back to town for lunch plans.    Better pick up the pace, I think to myself.  I moved as swift and safe as possible through the douglas fir stand which I was currently hunting, the area was loaded with heavy blown downs mixed with a luscious green fern undergrowth.

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Continued from PART 1:

Trotting through the woods, I notice a buck springing from his bed and take two bounds pausing at 20 yards.   I immediately freeze, the buck does the same and keeps a tree between us peering with on eye around the tree focused on the direction I came from.   I was caught off guard for two reasons, I was moving quickly to get back to my vehicle and wasn’t prepared to draw my long bow as movement would surely make the buck flee.

As the first buck stopped, my eyes caught movement and gravitated toward a second blacktail buck trailing his buddy at 15 yards.  As luck would have it, I was perfectly downwind with a steady sea breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean.  We all stood for about 1-2 minutes silently, it was very fascinating to watch these animals undisturbed in their natural environment. At 20 yards I watched how much they check the wind with a simple nose lift, or how they’re ears spin almost 360 degrees detecting the slightest branch breaking or noise in the forest. They could not smell me and could not detect the ensuing danger, they went back to feeding unaware of (me) the predators existence.  Calmly the second buck started to walk away after he lost curiosity in the movement he had detected earlier.  Just as he started to move and turn his back toward me I grab my grunt and softly grunted to him, he turns and immediately starts to walk directly at me.  He paused at 12 yards facing me, positioned to walk behind thick brush and offer no shot opportunity I had to think quickly to turn him broad side.  Thinking to myself, “this dudes neck is all swolled up he must be in the rut” and “I thought blacktails were smaller than whitetails?” and “This buck is a brute forky!”.  Having a set of rattling antlers around my neck I simply lean forward and barley roll my shoulders resulting in a soft antler tickle. The buck couldn’t help himself and walked 4 yards closer to find the source of the antler rattle.  Turning broad side at 8 yards he started to walk around a fallen tree, he caught my elbows movement as I anchored at full draw and then paused for a fatal moment.  The arrow disappeared from sight in the blink of an eye and the buck took off running towards the other deer.   They vanished in a fraction of a second, I crept quickly to the location of where the deer was standing when I shot him.  Looking for signs of blood, hair, and or the arrow I found something quite peculiar.

When I first saw this buck I saw that his antler was deformed, his antler hung downward on his face but still fully intact and attached to his pedicle.  With the stick bow, you shouldn’t be a choosy hunter and the old saying stays true “don’t pass on the first day what you wouldn’t pass on the last day”.  Knowing that any antlered buck in the GMU I was hunting is legal, I decided either of the bucks were in trouble if they showed me their vitals.  When this buck turned broad side at 8 yards I had no doubt in my mind wether to come to full draw or not.   After releasing the arrow and arriving at the location of the where the deer stood, I surveyed the area to find something odd on the ground.  Upon closer examination I found that this wasn’t simply a drop of blood on the ground but that this was the actual antler of my deer.  He somehow managed to break off the remaining portion of bone connecting his antler by catching it on a tree while he was on his death run.   Shortly after I found the antler, the arrow appeared buried and covered in blood in a small brush pile.

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Waiting for an hour or so before tracking the animal, I decided it was best not to move a muscle and continue to look for a blood trail in the immediate area until I had given the animal some time to expire.   Experienced archery hunters and hunters in general will tell you the most gut wrenching exhilarating portion of the hunt doesn’t come before the shot, it comes after.   The anxiety that comes with tracking a wounded animal is intense to say the least, and that anxiety was building in my mind as I had no real blood to track.   Staying close to the area where I found my arrow and the antler, I began marking the direction the bucks had run off to with florescent flagging tape.  Taking a very slow approach in their direction, as to not spook the deer from his first bedding after the shot, I spotted one of the bucks working his way directly towards me.  The buck was following the same path he left upon an hour or so earlier.   This is a valuable and interesting part of the story as it allowed for ample learning opportunities on how to hunt blacktail deer. This buck and other bucks I have hunted in my experience will return to an area using the same trail if they are not alerted to human presence or danger.   This deer had no clue what had happened in the forest and was curious enough to come back through an hour or so later to investigate the source of commotion in his bedroom.  He meandered off after a few minutes and headed toward the direction we all came from, although he didn’t have the droopy antlered buck with him, a good sign. Noting that one deer track was much heavier I knew the direction that the deer ran, after about 60 yards I found a pool of blood on the forest floor filled with pink bubbles and a mix of crimson clots.  Not moving another inch I survey the area for more sign in any direction, the body of the deer, or simply an upturned hoof signaling the end of the hunt.

With no blood sign detected in any other direction, I started to let my eyes do the walking and survey further out for a possible lead. It was then that I noticed the deers body laying 40 yards away.  I knock an arrow and take off my boots and pack to sneak within 20 yards for another shot if necessary.  I dropped to a knee slowly and paused at stick bow range, there was no need for cou-de-gra.   I walked up, gently pet his hide and thanked him for the bounty he would provide.  Growing up Alaskan, going to undergrad school in Pennslyvania, and filming professional for living I’ve had my fair share of rifle harvested sitka blacktails, eastern whitetails, and central mule deer.  However, this is my first Columbian blacktail buck with traditional archery equipment and any animal harvested with true stick and string in my book is a trophy.   Completely throttled from the magical experience, a large wave of adrenalin coursed throughout my veins.  I had to sit down for a moment, calm my excitement, and fully embrace the situation before the work really began.  Its these moments that are seared into my mind after a successful hunt, savoring the nostalgia of the effort placed in the adventure. “I feel special that I’m allowed to sit in national forest sandwiched by the Pacific Ocean and woods filled with douglas-fir, western hemlocks, western red cedar, sitka spruce, big-leafed maples, and red alders with a deer tag and my longbow.”  After a few moments of savoring the successful hunt a long drag back to the National Forest Road awaited me, it wasn’t long before the processing of the animal begun.

