Sunday, October 30, 2011

ScoutLook - The Hunter's App

I was given the opportunity to try out the North American Hunting Club's new iPhone app as a participant in Huntography's 2011 Deer Tour. I appreciate the chance to review and test this application.

I have an iPhone 3GS and downloaded ScoutLook from the appstore.Once I setup an account using my email address, it allowed me to utilize both ScoutLook's website and phone app and share data between the two rather seemlessly. Upon launching the app from your phone, it pulls your GPS location and provides you with an arial photo and a pin showing where you are.

There are 4 options at the bottom of the screen: Location Map, Radar, Scentcone, and Setzone. Location Map is exactly that and the default screen that opens on launch. The Radar option provides a zoomable map with active radar showing movement of storms in solid detail. Scentcone looks like the Location Map in that it is an arial photo of your location and a pin showing your location. However, when you tap on your pin location, it zooms to show roughly a 200 square yard area, queries the current wind direction, and then provides a green, yellow, or amber (depending on wind speed) "Scentzone" showing where your scent will be pushing to. Zooming in or out will shrink or expand your Scentzone effect to provide you with a better understanding of your scent area. It gives you the option of viewing your Scentzone for the next 54 hours for a given location. In order to drop a pin from the Scentzone or Setzone tabs, simply tap and hold for just a second and a pin will drop allowing you to view the Scentzone or Setzone for that location. The My Locations option is great as it allows you to save the stand locations that you have and preview the the affect that your scent will have on the area for the next 54 hours as well. If you do not have a location saved, you can move about the map just like the default maps you have on your Android or iPhone, then tap and hold where you will be hunting to drop a pin. Tapping this new pin will load the Scentzone for the pin's location.

This app isn't just for deer and predator hunters though. The 4th option is Setzone. This shows you which way to setup your goose and duck decoys spreads to take advantage of the wind and where the ducks will almost always be coming in from. Instead of a cone, it shows 3 waterfowl icons. I was sitting in my deer stand when I took these screenshots.

The app is $1.99 in the Apple Appstore and very well worth it. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't talk about the ScoutLook website though. This site is incredibly detailed and provides you with information for hunting whitetail deer, waterfowl, elk/big game, turkey/small game, trapping and predators as well as fishing in rivers, lakes, and saltwater with drift-maps.

The North American Hunting Club really did it right and you can tell the app and website were designed by true outdoorsmen. Thanks again to Ben with NAHC for sponsoring the #deertour!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where's My Stand?

Saturday, the 22nd began like any other morning of a hunt. Matt and I had decided to head back to where we've seen a large buck in a bachelor group. Matt chose the ladder stand in the cedar that I killed my spike out of last weekend. I decided to use my climber and setup in a spot we haven't used yet.

We meet at 6:10 and head toward the stands. I end up walking through 6 foot high weeds that have a heavy dew on them as I make my way to the tree. There really isn't any way to avoid it. I have only been to the tree once before when we cleared shooting lanes. I get through the 50 yards of weeds and am pretty soaked. Did I mention it's 50 degrees? Time to come up with a different game plan for the rest of the season as temperatures continue to drop. I wander into the general area of the tree and spot it right away. This is the first year that I have owned a climber and the second year of using one, so to say that I'm slow in getting setup when using it is a serious understatement.

When hunting, I put my phone on complete silent, no vibrating, and dim the screen as low as possible. The vibrating puts off a tone of sorts and with a deer's keen sense of hearing, the last thing I want is an out of place sound generated by a text or a tweet. God forbid it be against something metal when it goes off.

It takes me about 25-30 minutes to climb the tree and get setup. I will give myself the fact that the tree had some of those Virginia Creeper vines on it. Those are the ones that get up to the size of your wrist and cling directly to the tree. The tree also required that my climber be adjusted to the shortest cable length possible. I hook up my safety harness and the camera arm. It's already shooting light. I check my phone. A missed call and several texts from Matt. What the heck happened now? I read the texts. "Stand's gone" "Are you ok?". A quick call to him confirms that the ladder stand in the cedar tree has been stolen sometime in the last week. He is now sitting in the other ladder stand near there. If I hadn't brought my climber, one of us would be hunting from the ground or we would be going home.

