The first successful hunt my son went on was a turkey hunt. He was ten years old. When the shot was fired from his 20 gauge and the bird went down, you would have thought he had just won the lotto or been drafted by the Detroit Tigers; he was that excited! I have hunted big game across North America and from the time my son was born, I always thought that turkey hunting would be the hunting sport I introduced him to first. Below are five reasons I decided to take him turkey hunting before I introduced him to deer hunting.
The Success Rate is Extremely High
The success rate when turkey hunting is extremely high, which is one of the main reasons adults enjoy turkey hunting. Let’s face it: we all love to deer hunt. It can be fun but deer hunting is also a lot of work. Deer hunting is a lot of work and the success rate, especially when hunting on public land, is extremely low. I believe many kids get turned off by hunting in general because the first hunt they go on is a deer hunt. After a long weekend of deer hunting, many kids are ready to walk away from hunting before they ever get started. Why is this the case? Deer hunting is often a marathon. It takes a lot of time and effort to be successful. A young child doesn’t have the patience for a marathon.
They prefer a 50-yard dash. Most parents or hunting mentors who scout ahead of time will have a good idea of where turkeys are living before they take a kid hunting. If birds can be located and patterned, the odds of success are extremely high. If a young hunter fills his tag, chances are he will be hooked for life. We all enjoy being successful. Kids especially need to be successful in the field or they will quickly lose interest and go back to playing video games.
Turkey Hunting is Full of Action
Turkey hunting is great for kids because the hunt itself is fast-paced. We live in a world full of technology. Kids are used to being on the go and being entertained. I don’t always agree with it, but it is a fact of life. Turkey hunting is a fast-paced hunt that doesn’t require kids to sit still in one place for hours like deer hunting often does. Most turkey hunters are on the go most of the day.
I usually don’t sit for more than an hour or two at a time when turkey hunting. If birds don’t respond to my calls in one area, I keep walking and calling or get in the truck and check out another hunting spot. Kids enjoy being on the go and turkey hunters who spend a lot of time covering ground in search of a Tom are often rewarded with success.
Calling Turkey is Fun
Why do most adults who turkey hunt enjoy it so much? Calling in turkeys is a lot of fun! I called in my first turkey by myself at 15 years old. The first time I yelped on my mouth call and the tom gobbled back, I was hooked for life. Forty-five minutes after the first gobble, I pulled the trigger on my 12 gauge. I will never forget walking up on the bird and wrapping my tag around his foot. Calling in a strutting tom is action-packed. The interaction between the caller and the turkey creates a lot of excitement. My son missed a turkey or two before he controlled his nerves enough to hold his gun steady. The excitement of calling in a turkey can rattle the nerves of kids and adults.
Young hunters can quickly become decent callers and call in their own birds, which adds even more fun to the hunt.
Turkey Hunting is Affordable
Turkey hunting is extremely affordable. Next to small game hunting, turkey hunting is probably the least expensive hunt out there. My son’s first turkey tag cost me $7.50! Many kids start out turkey hunting with an inexpensive single shotgun. A box or two of shells won’t break the bank either.
Turkey hunting out of state isn’t expensive. In fact, the first longbeard my son ever killed was killed in another state. I have turkey hunted in a dozen or more states. In fact, it is my favorite critter to hunt out of state and my son has caught the bug. If you take a kid on an out-of-state deer hunt, it will cost a lot of money and the odds of success are fairly small. If you take a kid turkey hunting out-of-state, the cost of the hunt is minimal and the odds of success are high. In fact, many states offer an early youth season which helps stack the odds in a kids’ favor. We all enjoy going on out-of-state hunts and kids do too! Hunting somewhere you have never been is fun and will result in lasting memories you and your kids will never forget!
Eating What You Kill
Last but not least, one of the greatest reasons to introduce a kid to turkey hunting before deer hunting is because they will get to experience the satisfaction that comes from eating what they kill. Some kids don’t want to eat wild game but because most kids are accustomed to eating turkey, they will eat wild turkey. My son’s face was glowing the first time he sat down at the dinner table and realized that he provided dinner for the entire family. Instilling in kids that eating wild game is a big part of the reason we hunt while they are young is important. Eating a wild turkey that they killed is a great way for them to fully understand why we hunt.