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The final process for this hunt took me firstly to a buddies house to slice, dice, grind, and vacuum seal my delectable winter table fair; honor this animal by salvaging as much edible meat possible.  Once the buck was completely processed and in the freezer, including a self european taxidermy job, I was off to the Oregon Department of Fish and Game office to submit a tooth sample and report my hunt online to validate my harvest.  The ODFG here in Oregon does a great job on the fascination deer population found through out the states many GMU’s.   Hunters do their part in conservation by purchasing game tags and hunting licenses, which in part, provides funding for biologists and conservation officers to regulate and control game diversities throughout the state.  By hunters submitting tooth samples to this agency, the biologist can gather data on age, sex, distribution ranges, etc and then compile these facts to better understand the game species overall abundance and carrying capacity for certain areas.  Without hunters and their ability to communicate game numbers and data with Departments such as ODFG, these agencies would not have the best information to pull from to set correct game limits and regulations involving certain species.  These relationships are crucial to the continued success of wild game populations in North America.  I am proud to say I’m a hunter and conservationist.

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For more information on a DIY public land Blacktail hunting hunt check out http://www.dfw.state.or.us

For more information on how to become a hunter or if you have interest in the hunting movement we highly encourage you to check out your local Department of Fish and Game and ask about The Hunters Saftey Education Course offered year round.

Here is a link to Oregon’s Hunter Education Programs

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/education/hunter/

Non-resident tag:$383.50

Non-resident hunting license: $140

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 tips for DIY Alaskan Moose Hunting

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  1. Game plan:

Need to make a good game plan with solid logistics and stick to it. Maps are critical to success, understanding game regulations and the area you are hunting are first priorities.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.main) home website provides great information on where to start and how to finish a successful moose hunt.   This can help answer many of the initial questions someone has concerning a DIY Alaskan moose hunt, this should be the first place to start when coming up with a moose hunting game plan.  You can find things like harvest statistics for your selected hunting area and animal information, hunting license and tags, pictures on how to field judge a moose, and most importantly all the regulations controlling your hunt.

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  1. Pre/ in-season scouting: internet research – fly over – ground visit

The digital age is upon us and information is more available now than ever.  Internet databases such as outdoor forum directories and www.rokslide.com make scouting a little easier.  Some individuals like to fly into a hunting area and scout on the way, although there is rules that prevent hunters to chase animals the same day they are airborne.  With no pre-season scouting for the majority of hunters out there, they must rely on putting boots on the ground and looking for the freshest moose sign possible.  Printed maps of your area is instrumental for moose hunting.  Know your area and how to move from point A to B (or at least have a game plan for it).

  1. Vantage point glassing

If you don’t have the option of scouting the area you will be hunting and have not targeted any particular bulls then gaining a vantage point to glass your hunting area is key.  One technique used by saged Alaskan moose hunters is to hike the closest hill then climb a tree, allowing them to survey their hunting area. Climb a spruce tree or cottonwood or use techniques such as climbing a telescoping ladder to get above brushy swamps. Hiking above tree-line in the mountains and letting your optics do the walking for you increases your chances to see animals as well.  In general visibility diminishes at lower elevations and gaining a vantage point could be your saving grace.

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4.Wind direction

Always plan morning and evening hunts around wind direction. Moose (even rutting bulls) will usually circle 100-900 hundreds yards down wind before closing the distance.  This early season archery bull circled 100-200 yards down wind before bedding permanently this 2014.

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  1. Calling – antler raking

Antler raking or scraping is great for moose hunting because not a high level of skill or knowledge of the moose language is needed.  Simply breaking and scraping spruce tree branches can be enough. Listening for a response to your call is crucial.  Sometimes bulls approach silent, other times they will rake their antlers and/or grunt.  An old moose shoulder blade, plastic oil container, milk jug, protein jug, commercialized fiberglass calls, birch tree bark scrapers, they all work to some degree.  The last moose hunt I went on we made a moose scraper out of a jug of Muscle Milk protein and called in a dandy bull fit for the freezer.

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  1. Be prepared to sleep out: survival kit essentials

You can add more items to this list, but I wouldn’t subtract any of these items or be caught dead in the field without them.  Moose are just like any of the other member of the deer family, they move most at first light and last light depending on the photo period and rut phase.  Knocking down a moose at last light can lead to a long evening away from the shelter of base camp, if you leave your survival kit you’ll be wishing you had one.  If your not prepared to siwash* then your not prepared to harvest a bull moose.