The sit in the stand is rather uneventful with my thoughts lost on when the stand was stolen, who stole it, and where they took it. It is only a $50 ladder stand, but the fact that someone would take it and walk a mile to the nearest parking area baffles me. Blue Jays invade the area. Apparently something about the tree next to mine has them going nuts. Luckily, none of them sound the alarm. About 9am, I decide to get down and go look at the crime scene. Matt and I get to the area and start looking around. I find a cigarette butt and can still smell the burnt tobacco. It hasn't been but maybe a day or two max. We look up in the tree and there's an empty Monster energy drink can laying on top of some the branches. We are thinking the stand was spotted previously then the perpitrator came back, hunted the stand, and then took the stand with him while leaving his trash behind. He smokes Marlboro lights and you better believe we are keeping an eye out for him.

Sunday, we took a ladder stand of mine back in to replace the stolen one. This one weighs about twice as much. Matt purchased 3 kevlar bike locks and we secured the section of the stand tightly together, the top section to the tree, and the top two section to a branch of the tree. If this one is gone, I'll be surprise if the tree is still standing.

Since when was all respect and common courtesy for other hunters lost in our tradition? I know we're on public land, but it still amazes me the lengths that some people will go through to show their true colors. Who else has had experiences with disrespectful hunters, trespassers, thieves, and all around low-lifes while in the woods?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Take The Shot

Saturday, October 15th, began with Matt and I finally able to get into some new stands we had set 2 weeks before the season. We've been anxious to get in this location since opening day. Matt chooses the ladder stand that we setup in a cedar tree while I took the ladder stand 150 yards east in a point of oak trees that overlooks where 3 deer trails come together.

The morning starts slow, but about 7:45, I hear movement coming down the hill through the woods. It sounds like several deer. They get to within about 30-40 yards, but are still obscured by the trees when they stop. They turn and head toward Matt's location. I text him quickly to give him a heads up. A few minutes later, he replies, "3 bucks. 1 is 120"". I wait. He replies again, they were 40 yards out and he didn't feel comfortable with the shot they presented. Moments later, 70 yards down the hill, I spot 3 spikes moving quickly toward Matt yet again. I text him to let him know. He said they passed close to him, but didn't offer a shot. The rest of the morning was uneventful, but to see 6 bucks in one sitting while on public land, that's near unheard of.

Saturday afternoon, Matt and his dad head to a friend's house about an hour South West of here to hog hunt. Within an hour of being there, they snuck within 5 yards of a bedded boar and dispatched him with a load of buckshot. He dressed out at roughly 200lbs.

The morning after college football Saturday, or Sunday morning with a hangover, Matt was too tired to go out, so I decided to take the mile walk back to the same stand he had sat in the previous morning. I pull up to the parking area, under an almost full moon, and am greeted by about 7 does. Here I am thinking this can't be good if the deer are already moving. I get dressed in my camo, grab my gear, and walk toward the stand. I walk in the dark as the moon is lighting the way and I don't want to spook any game. I cover about 300 yards and spook a great blue heron. He takes off squawking loudly. I make it another 100 yards and something tells me to turn my headlamp on. I hate that feeling. I stop and switch it on. 15 feet from me, in water up to it's eyes, is a raccoon. He appears to feel cornered as he arches his back. I back up slowly while knocking an arrow. I circle around him at about 10 yards, all the while facing him in case he chooses to get frisky. He stays put and I move on. It's not coon season and I don't want to possibly lose an arrow.

I make it another 400 yards and start hearing quite a bit of splashing in the water. I find this odd as the wind is calm. I have my headlamp off, but keep an eye toward the water. It's not long before the top of the water explodes to the sound of flapping wings and honking. A flock of what I'd guess to be at least 40 geese. Great, so much for a stealthy approach to the stand. I get to the stand and climb on up. This morning I am determined to finally get my camera arm strapped in and ready to film, but as I am hooking it up, I notice the tree is too small to firmly ratchet it down. Oh well, it'll have to do. Just as I'm ready to sit down, a deer approaches behind me. I am unable to see it in the moonlight and it continues on past.