Taking a kid turkey hunting can be extremely rewarding. Yes, it does require a healthy dose of patience. Yes, it might require some work and a lot of effort. But, like anything in life, you will get out of it what you put into it and so will your child! Helping a kid get their first turkey is something they will never forget.
On this week’s episode of the Drop-Tine Report, Philip Holcombe discusses how he hunts mature bucks on small pieces of property. He will highlight his favorite types of food plot blends, stand placement, and how to properly hunt small parcels of land without spooking deer.
The best stands on my farm overlook small staging areas. I never could have said that ten years ago because I didn’t know what a staging area was. I knew I was supposed to be hunting them, I just had no idea what they really looked like. This riddle has finally given up its secrets.
I am talking about a small food plot, an acre or less, located just a short distance into the cover from a larger feeding area – ideally sandwiched between a known bedding area and that larger destination field. All my favorite stand sites set up exactly this way.
These staging area plots are the last places the deer visit before going to bed in the morning and the first places they visit when rising from their beds in the afternoon. This means you will experience lots of daylight activity – a fact that becomes quickly, and happily, apparent during the rut when your staging area plots become the social hubs for at least a 20-acre area.
Most food sources don’t produce good morning hunting because the deer are already back in the cover, but these plots are the exception. They are just as good in the mornings as they are in the evenings.
Bow Shot Distance
When a buck makes his way into one of these small plots, he usually ends up within bow range eventually. Again, these spots really shine during the rut because bucks often work the entire area, checking for does and freshening scrapes around the edge. Large plots can be frustrating to hunt when your maximum range is just 40 yards, another reason why these small staging area plots are so refreshing to hunt.
Entry and Exit Routes
Deer only feed in staging area plots for a short time before they pass through heading to larger plots beyond. So they are generally gone shortly after dark. This gives you the perfect opportunity to climb down and sneak away without educating any deer. Again, this is a refreshing twist from hunts on the fringes of larger feeding areas where it can be nearly impossible to get away without alerting deer.
Find Them or Create Them
We are looking for openings just inside the cover from larger feeding areas. Often, in agricultural country, the farmer with his big equipment doesn’t mess with the very end of a narrow point field and eventually these areas grow over with brush and are forgotten. This is the perfect setting to create a small food plot tucked in close to bedding areas but directly in line with the primary food source – the perfect staging area plot.
My property had a number of these spots. All I had to do was remove some brush and trees with a chainsaw and I was ready for the RoundUp and the tiller. You can even do this, in many cases, when hunting on permission.
If your property doesn’t have such areas and you have the ability to create them, it is definitely worth it. Find areas where the wind, terrain and proximity to bedding and feeding areas (between them) all work together to your benefit. In fact, planting micro-plot staging areas is the single most important thing you can do to improve your hunting area.
Because they are small and deer can wipe them out quickly if planted to a grain crop, go with clover and then rotate to brassicas every third year.
How to Hunt Them
I am a fan of setting up on the opposite side of the staging area plot from where I expect the deer to come. This gives me a safe wind direction (a crosswind). In my best staging area plots, I have a Redneck Blind in this location so I can get great close shots without risk that the deer will see me or smell me. Let the deer work to you rather than set up right where they come out and you will have much better hunting over the course of an entire season.
It took years for me to figure out what a staging area was, but now that I know, I am making up for lost time. While they work well during all parts of the season, when the rut comes, I am glued to these perfect hunting locations.
On this weeks episode of The Drop-Tine Report we interview Clay Newcomb. Clay is the publisher of Bear Hunting Magazine. Clay killed a Boone & Crockett bear a couple weeks ago and will share the story behind the bear he called Batman.
Spend much time talking to any group of serious hunters and it’s only a matter of time before those hunting around them come up, and it’s pretty rarely a good thing. Often, they don’t hold to the same harvest goals as we do, don’t hunt as “smart” and generally educate every deer within the tri county area that we’re chasing them. Obviously, they’re no where near as good as we are and are ruining our hunting in the process.
Now, I would contend to my last breath that they have every right to engage in any legal activities they so choose on their grounds. It’s up to each of us to find the “fun factor” in hunting and not give a pinch of salt what the neighbors may think, as it’s none of their darn business.