Survival kit – bare minimum

  • flagging tape
  • rope
  • sleeping bag (emergency blanket, and/or bivy sack,etc)
  • two sources of ignition(bic lighter, magnesium fire starter, etc…)
  • small fold out saw
  • a knife
  • 8×12 tarp (or bigger)
  • emergency rations of food (cliffs bars, beef Jerky, etc)
  • compass and GPS

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  1. Correct gear: a few guidelines

Gear selection can make or break a hunt, rough weather and terrain are inevitable on an Alaskan adventure.  Your gear will experience some wear and tear, no doubt. GEAR: Hunting methods differ and depend on the individual hunter but here are a few guidelines for equipment.  A heavier rifle caliber capable to shoot 200+ grained bullets out to 300 yards should do the trick. Quality binoculars 8x32s work great, these help hunters field judge moose on those late evening sits in low light conditions.  Tent camp with the option to spike camp(1x bigger and 1x smaller tent ), sleeping bag and pads for everyone(0 degree rating mummy bags), and one action packer(tote or cooler) filled with a camp kitchen. An 8×12 (or larger) tarp works great to keep rain off your meat and doubles as a clean surface to help in field processing.  A small fold out saw is nice to have along for splitting the sternum, removing antlers, limbs, and gathering firewood.  A minimum of eight game bags should be brought, I like to bring 16 in case we drop another moose and/or need to change the game bags in the field if they get wet or dirty. Bring a big enough back pack or packing frame to fit 80-150 pound hind quarters/shoulders in it, day packs simply will not suffice. Cordage, you need much more rope than you think. Extra rope of all sizes along with a giant role of B-50 cord will really help you out in the long run, especially if your buddies aren’t their to lift those heavy moose quarters.  An old guide trick I learned a while back was to tie a moose leg with B-50 cord to the closest tree limb you can find, this relieves pressure on the hunter to hold the leg, the knife, and then make the cut.  Much more could be said about the correct gear needed for a moose hunt, this all circles back your game plan and methods for transportation to get you in and out of the field.

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  1. Mental and physical toughness:

Moose hunting is tough, one must be mentally and physically ready to handle the task at hand.  Once you knock down a moose the “fun is over”, after getting some beautiful trophy shots the slicing and dicing begins.   It will take an average hunter about 3-8 hrs to field dress/quarter a moose in preparation for the pack out.   Rule of thumb in Alaska is to not shoot a moose more than one mile away from your transportation; this is where physical toughness and mental toughness play a huge role. There are many bulls that go noticed yet untouched because hunters don’t want to deal with all the work, the big boys are out there you may just have to work harder than you bargained for.  That being said, there are even bigger bulls that go unnoticed and untouched you just have to be semi-insane to go after them.  This bull (pictured lower left) was a few miles past a public hiking trail. It took five days of meat packing up and over 2,500ft mountains to get this moose in the freezer, hands down one of the most grueling pack outs I have personally been apart of.

A back-country pack after a successful harvest

 

Take these tips with a grain of salt. There are many seasoned moose hunters out there that have come home and filled their freezers using different tactics. Point is, you can’t kill them from the couch… Do your research and get out there!

Hit hard,

AM

*Siwash: verb – camp without a tent.

 

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Austin with Vince(aka”Moose Sensei”) and their 2013 Alaskan bull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Archery Hunting Oregon 2013

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Tag soup is not my favorite meal, but as a hunter I will tell you I have had my fair share of it. Striking out as a hunter and coming home with no animal to show after a long arduous hunt can be very discouraging and hard on a sportsmen’s morale. I always dream of harvesting big game animals in different locations across the country, hunting in new locations is always fun and there is plenty of DIY opportunities through out most of the United States. I have had many aspirations to perfecting my traditional archery game on the beautiful animals that roam North America and beyond.

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This year I decided to take an old commercial fishing buddy up on his offer to chase elk in Oregon with bows in hand. Kalen told me about Oregon’s over the counter tags for elk and deer, I said “I’ll bring my take down long bow and a quiver full of zwickeys headed arrows.”
We discuss plans over a fishermens dinner in port of Naknek Alaska, dreaming of big bull elk and possibly a mule deer in the mountains of Oregon.

20131219-130908.jpgFast forward to August, the early archery elk season has begun and Kalen and I take to the woods. We meet up in Portland and begin the long road trip east, before long we had made it to a small sporting goods shop and picked up our elk and deer archery tags.   Kalen had the drop on a few good locations from past experiences while hunting with family and friends, so we had a few places to start.  (Thanks Mike and Jacob!)

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Hitting up a new piece of national forest is always a little daunting at first, new territory keeps you on your feet and you must be aware of your surroundings or risk getting lost/in an emergency situation.   I like hunting new areas because I have to be acutely aware of all of my new surroundings as I am at a severe disadvantage with my shooting distance, the animal sense of smell can detect me over 200 yards as they have evolved to survive.  All of my shots must be under 25 yards or I risk missing or wounding a game animal.  I am stepping completely out of my element of hunting the back country of Alaska, applying my skills to a new hunting area…….SOOOO EXCITING.  This hunt is going to be awesome, about a week to get it done before I head off back to Alaska in search of bull moose and grizzly bears.

