Spring Turkeys: The Archer’s Way

Archers Way Turkey HuntingBy John Arman, co-host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

The majority of bowhunters I know began their archery careers by hunting whitetail deer, and then eventually, as their archery skills improved they chose to pursue other big game. However, wild turkey numbers having been on the increase making it an overlooked goldmine for most bowhunters. If you have never hunted turkeys with archery equipment, you just might be missing out on some of the most abundant and thrilling hunting you can imagine.

As a hunter sets out in pursuit of these weary birds he/she will soon come to realize that turkeys are in the running for one of the toughest quarries a bowhunter can face. These shifty birds are known for their legendary eye sight which is second to none. They are able to see in almost a complete circle and have the ability to pick up the slightest movement from near or a far. Their hearing is better than average and they have the uncanny ability to pin point where the sound is coming from. These sometimes awkward looking long legged birds can reach speeds of 18-20 miles per hour on the ground and 50 miles per hour while flying. No wonder wild turkeys have left many hunters, myself included, just shaking their heads. Thank goodness they don’t have a nose like a whitetail or we might be eating chicken for Thanksgiving.

Archery equipment for turkeys

Although there may not be the “perfect” archery setup for hunting spring strutting longbeards, I recommend using the same setup you are comfortable with and have used for your other outings.  My preferred setup begins with my Hoyt Carbon Spyder 30 which works great while hunting from within a ground blind and/or while using natural cover for concealment. Teamed up with my Easton Carbon Deep Six Injexion arrow I prefer a mechanical broadhead such as the NAP D6 Spitfire Maxx because of the extra shock on impact. However, a fixed blade will also do the trick. Shot placement is the key no matter the quarry and it’s especially important when shooting turkeys. The trick is to do as much damage as possible. I like to aim just below the back and the base of the neck when presented with a broadside shot. However, my favorite is shooting them as they are facing away and taking them through the back. When hitting the spine you disable the bird completely and prevent him from flying away.

Pre-Scouting

Like any hunting situation, the more time spent out in the field scouting, the bigger and better the end results. It is a good idea to spend several days in the area you will be hunting in order to locate and pattern these birds. One thing I like about hunting strutting longbeards is that they are very visible and are somewhat habitual in their daily routine. Unlike whitetails and other big game, turkeys for the most part, are visible throughout the day here in North Dakota.

Archers Way Turkey Hunting

First try and locate their preferred area of roosting. Oftentimes, especially while hunting in areas that don’t have many large trees, these birds can be predictable where they roost. They seem to prefer areas close to water and like to roost in large cotton woods, 50-60 feet tall with lots of smaller branches. Whatever the type of tree you need not look far to find the obvious signs. Look under the trees and you will find it littered with droppings and most often feathers. Finding the roosting area isn’t always tough but being able to set up in a good location can be…the closer the better. When possible try to set up within gliding distance of the roost, yet not too close for the birds will see you before they glide down from their roost. The second area I like to look for is their strutting areas or feeding areas. These are good places to set your blinds up the day before.

Turkeys tend to stick to the same areas as long as they are not disturbed. By driving around in the afternoons and glassing the field edges you can pick up on some of their favorite hangouts.

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple

After locating the birds and strategically setting a ground blind such as an Ameristep Bone Collector Blind, it’s time to put your skills to the test. I like to set up a couple of hen decoys as well as one jake decoy. Setting the decoys in an open area 12-15 yards from the blind will allow them to be highly visible and give you a shot that’s within twenty yards.  If at all possible, set your hen decoys up facing the opposite direction of the toms approach and the jake facing him. This will help to keep the tom’s attention as he tries to entice the ladies to come his direction. Not being able to get the attention of the hen decoy, the mature tom will assume the inferior Jake is a threat which will get his blood pumping.

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Calling turkeys

Now believe me, I am no champion turkey caller, but what I have learned from others and my own experiences is you don’t have to be a world champion to call in daddy long beard. I like to use a combination of a diaphragm, slate and a box calls and would highly recommend asking the experts at Scheels when it comes to purchasing calls that will best meet your needs. The first thing I have figured out is there is no such thing as calling to softly but you can call too much. Soft yelps and a little excitable cutting are the two sounds I am comfortable using along with a soft purr.  A common mistake made by many hunters is rushing things. Give the gobbler some time. Once you have his attention, don’t rush, but rather, try to relax and think it through. There are times you need to hustle and move; however, more times than not, you need to be patient and wait.

Just remember, like all things, practice makes you better and if you don’t try you will never succeed. Just do your homework, practice your skills and I guarantee that you will find the challenge and thrills of turkey hunting with your archery equipment an addictive spring activity.  Spring turkey hunts can also be the best time to introduce and young or new hunter to the sport of hunting.

Archers Way Turkey Hunting

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Decoy Placement for Turkey Season

Turkey Decoy Placement Tips

by Raised Hunting

One question we get asked quite often, when turkey season comes around is, “how do you set up your decoys?” For the Raised Hunting team we like our shots CLOSE; meaning less than 10 yards.

We make sure to always have at least one hen and one strutting tom (with a real tail) in our decoy bag. Since we typically are archery hunting, we hunt out of blinds. Hunting out of the blinds allows us to get to full draw when even the cagiest toms come strutting in.

Our favorite set up is placing a tom at six to eight yards out, and a hen somewhere in between the tom decoy and the blind. Remember, when setting male decoys face them toward you. Other toms will likely try to get face-to-face with any predecessor, but just the opposite when using a hen decoy. Toms will typically approach hens from behind, so set them facing straight away.