On the bright side, the exact same set of rules applies to us. Because of that, if we employ a little creativity, we can literally transform those hunt ruining neighbors into hunt making resources. Here’s just a couple ways how.
Understanding Training and Pressure
Before we get deeper, we need to flesh out a couple points. The first is that deer are no different than our dog at home, in one important way. We can train them to fear or accept anything.
To illustrate, imagine keeping the dog’s bowl full at all times, but hiding in the corner from 6 AM to 6 PM. During that time, whenever the dog starts eating, you come flying out of the corner and kick it in the butt across the room. Now, please don’t do that, but you shouldn’t have to in order to realize that it’s only a matter of time before that dog is trained not to fear food, but to shift that feeding exclusively to between 6 PM and 6 AM.
The same applies to hidden fences. Feel free to leave the shock collar on until the batteries die. After that, odds are you can remove the collar and the dog stays in the yard, as its already been successfully trained not to leave.
Now, factor how deer deal with hunting pressure into the equation. Every telemetry study on pressured deer I’ve seen essentially concludes the same thing. When pressure ramps up, it is very rare for the pressured deer to leave their home range. That makes sense, as it’s all they know. Instead, they head for the areas they feel safe on that ground and generally stay in those areas during daylight.
In other words, we trained them to go where we aren’t. If the area is more than a very small pocket of cover, they’ll often even move freely within those areas during daylight, but rarely leave them until after dark, typically returning again before first light.
Making the Neighbors Your Friends
I’m sure some are already connecting the dots. In order to transform those neighbors from the scourge of our humanity to our best friends, make your ground the area they head to when they feel pressure. Doing that is actually very easy in principle. Make the deer feel like they aren’t being hunted there and the pressure literally drives them into your arms. It’s really that simple.
Where it gets slightly more challenging is to be able to hunt the snot out of that ground, while still tricking the deer into feeling they’re safe there. To do that, they can’t smell, hear or see you. It really doesn’t matter if you’re there or not, so long as that’s the case, the impact on those deer is exactly the same.
The rub is that low impact, high odds stands tend to be rare in nature. For those that control their hunting grounds, that merely means you may want to lay out improvements to manufacture those low impact, high odds stands. There well may not be a low impact, high odds option, a mere 100 yards off the road. Get in there with a chainsaw alone and you’re likely to be able to make one, though. Bring some seeds with and odds just got better.
I’m afraid this piece isn’t about the specifics of how to manufacture these locations, as that’s a piece in and of itself. In fact, it took me an entire book. The key though is merely being creative and manufacturing a deer flow that leads them past low impact, high odds stands. Just that quick, the neighborhood shenanigans is working for not against you.
The application doesn’t stop there, though. Remember, we humans are training deer every time we step into the deer woods what to fear and what’s harmless. That applies to more than just sucking pressured deer to your grounds.
In areas where deer have been trained to avoid blinds, merely brush them in a bit or use more natural variations, such as Bale Blinds
Watch how the neighbors hunt and see what not to do. A great example is if and how they use enclosed, elevated box and ground blinds. If they’re using a bunch of them, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re trained deer to fear them.
What?! Now you’re telling me that they are ruining my stand options, as well? No, not at all. Elevated and ground blinds can still be deadly effective, no matter how much the neighbors do or don’t use them.
The key is merely how much blending one must do. For example, I hunt some areas that are about as high of hunting pressure as it gets, but it’s most all stalking and tree stand hunting. In those scenarios, I have nothing against setting any kind of a blind right in the wide open. Now, it admittedly takes special circumstances for me to put them in the open, but it has nothing to do with deer fearing my blinds. It’s merely that pressured deer don’t enter the open during daylight much, unless forced.
On the flip side, another property I manage is in what I’d consider a very lightly pressured area, with the exception of an outfitter on one side. They have a handful of elevated, homemade boxes that are housing hunters more days than not from the first day of deer season to the last. Every elevated blind I set, I ended up moving to break them up better, as the outfitter trained the deer to avoid any set out in the open. After blending them into some trees, they’ve become truly killer setups.