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Hunting Alaska is no doubt one of the most physically, mentally, I repeat physically difficult hunt in the entire world especially if you are a DIY hunter who packs his own meat out.  Exlporing, hunting, and harvesting all over the counter game animals across much of Alaska, I thought this Oregon elk and deer hunt would relatively be a piece of cake.  Thinking nothing can be more difficult than a DIY moose or a grizzly bear hunt, I figured, “I’ll just slip in this (over the counter tag area) new territory in Oregon, put on the old slipideeedoooooo daaaa on an unsuspecting elk  and harvest a beautiful bull”.   “Then while I’m packing my elk out to my vehicle, I will see a mule deer buck right next to the car and tag out.”  aha lol.   All joking aside, I figured Kalen had a compound bow and an equal or better chance at harvesting an elk or a deer, so at least we would be successful.  Even harvesting one animal out of all four of our tags, I would have counted the hunt as a complete overwhelming success.20131219-130550.jpg20131219-130532.jpg

We begin to hike the rugged mountains of eastern Oregon, we break through tree line and I feel at home again.  Wind in our face dirt under our feet we marched to a prominent ridge with the plan to bivy out  on our perch high in the mountains and in the morning we would catch the elk sneaking back into their beds in the thick timber below. Potentially we could run into an unsuspecting deer as we hunt for elk.  Well our technique worked, better during the evening hunts than the morning, but we had encounters by staying high and hunting the elk herd above treeline.

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We also saw many deer, one day as I began to do the old slipideedooo da and creeping whisper quite towards the creek ravine where we saw elk I was startled by an explosion from four yards away.  Sneaking to stealthily for my own good, I managed to sneak unknowingly within 4 yards of a giant bedded mule deer buck. Kalen said “all I heard was thuda thuda thud thuda, booooomb” He could hear the deers hooves beat the earth before he could see his majestic framed bone white antlers take off towards Montana.  We both watched the buck from different locations on the mountain, galloping across the wicked terrain with mind blowing ease and grace.  Even though a shot opportunity never presented itself, seeing that deer bound across the mountain was a cool encounter one I will never forget.

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We decided they were not coming to our calling set ups as the breeding season or “rut” had not kicked off yet and the bulls were seemingly un-interested.  Thats not to say that we couldn’t call in an unsuspecting  bull before the rest of the hunting community started throwing hoochey mama calls at them.  We tried every trick in the book, we even went all “Cam Hanes” on those elk commencing “beast mode” on a least several occasions while hammering after elk.   We ended up scaring the wapiti(elk) off in the next county with our aggressive tactics. We decided to completely switch up our game, we would set up mini natural ground blinds and wait for the elk to cross a pinch point.  Pin pointing the elk herds movement to cross a saddle every evening on their way to a wallow, we knew exactly where to sit and await the ambush.   20131218-181553.jpgSeveral days later after we had patterned the elk movements, Kalen and I split up, he would stay  high upon the mountain top and I would go slide into the timber line and wait on the saddle.   Like clock work the elk came over the saddle, and I was ready.  I had also chosen the wrong game trail as the elk ended up crossing the saddle 80 yards away from me closer towards Kalen’s position.   Kalen had the majority of the herd walking directly towards the rock outcropping where he was hiding.   The spike and the branch bull we had spotted from our binoculars several days before was no where to be seen.  There were two groups of elk feeding directly towards Kalen and away from me, a spike crested the the rocky outcropping just outside Kalen’s effective range.   They ended being slightly curious of Kalens cow call, however they fed directly past his location with the spike elk not presenting anything but an extremely far shot.  Walking out of danger an into greener pastures, that spike would live to see another day.  Our tag team ambush tactic worked as we had a close encounter, although we were not able to seal the deal on an elk, I felt as if I had earned my moneys worth of the 500+ dollar over the counter tag.  The exhilarating expeience of having several close encounters in a new DIY hunting destination was priceless and in retrospect the cost of the license was worth the hunt alone.20131218-181751.jpg

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Elk combo deer season was a blast in eastern Oregon, we closed the distance on a few elk and one branch bull however we couldn’t get closer than 80 yards of legal bull. We had encounters nearly every day and saw great numbers of cow elk and doe mule deer failing to find the antlered monarchs until we switched up our game.  Finding what formula worked best for us on our early season archery hunt was difficult to say the least, but challenging in a very rewarding way.  Not only did we find several new locations to chase elk and deer next year, but we will carry our new found confidence and early season tactics into the next elk season.  Driving back to Portland was a very sobering moment, we hunted elk and deer as hard as possible for a week straight leaving with a better understanding of the public land bulls that make remote Oregon mountains their home.   I didn’t have much time to dwell as I was heading north back home to Alaska in search of rutting bull moose and one of the largest land predators in the world (grizzly bear).  Knowing very well that elk season and deer season were not completely over, and that eastern and western Oregon had open hunting GMU’s (game management units); there was a good chance that heading back to Oregon for one or two more shots at the venison or wapiti would be in in my near future.