I sit down and await daylight. Then I hear it, buzzing, right next to my ear. I reach into my bag and grab my mesh face-mask. The mosquitoes descend in waves attacking my hands and exposed skin around my eyes. I quietly deal with the pain of their bites and don't dare try to swat at them as the sky is turning blue. It's almost shooting time.

At 7:06, right at legal shooting light, a deer appears to my right in a small clearing. It's not one of the big bucks, so I decide to pass, but stand anyways so I can try to film it. I get the camera on and recording just in time as it steps out from the cedars at 25 yards. He's a spike. He continues broadside for about 15 yards then stops and looks straight at the tree I'm in. A moment later he turns and starts walking to me. I'm thinking this is perfect for video purposes. He is still coming toward me. He gets to the bottom of the tree, 6 feet from the bottom of the ladder stand and drops his head to graze. My thoughts went something like this: "Hold out for the big one. But he's getting closer. What if I scare off the other buck by taking a shot? He's getting really close. I could throw this arrow like a spear at him. That'd make for some top-quality film. Ok, this is just a gimme shot. What if I don't get another good chance at a deer this season? I can't wait any longer." With all that commotion in my head, I quickly draw. He's 3 yards from me, and that's only because I'm in a 15 foot ladder. I can see the back of his vitals and spine through a hole in the branches. I lay all 4 pins on his spine and release. THWACK! He bellows, drops to the ground and is done. Meanwhile, the camera is recording. I turn and let the camera capture the moment for me.

I sit for another hour just in case the big boy steps out but nothing materializes and I have a really long drag ahead of me. I get down and find the front half of my arrow with the broadhead on it. Uh-oh, it has green on it. This is not going to be fun. I admire the spike for a moment. This is my first true archery buck. The fletchings are barely sticking out from his spine. These Muzzy MX-series broadheads do a number on bone, muscle, and anything else they hit. I pull him about 100 yards away and gut him. The arrow shattered his spine, punctured a lung, and sliced through his stomach. Oddly enough, the holes created by the broadhead in his stomache are extremely clean and I am able to carefully finish gutting him without spilling any of the contents in him. Then, the drag. I'll say this, the only other deer I'm dragging that far will be a brute of a buck, but I was still smiling after all was said and done. I had my first true bow buck.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Morning of the Glowing Eyes

I took the day off Friday, October 7th to get some things done around the house in the afternoon which provided the perfect excuse to get in the woods for a morning hunt. The winds have been out of the South East for 3 weeks now and have most of our stands inaccessible.

There is an area that I hunted last year and consistently saw deer on weekday mornings. On the weekend, the place is packed. The SE wind is doable in a woodlot that funnels deer between two fields and provides some exciting ground hunting opportunities. I decided to give it a shot even though I have not even seen the place since early last season. I arrive at 5:45 to beat anyone to the location and walk in. I opt for my ghillie suit and a stool, no blind. Pop-up blinds that appear out of nowhere in a funnel is not the best idea. Deer aren't that dumb.

The woodlot has several small gullies that run throughout it and I drop into one for my stand location approach. There's a downed tree running across it. I go around and back into the gully. There's another downed tree. I'm wondering what happened here in the last year. This causes me to get confused as the scenery has now greatly changed and I'm not sure where to sit anymore. I look 10 yards to the north and there is a pair of green, glowing eyes looking at me. I quickly analyze them. The shape, size, width apart, and color. It's a deer. You've got to be kidding me. I just walked up on a bedded deer. Then, I see them. Two more sets of green, glowing eyes. Crap, 3 bedded deer? I retreat to the top of the gully to the SW of the bedded deer. The wind is blowing 10-20mph from the SE. I figure my scent should move away from them as the deer moved from NW to SE last year. I can barely hear anything above the roar of the wind. About 6:15, I pick up what sounds like deer moving.