I know human nature is generally to find others to pin our issues on. If that works for you, by all means continue. Personally, I’ve found much more success in doing what I can to transform negatives into positives. Keeping tabs on the neighbors, realizing that they are training the local deer what to avoid, can put us in position to transform their activities from negatives to positives, bolstering our hunting experiences.
Besides, life’s too short to go around being mad at the neighbors. Most of them are pretty great people. They merely don’t always hunt like we do.
On this week’s episode of the Drop-Tine Report, Doug Roberts from Conquest Scents discusses how to build mock scrapes. He discusses scrape placement, licking branches, deer scent and CWD. Would you like to kill a big buck over a mock scrape? Doug will tell you how.
I’d watched the ancient buck slowly, steadily feeding into range for so long that there was no excuse for not being ready. When he finally decided to shoot the gap my ground blind was covering, and I thought was. Unfortunately, he zigged instead of zagged. I needed to readjust my position and fast, as he was a mere 15ish yards away and about to slip from my life.
Shifting in my seat and reposition my feet, all I had left to do was grab the bow and come to full draw. Shifting my hand just a couple inches, I snatched my Mathews, which was sitting just off my left knee. Clipping the release to the loop, I achieved full draw in one easy motion. For as deadly quiet as every move was, on that calm evening, the old timer heard my Easton slipping across the rest. Now staring a hole into directly into me, it was too late. I was already settling the pin.
Over the years, I’ve been able to take a good number of deer from ground blinds. For many of the early years of my hunting from blinds, I’ll admit that I wasn’t a fan, wishing the entire time I was enclosed on the ground that I’d found a tree I could be eagle eyeing the surroundings from, instead.
Do enough of the little things and it’s like you’re not even sitting in the blind.
As with anything, do it long enough and you’re bound to get better. I’ve always refused to skip a spot just because one stand type or another won’t work there. If it’s THE spot I’m going to find a way to MAKE it work. So, ground blind hunting continued, begrudgingly in those days, yes, but continued all the same.
Somewhere along the learning curve, the worm turned and success began coming. The more little tricks I learned the more the success occurred and the more I began looking forward to when a tree stand just won’t work. When that occurs, I’m now thinking, “Good. Now I’ve got a good spot for a blind,” either slipping in a Hay Bale or a Ghillie Deluxe, depending on which “fits” best.
What follows isn’t the most exciting article I’ve ever written, but these seemingly small details add up to a big hunting difference. I know they sure did for me.
Sweeping the Floor
Though getting the max out of blinds really starts with placement details, we’re going to focus on the inside today. That starts with matching the floor conditions of the blind to the animal hunted.
Really, more accurately stated, am I setting this for turkeys or is this being set for virtually any other big game animals? For turkeys, I don’t want to clean the floor of the blind. I’ll be using decoys with the blind and will place that jake and the hen decoy about 5 yards in front of the blind, so that holding up turkeys are often in bow range, anyway.
In that and that one circumstance alone (turkeys), I’ve found it best to actually have leaf, stick, grass and weed liter on the floor of the blind. That way, when I shift my feet, it seems like those natural sounds are being made by the decoys, further selling the lie to the live birds.
As it applies to bear, deer or any other big game animal I can think of, a clean floor is your best friend. When you don’t have decoys 5 yards in front of the stand, the shifting noises one makes inside become your enemy. I often use deer decoys with blinds, as they are tremendous at taking the live deer’s attentions off the blind and focusing on the decoys, while the decoys also are screaming that the blind is of no concern. However, to pull that off most successfully, unlike with turkeys, I want to set deer decoys closer to the edge of my shooting range, which means deer are focusing away from the blind, not towards it. The result is that shifting feet, even when using deer decoys, can ruin an otherwise gift-wrapped shot.
If you question how a random dried leaf, stick or even the stalk of a weed can ruin a shot at a deer, I recorded that bow kill and it aired on DDH TV. In the audio, from a shotgun mic inside the blind, all one hears is the whisper of the arrow going across the string, and that was enough for the old timer to pick up. The volume of that is nothing compared to shifting feet in ground liter. There’s a BIG difference between being 15 yards away in a treestand and the same distance in a ground blind. The drop in height may not be calculated into the yardage of the shot, but it sure impacts how much less they can hear you. On ground level, I’ve had a bear literally hear my cameraman buddy breathing, and that’s no joke. You have to be at least twice, if not three or four times quieter on the ground than when 20’ up a tree.