Coming back to Oregon for one last shot at an elk combo deer hunt before the archery season closed, I searched out new areas to look for potential honey holes almost using these last few days to scout for elk and deer more than hunt.   Late season public land hunting entails pursuing animals that have already seen a lot of pressure, I turned to the game regulations in an attempt to find areas with minimal hunting activity or something close to it.   I found a few interesting areas in the Oregon game regulations that are traditional archery hunting only my co-driver, hunting partner, best friend, and fiancé Jordan P (who by the way is a dead eye with traditional archery equipment) Said “lets go there”.   A traditional area makes sense as the majority of the hunters would probably be unsuccessful leaving scores of antlered beasts to chase.  We did not find any elk so to speak, but we were treated to some of the finest deer hunting in the world.  I saw 25-50 deer per day for the last couple days of the season, even having a few encounters with some Pope and Young giants, but no shot opportunities under 60 yards.  The highlights of the trip was spending time with Jordan and our two dogs, they all were such awesome hunting buddies.   Jordan would drop me off at the top of a National forest road and I would meet her at 1/2 mile increments every hour at the road, doing my best to still-hunt as much area as possible.  Once again, we left the hunting grounds empty handed as no shot opportunities under 60 yards presented themselves.   Again though, the cost of the archery tag for deer season had been well worth it, the over the counter tag provided me with a few animal encounters and an awesome date/mini vacation for my gal and I.
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After contacting ODFG and confirming that my archery tag was indeed good for the western deer hunting season, I decided to give deer hunting one more shot.   Only hunting in western Oregon is a completely different ball game.  The area of western and eastern Oregon are completely different in regards to terrain and vegetation, and a hunter has the unique opporuntity to harvest a Columbia blacktailed deer what is said to be one of the most difficult species to hunt in North America.
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The vertical line that divides the mountain ranges that separate eastern and western Oregon provides a unique habitat where blacktail, whitetail, and mule deer can coexist and potentially hybridize.   That thought of all three species living in the same vicinity of each other blew my mind and is another awesome reason to purchase this hunting tag.  For the particular GMU I targeted to hunt, the western season opened up November 16th and on the opening day I was gonna head out with stick bow in hand.   I chose some national forest hunting land a couple hours outside of Portland, with a game plan to hunt an open area with access to “all” hunters.  Being the very late archery season, post gun season, I knew that this hunt would probably be the most difficult hunt out of all of my Oregon archery tags.   But I was not discouraged as I knew this GMU was an any deer unit, and hopefully with a little luck I could fill my freezer with a little blacktail venison back strap.   Weather in the late season was a factor that came into play for my advantage, finally  things are going perfectly right.

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Hunting the opening morning of the western deer season provided provided me with several advantages, one was the fact that other hunters would be in the woods moving deer.  Two the season opener had perfect blacktail deer hunting conditions  misty, snowy, cold, and nasty.   Oh baby, I started to feel really confident as the fresh snow gave me the chance to track deer in the Cascades Mountains.   I drove a two wheel drive car deep into the national forest as far as the car could go, I almost got stuck going up a steep hill.  The best decision was to turn around to avoid getting stuck and missing the season opener.  I hung my head out the window until I found fresh deer tracks and decided to pull over. 20131218-181436.jpg  I parked the car, strung up my take town stick bow, and charged after the deer tracks.   After about an hour of doing the old “slipperybob, slippideee kiiii yeaaaaa, not to be confused with the slippaaaruski, aka cat walking, #stealthy, #stillhunt, #spotandstalk, etc”  Basically I was tracking what appeared to be a buck as silently as I possibly could, using the fresh snow and wind direction to my advantage.   I noticed the animal tracks we extremely fresh, finding warm scat and recent wet (not frozen) scrapes.   Excitement and anticipation began to build enormously, I slowed my already cat like approach to snail speed.   After 20 more minutes of feathering my way through thick brush, tracking this buck through rabbit like undergrowth the tracks began to bound more than 10 ft apart.  This only meant one thing,  the buck had saw me before I saw him and he made a great vanishing act these houdini deer have been known for.

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Switching direction towards other fresh tracks in the area, I put my nose to the ground and knew this tactic was going to work.   “I could feel it in my bones” that a deer was very close to me and if I didn’t spook them that I could possibly get a shot.   I followed the new tracks for a few hours, sitting down during mid day around 11am to take in some beef jerky and water upon a downed tamarack tree.   Staying in the field on the hot new deer trail proved to be the final ingredient in having a shot opportunity under 25 yards.

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The tracks surprisingly had circled back towards the national forest logging road I was parked on, and headed directly towards the first set of tracks I had followed.   Commencing to snail speed I knocked an arrow and eased more slowly than ever towards a group of coniferous trees where the tracks had led.   Using these trees to my advantage I slowly crept around the snowy branches being careful not to brush the limbs revealing the location of the heavy footed predator trailing the prey.  Rounding the edge of the tree and stepping into another thick snow covered fern patch I noticed the arc of a deer back just 30 yards away.  Not moving a muscle I stood frozen, the deer stood up keeping a tree stump halfway between me and it and began walking towards my location.

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The stump keeping the animals vitals hidden I could only see a glimpse of what appeared to be a large, healthy, and unaccompanied blacktail doe with no head gear.   Slightly curious the deer began doing the head bob back and forth, the “did I just see a shadow” “some kind of movement” ” what was that”  “maybe I see another deer?” curiosity head bob.  The creatures patience began to wear thin, she turned to walk away and took three steps up hill quartering away at 30 yards I could not take a shot as she was just out of my effective range.   As the doe moved up hill, I fumbled in my pocket and pulled out a “Primos Doe esterous can call” and hit the call once as I  simultaneously crept 2.5 steps closer to the stump separating me from the back straps.

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The doe stopped in her tracks, turned and was curious as to what made the deer noise.   She took three steps toward the stump once again and stopped at about 24-25 yards facing me directly.   This was the closest I had been to any deer yet this season, as a traditional archer and longbow huntsmen I decided I was going to shoot if the deer was under 25 yards.  The gig was up and she had had enough, turning her head to walk away was all of the distraction I needed.  Instinctually guestimating the yardage to 25ish yards, coming to full draw, I picked a tuft of hair directly behind her shoulder releasing the arrow with impeccable form just as practiced thousands of times before.