As daylight breaks, the bedded deer are no longer there and nowhere to be seen. I notice that I'm about 60 yards to the WSW of where I want to be. I can't hear anything. I sit quietly (not as though it'd matter with the wind) and scan the woodlot. I then spot a doe bounding toward the spot I wanted to sit at. Seriously? She turns around and bounds back to the NW. As I'm looking in that direction I spot more movement. It's a buck! He's about 70 yards away and making a rub, then he makes a scrape. It looks like he's a 6-point, maybe an 8. Since I had to setup quietly and without my light, the camera is situated where I can't see the screen to zoom in. I have the camera pointed toward that area. The doe goes bounding back to the SE, and a few seconds later, bounds back to the NW again. I lose track of the buck and tried to grunt at him. I figure if he's making a rub and scrape, he's territorial. I sit for another hour with no movement. I find a spot near the rub for Saturday morning. It'll be the same wind and conditions.

Saturday morning, I head to the same area. I realize when I'm about to park, I left the camera at home. You've got to be kidding me. I have a great feeling about the morning and the setup, but no camera to document it. Great. There's another truck with 2 hunters getting ready as I pull up. I dress and get my gear as quickly as possible, but they're already ahead of me. I'm walking to the spot I found the day before and end up following one of the guys as he walks past it. I don't know where he's planning on setting up, but I drop into a gully and come up behind the white-oak that I'm going to sit next to. 5 yards away, glowing green eyes. Seriously, you've got to be kidding me. 2 mornings in a row in different locations of the lot? I turn off my light, but it's too late. She gets up and moves slowly to the North. I quietly get in front of the oak and setup. That's the only movement I saw that morning. About 9am, my butt is tired of sitting on the camp stool and I know there's hunters all around me. Time to go. I pack up and head out. As I come into the field that runs right up to the parking area, there's a pop-up blind in the middle of the field. I'm guessing the guy got there late and didn't know where anyone else was. I look to the left and about 200 yards away, another pop-up blind is on the edge of the field. It feels cramped suddenly. I get to the truck and there are 6 other vehicles there. This is why I hunt this spot during the week primarily. Below is a video of Friday morning. Again, I couldn't zoom the camera in, but in the middle of the frame you can see the doe running back and forth several times.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Opening Weekend of Deer Season

Our season opened up on Saturday, October 1st. The night before, I came down with the flu. Luckily it was only a 24-hour type, but I sat in my blind on opening morning with a fever, body aches, and trying not to puke.

The wind has been constantly out of the SE for the last 2 weeks which is not a predominant wind in Oklahoma, so we don't have but 1 or 2 locations that will really work for it. On the first, I sat in a ground blind on a funnel of young pecan trees that you, our readers chose during the pre-season. I didn't see anything besides a few birds and was glad to get home and rest.

Sunday evening I felt much better and Matt and I rushed to get in stand as our schedules were packed throughout the afternoon. I chose a climber spot and Matt took a ladder stand as his climber wasn't at his house. When we got to the parking area, there was one other vehicle there. We didn't think much of it as there is so much land there that the chances of seeing the other hunter(s) was slim. I get up in my climber about 4:45 and realize that I hadn't fully setup my camera tree arm so I couldn't use it without making a lot of movement and some noise. We have never sat in either location, so we were optimistic. About 6:45 I hear footsteps 100 yards in front of me. I stand and get ready to draw. Then I see it, camo is moving through the woods. He walks within 50 yards and I whistle. He yells back asking where I am. There goes my hunt. He says he's looking for his ground blind and proceeds to walk all the way to my left and about 150 yards out. He starts making a terrible racket; snapping large limbs, zipping the blind very quickly, thrashing about in the brush. A moment later, I spot him walking behind me now and there's another hunter with him. Why are they packing up at prime shooting light? They complete a full circle around me while stepping on every stick possible.

This is what makes public land so difficult. You never know when another hunter is going to crash your setup, setup with the wrong wind, or just show a blatant disregard for everyone and the woods. Given these points, I'm ready to shoot a monster spike. Below is a video recap of the hunts.