I was able to survive the sifting of positions I needed due to creating the cleanest dirt floor in the blind I could. That’s really a big deal.
Rearranging the Furniture
Of course, the more we can minimize movements the easier it is to both go unheard and unseen. Chair and bow holder orientations can minimize or maximize those movements.
I like to setup as far back from the windows as I realistically can, without my elbow hitting the back side at full draw and while being able to cover as many likely shot opportunities, without having to shift, as I can.
Looking at the chair first, most seem to set the chair position for comfortable viewing, being willing to shift for the shot, if it occurs. I get it. That’s more comfortable than sitting half cocked, while watching squirrels and birds, waiting for Mr. Big.
I go the other route. I’ll deal with being in a minimally uncomfortable position while watching birds and squirrels, just so I don’t have to shift at all to get the shot at a deer. That orientation both minimizes deer hearing and seeing me move.
Next, I personally don’t use bow holders that hang the bows from the blind frame or leave the bow lay across my lap. Both require extra movements and I am scarred from some cheap and poorly designed models causing the blind roof to move and make noise, spooking deer I was trying to arrow.
Instead, I place a ground bow holder just off my left knee, or right knee for lefties. That way, with my bow hand resting on my knee, I merely drop it a few inched, hidden movements below the window, snatch the bow and come to full draw, all in one smooth, natural movement.
Obviously, that cuts down on potential noises and movements, allowing us to go better unheard or unseen.
Living in Shadows
What I didn’t mention in the intro hunt story was that I was running way behind that day. To get the most out of blind hunting, I typically wear a black ninja hood, black gloves and a black top. Combine that with having the back windows closed and one literally vanishes into the shows, when wearing black.
Camo is for trees and stalking. Black is for blinds.
To put in perspective how powerful that is, let me tell you 2 very quick stories.
The first is me hunting late season in Minnesota. Having just set and blended a blind into a standing corn field, the brutal cold had the deer literally flocking around my position. A temping 3.5 year old 8 got down right chummy, spending somewhere around 30 mins within less than 10 yards of the stand. In fact, for somewhere north of 5 minutes, he stood with his face about 6” from the front of the blind, staring right inside and through me, as he ate and I sat wrapping in an all black Heater body Suit, wearing black underneath, as well.. He didn’t have a clue, until I arrowed his older brother.
Though wearing warmer clothing in the next day’s pictures, the author was wearing all black, along with a black Heater Body Suit, when he had to go undetected by a different, younger buck feeding inches from the blind, as the buck stared right through the author, allowing his older brother to feel comfortable stepping out of the woods and into the sea of feeding deer.
Then there was the Alberta, adult cow moose that literally stuck its head inside the blind I’d slipped up the day before. It’s face was so close to mine that I could feel the air of each exhale through her nose, and she splattered my glasses with some snot mist, merely from breathing normally. If she ever figured out the blind wasn’t empty, she sure didn’t act like it. Odor control and wearing all black that day may have saved me from fighting to get out of that blind at the same time as the adult moose. That may not have ended well at all.
Circling back, running late had cost me the time I needed to dig out my black outer layer. I still pulled it off, but the reason the buck kept staring was because he first heard the whisper and then spotted me. If I were wearing black, he likely would have went right back to walking, after a quick glance. If I hadn’t been already half way through the draw, I seriously doubt I arrow him.
Cleaning the blind floor, orienting the chair for shooting and the bow holder off your opposite knee, while wearing black and keeping back windows closed may not seem like any are big deals. Each and every one of them have delivered tagged deer for me, over the years. Funny thing about little things. Add enough of them together and they can become a pretty darn big deal!
On this week’s episode of the Drop-Tine Report Dr. Grant Woods, the host of GrowingDeerTV, discusses how hunters can plant food plots that require less work and money than they are used to. He also discusses controlled burns, dealing with the growing tick population, and a recent experiment on arrow velocity and how quickly deer respond to the noise of an arrow leaving the bow string.