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This is where the witchery of archery comes into play with the traditional archer…  “As I watched the arrow in what felt like super slow motion, I could see the archers paradox flexing the Zwickey shafted arrow bending and correcting itself to fly true.”   The arrow’s trajectory sent the arcing projectile high above the animals back, silhouetting itself perfectly against the white blanketed back drop.  The arrows flight was simply beautiful, in my mind I saw the arrow flying over the animal’s back, but in the last mili-nano second of slow motion the arrow lost forward momentum and began to fall as if guided by a higher power.  The white and red fletched arrow flies silently as the wind and does not interrupt natures perfect harmony.  Slicing through snow, fog, and mist connecting with flesh, blood and bone.. 20131218-182026.jpg

The arrow finds its mark, the doe trots off slowly and lays down for one final nap.   Watching the animal lay down, I knew the deer had been delivered a fatal blow and it was only a matter of seconds before she passed.   I slowly tracked the blood trail towards the location I saw her lay down.  Still practicing the art of the hunt, I tracked the beautifully painted blood trail across the vibrant white snow.

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Finding both halves of my arrow, I was ecstatic.  The blood trail started to be on both sides of the animal, which means the arrow went completely through the animal or part of the arrow (hence the broken shaft).   After about 80 yards of tracking this blood trail to the location where I saw the animal lay down, I could see the deer belly up another 15-20 yards down the mountain.  She died on her feet completely unaware of what happened and slid about 20 yards down hill to the base of hemlock tree.   There lay one of the hardest earn trophies of my hunting career, a beautiful public land blacktail doe taken with true stick and string.

-Austin Manelick

Thanks to everyone who was part of the hunt this year, shout out to Jake and Mike M, Kalen K, and Jordan P I had a blast hunting with you guys this year and thanks for all your assistance.

Moose Hunting Report 2013

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Year of the moose… It seems like this year bull moose were abundant in many parts of the state.  Sorry it has taken so long to make a new post, however team Mission Alaska has been out making new content for our readers to enjoy.   The Mission Alaska adventure was, again, one for the ages.   Here are a few pictures to tide you over until the stories accompanying these pictures are tapped out and made whole.

Feeling mooseeee.

Bridgers harvest 2013 MOOSE Bridgers moose 2 and the BOSS TANK 20130925-173558.jpg20130925-173410.jpg 20130925-173350.jpgHere are a few of the brutes that fell to the Mission Alaska team this year.   Be prepared for a few of the stories, lots of work indeed.

Cheers to the beautiful bull moose who roam these lands year round.  We as hunters thank you.

Hunting Season and Tags: Hunter Education

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Hunting season isn’t to far away and if you are thinking about stepping into the woods make sure to purchase your hunting license and accompanying tags.   Many states require hunters to fill out hunting reports online, these reports help biologists and Department of Wildlife officials maintain healthy population numbers, set game bag limits, and promote conservation through hunting.   With the internet this day and age, its never been easier to report your hunting adventures online at your states home webpage.

For instance:

In order to not be penalized for future hunting tags and permits, residents of the state of Alaska must report their prior years harvests before a set date.  

https://secure.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=interperm.report_greeting

Harvest Tag

Remember to always have the correct tag for the game species with your accompanying hunting license, simple Hunter Safety Education 101.  Hunting licenses and game tags directly benefit wildlife conservation and do many things for our cultural heritage and the tradition of hunting.  Don’t forget to fill out your hunting reports online, happy safe hunting everyone.

 

Nunivak Island Pictures

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Here are some pictures from the latest USA episode.  Enjoy!

My new friend on the Bering Sea

My new friend on the Bering Sea

Director of Photography Brent Meske "The Man"

Director of Photography Brent Meske “The Man”

Who took my hat and arrows?

Who took my hat and arrows?

"Tarping on the Bering Sea"

“Tarping on the Bering Sea”

Brookes Range – Gates of the Arctic – “The Arrigetch”

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Brookes Mountain Range – Gates of the Arctic – “The Arrigetch” – Bob Marshall

Need I say more? The names mentioned above are legendary, well-respected, and admired in the Alpinist world of exploration. The Gates of the Arctic are truly wild; nestled among some of the gnarliest mountains Alaska has to offer. To begin above the Arctic Circle and end in South West Alaska with nothing but the gear on your back is a daunting task. The challenge set forth by Nat Geo was to embark on this expedition in an “old-school” style, i.e. no fancy technology. This expedition was a throwback to the early days of Alaskan exploration; a journey that traces the pages of history and an ode to the past explorers who came to Alaska and explored the last frontier with minimal gear and technology.

Bob Marshall was an Alaskan explorer who came to the state after exploring a large portion of lower North America. Bob said it best, “I like it among these rugged mountains better than anywhere else in the world.” I relate to the past explorers who came to this state in search of the majestic beasts that roam this fabled land. Traditional archery hunters such as Doctor Arthur Young and Fred Bear will forever be my heroes. Their accomplishments inspired me to follow their footsteps and live and adventurous lifestyle. For the first leg of the expedition the “Elite 8,” which consisted of survivalists, outdoorsmen, climbers, skiers, dog mushers, and mountaineers, began the journey in the Brookes Range. The Nat Geo expedition was the third time I have made my way into the Brookes Range. All three experiences within this epic mountain range were very different, but equally unforgettable.

My first trip to the Brookes Range was several years ago. My brother August and I flew out to hunt dall sheep. The time spent in the north-eastern part of the Brookes was so incredible and also humbling. I cherish the moments my brother and I spent together in field chasing white ghosts with golden horns. We had a close call with a gnarly feature on one particular mountain top. The terrain taught us valuable lessons in survival…always bring rope with you…at some point you will need it. We ended up rappelling off 50-100 foot cliff faces until we ran out of rope. We were faced with a real moment of survival, we had to adapt or die. We ended up climbing down the last 1000 feet in reverse 4-wheel drive with automatic death to the right and instant death to the left. You can read all the survival guides in the world but unless you go outside and experience them first hand, it’s all for nothing.

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The wilderness puts an individual’s ability to cope with their surroundings to the test. It was during hunting adventures like these that my brother and I learned to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our goal always being to turn our weaknesses into strengths. Together we learned new ways to solve simple problems. These experiences inspired my survival mantra; “team work makes the dream work.” I was much more prepared for my second and third trip to the Brookes Range.

On my second trip to the Brookes Range, my brother, John Dykes (college rugby buddy), and I set out on a quest called the “Mission Expedition”. This expedition took us from the Acrtic sea above the Brookes Range all the way to the Kenai Peninsula, and several locations in the interior. The mission of this expedition was an attempt to fill the freezer with beautiful, free ranging, no hormonal, wild game meat. Being an Alaskan resident we have the unique opportunity to hunt for the big five game animals that call Alaska home. Hunting these animals every year is a part of our Alaskan culture, not to mention the incredible taste and gratification recieved by filling your freezer on your own terms. This second trip would prove invaluable as I learned the terrain, topography, and easiest methods of travel in the Brookes Range the key being the waterways.

My past experiences in the Brookes Range taught me many valuable lessons to take with on the Ultimate Survival Alaska Expedition with National Geographic. I learned mainly that waterways are your friend, and to follow this path of least resistance. Using rafts to minimize the distance of our caribou pack out on a previous expedition, I understood the advantage of bringing along a pack raft. Bringing along a raft would at least provide us the ability to forge and cross rivers, if not to float the entire river to the landing zone. Being as this was a team mission, having a solo packraft would only let me float to the LZ and leave my partners behind. Understanding their need for river crossings help, I stuck with the mantra of “team work being dreamwork” and stayed with the group to help them forge rivers. That being said, I look forward to future adventures with my team members and would do this leg of the expedition all over again.

Check out the gear list below, with these essential items and a basic knowledge of how to use them an individual would be ready to survive just about anything.

Survival Guide Gear List:

-Magnesium Fire Starter

-Knife -full tang

– Fishing kit: Line with various hooks and spinners.

-Tarp 8×10

-Pack Raft

-Back pack or external pack frame

-Water Bottle or container

-Longbow, rifle, pistol, self defense weapon

-Sleeping bag -0 rating

-Bivy Sack

-Plenty of socks

-Food (coffee, oatmeal, rice, beans, whiskey, ramen noodles) what ever you can carry. If you can pack as much calorie dense food as possible.

Facts Courtesy of Wikipedia: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is a U.S. National Park in Alaska. It is the northernmost national park in the U.S. (the entirety of the park lies north of the Arctic Circle) and the second largest at 13,238 miles (34,287 km²), about the same size as Switzerland. The park consists primarily of portions of the Brooks Range of mountains. It was first protected as a U.S. National Monument on December 1, 1978, before becoming a national park and preserve two years later in 1980 upon passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. A large part of the park is protected in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness which covers 7,167,192 acres (2,900,460 ha).[3] The wilderness area adjoins the Noatak Wilderness Area and together they form the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States.

History Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Nomadic peoples have inhabited the Brooks Range for as many as 12,500 years, living mainly on caribou and other wildlife. The Mesa site at Iteriak Creek has yielded evidence of occupation between 11,500 and 10,300 years before the present. Later sites from around 6,000 years before present have yielded projectile points, stone knives and net sinkers. The Arctic small tool tradition (ASTt) of about 4,500 BP has also been documented.A late phase of the ASTt from between 2500 and 950 BP, the Ipuitak phase, has been documented in the park at the Bateman Site at Itkillik Lake.[10]

The earliest Inupiat people appeared about 1200 AD at the coast and spread to the Brooks Range, becoming the Nunamuit.[10] The Nunamiut people existed essentially unchanged until World War II brought outsiders into Alaska, which was at the time a strategic outpost of the United States. Some of the nomads began to settle in small communities in the mountains, particularly at Anaktuvuk Pass.[11] TheGwich’in people, a Northern Athabaskan group also lived in the area in the last 1000 years, moving south of the park in historic times.[10]

The Alaskan interior was not explored until the late 19th century, shortly before discovery of gold in the Klondike brought prospectors to Alaska. Some encampments of explorers and survey parties have been identified in the park. A few small mining operations were established in the early 20th century, never amounting to much.[10]

The park’s name dates to 1929, when wilderness activist Bob Marshall, exploring the North Fork of the Koyukuk River, encountered a pair of mountains (Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain), one on each side of the river. He christened this portal the “Gates of the Arctic.” Marshall spent time in Wiseman during the early 1930s, publishing an account of the place in his 1933 book Arctic Village. In the 1940s writer and researcher Olaus Murie proposed that Alaskan lands be preserved.[12]

Proposals for a national park in the Brooks Range first emerged in the 1960s, and in 1968 a National Park Service survey team recommended the establishment of a 4,100,000-are (41,000 ha) park in the area.[11] That year, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall recommended to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Johnson use the Antiquities Act to proclaim a national monument in the Brooks Range and other Alaskan locations, but Johnson declined. By the 1970s the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) prompted serious examination of the disposition of lands held by the federal government. A series of bills were proposed to deal with the settlements required by ANCSA, but the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was held up in Congress in the late 1970s. President Jimmy Carter used the Antiquities Act to proclaim the proposed parklands under ANILCA as national monuments, proclaiming Gates of the Arctic National Monument on December 1, 1978. In 1980 Congress passed ANILCA, establishing the monument lands as Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve on December 2, 1980.[12]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gates_of_the_Arctic_National_Park_and_Preserve

Find the Gates of the Arctic on facebook @

https://www.facebook.com/GatesOfTheArcticNPS

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Spring Bear Hunting Alaska 2012

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This picture is from August’s and my 2009 spring bear brother hunt.  August and I, (as well as videographer Jon D) took to the spring hunt as if it was our last.  We hunted six hard days, deep in the Alaska wilderness and managed to harvest this beautiful black bruin on film.  Bears taste better during the spring, as they have yet to change their diets to the salmon runs of summer through fall.  August and I would eat plentifully off of bear backstrap after this harvest as we were nearing the end of our food supplies.

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This is a photo of me cutting bear back strap (in preparation of our beast feast over open flame) on a moose antler found during this 2009 spring bear hunt

I’ll be partaking in the traditional Alaska spring bear hunt again during this 2012 season.  To some hunters in Alaska, bear hunting is part of their culture.  I am proud to say that this tradition of spring bear hunting in Alaska has shaped my culture and parts of who I am as an Alaskan.  Every year since the sixth grade (12 years ago), I have been gifted  the ability to hunt bears in Alaska.  This is a blessing to be apart of such an awesome outdoor culture.

Hopefully after this spring I will be able to secure valuable bear meat to add to my 2012 collection of wild game fare.  I can see it now……Smokey bear jerky….. Bear stew…..Bacon wrapped bear sizzled on the grill w/ avacado….   You get my drift…

I can’t wait to head to the field.

-Austin Manelick

Trophy Bull VS. Meat Bull

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Hunting to many Alaskas means red meat for the freezer, enough meat to get a family through the winter.  Across Alaska many residents practice the art handed down by our ancestors and the cave men before that, the not-so lost art form called subsistence hunting.  Each Fall locals from around the state leave the comfort of there homes and thrust themselves into the wild attempting to fill the freezer against all odds.

2009 Moose Harvest

When your an Alaskan and attempting to fill your freezer, any animal deemed by ADFG (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)as legal under the states rules and regulations most likely will be harvested.  As Alaskan subsistence hunter August Manelick would say “a legal spike for moose will taste just as good if not better than a trophy moose.”  I agree with August in that the goal of hunting is first and foremost to be legal and secondly to fill your freezer.  All though most hunters (including August and myself) will agree that a 55 inch trophy bull moose would look better on the wall and in the freezer than a spike fork (small legal yearling bull moose) would.

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The goal of hunting is to fill your freezer and provide sustenance for the long winter months.  Taking a trophy animal is a bonus, providing in a sense two trophies the meat and the antlers.  The meat of an animal is the true trophy, don’t let anyone tell you different.  The hunt is about the experience, camaraderie, and the stories shared with loved ones post hunt.  The harvest of the hunt is a physical representation of the memories made while in the field, regardless of the animals antler size.  Any legal animal is a gift, take your blessings and eat plentifully through out the following year.

Auggie with a double trophy, meat and antler.

Auggie with a double trophy, meat and antler.

Bottom line, there is a big difference between trophy hunting and subsistence hunting.  Trophy hunting individuals hunt usually for just the size of the antlers, bigger is always better.  Subsistence hunters hunt for the meat value of an animal.  Two very different ball games, playing by the same rules.

Austin Manelick Teams up with John Depalma Photography and Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear.

antler, antler hunting, archery hunting, arrows, big game hunting, DIY hunting, extreme hunting, hunting, Hunting Culture, nature, Rifles, small game, The next generation, traditional archery, Uncategorized, unguided hunting, Whitetail hunting, wildlife

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Thanks to John Depalma Photography http://johndepalmaphoto.photoshelter.com/ and Rockey Mountain Specialty Gear for yet another succesful photo shoot.  I apprecaited the arrows for the Turkey portion, thanks Tom (owner of RMSG) you have been extremly helpful and knowledgable with all archery and hunting related equipment.

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Both Tom and John are mavens to their trades, manufacturing diligent business relations in the outdoor industry. Thanks to both of you gentlemen for making all this possible.   I appreciate your hard work, camaraderie, and friendship.

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Also I must throw a huge shout out to Winchester Repeating Arms and Ammunition for allowing us to use their guns during the photo shoot.  Winchester has been around for 100 + years and has developed many beautiful rifles and hunting products.  Be sure to check out Winchesters new Turkey guns!  The new Super X Pump Turkey gun boast a synthetic stock with a texured grip.  This was the shotgun I used during the photo shoot and I must say, the gun has grip simliar to a tacked football.  Anyone who loves holding a pigskin, won’t let this rifle out of their grasp.. You may even find yourself snuggling up to it at night, dreaming of big old toms and the Super X giving a lucky longbeard a dirt nap.

Austin Manelick