Hunting out of blind and using this set up on your turkeys will hopefully put a long beard in your lap. Good luck and remember to practice often shots at 10 yards or less before turkey season, you don’t want to be the one who is known for missing even the closest of shots.

GEAR UP for your next turkey hunt.

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Why Do I Hunt?

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by Ruth Jaeger, Wildlife Pursuit

Have you ever thought about all the reasons why you hunt? Perhaps you love the outdoors, you enjoy nature, or you live for the challenge of always harvesting a bigger animal. Perhaps you love the time alone out in the field, or you hunt with the same companions every year and look forward to the tradition of being with the same people and going to the same hunting ground. There are many reasons people engage in hunting, more reasons than we can imagine.

WP_April14My reason for hunting is simple. In addition to all the reasons stated above, I hunt mostly because of the time I can spend with my sons. My two sons are grown, they have families, busy and demanding jobs, they volunteer their time, they have hobbies, and they live very active and full lives.

Like all of us, they are busy people who have to multitask in order to be one step ahead. So when the opportunity presents itself to spend time hunting with my sons, I take full advantage of each opportunity.

For a few hours – or if we are lucky, a few days – we are in each other’s company traveling to or from our destination, scouting, engaged in hunting, eating, and just being mother and son. These times remind me of what life used to be like many years ago when my sons were younger, before they had commitments that go with being a parent, an employee, etc. I truly treasure these moments and realize how fortunate I am to be able to continue to enjoy my children in a setting where it doesn’t matter how old you are.

The effort to continue the tradition of hunting requires commitment and energy on my part. I have hunted for many years and could easily see myself retire from the sport. As with any sport or activity, hunting requires financial, time and physical commitments. I often find myself defending my excursions to Montana or Wyoming or some other destination when I mention that I’m traveling to a particular hunting location as opposed to other vacation destinations.

I am often asked ‘why’ from people who are not familiar with hunting and don’t have the traditions associated with hunting. My answer is always the same: I get to spend time with my sons and hunting happens to be the conduit that brings us together.

Perhaps your next outing can be with your son, daughter… or maybe your Mom or Dad would like to go along. Make it a memorable event in the outdoors!!

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Commit to Archery Practice

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by Nate Anderson, Wildlife Pursuit

Becoming a good, accurate archer takes practice, even in the winter season. Practicing all year round requires a high level of commitment to being the best archer you can be and looks different for everyone. Living in a small resort town in the mountains of Colorado does not allow for many opportunities to shoot during the winter months. We have no indoor ranges within a reasonable drive and we get between 20’ and 25’ of snow each winter. The targets outside are a little tough to keep clear of snow. With these obstacles to overcome, one solution we have found is to shoot indoors at home.

For years I thought if you couldn’t shoot 30 – 40 yards, it wasn’t worth practicing. An indoor range of that length would not be practical in most homes. Although practicing at longer distances is essential, over the last few winter seasons we have found that shooting at just 15 – 20 feet is helpful to keep practicing in the winter. Around 20 feet is the longest we have in the basement, and is also a distance that commonly can be found in a garage area. Shooting at a very short distance can lend itself to practicing what I believe to be the most important aspect of a good accurate shot, the release.

Your release while archery shooting is an area that can be continually practiced and improved upon.  Working towards “feeling a good shot” versus “seeing a good shot” provides new areas for improvement on the archery range no matter how far the target is from the shooter. Practicing your release at short distances can prove to be very effective in increasing your accuracy in the winter months. I encourage you to be committed to shooting in the long winter months even if at such short distances, and enjoy the chance to improve your release.

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Is it Turkey season yet?!? {Guest Blog Post}

Guest blog post - Is it turkey season yet?

Guest blog post submitted by Entice Media Works

It’s a strange passion. One that 5 years ago I didn’t fully understand, nor had I thought much about. The pursuit of the wild turkey is a unique game of cat and mouse that to me delivers a thrill unlike any other, and this comes from a guy who’s done his fair share of thrill seeking.

What is it that’s so enticing about chasing these birds around that I’m willing to get up morning after morning a few hours before the sun, just to get a chance at filling my tag? I probably will never know, and it’s not that I really care to know. It’s given me the same thrill since I first started 4 years ago, and I doubt if I could ever find out why it’s given me such entertainment and solace that it would make much difference.

guest blog post - turkey season yet

As I enter the field this spring with my camera and new bow, there’s no doubt in my mind that no matter what happens, no matter if I see a bird of take a Tom or anything in between, I’ll be better for the experience. More well rested, more attentive at work, and overall just more peaceful. There’s something about plopping down in a blind or leaning up against an old oak and listening to the sounds of nature that just do it for me every time.

The time spent with friends old and new, the excitement of a Tom returning your call and changing direction to give chase, the thrill of victory when a bird is harvested. All of these things add up to an experience that must be had first hand to truly appreciate. It leaves me with almost more questions than answers, with the biggest one being… Is it Turkey season yet?!

guest blog post - turkey season yet

 

 

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Field Techniques for Canada Goose Hunting

Field Techniques for Canada Goose Hunting from Scheels Expert

by Scheels Expert Matt Schreiner (Mankato Scheels, MN)

Laying on the frozen ground in six inches of snow while a blizzard covers the barley fields in Montana is not what most kids do on a weekend. This was my first goose hunt at the age of five; I was wrapped in huge white coveralls watching hundreds of geese fill the gloomy sky.

This was the beginning of my obsession with goose hunting. Through my hunting career my father has taught me how to be successful in the goose blind. After 20 years of hunting geese I have found out that every hunt brings a new challenge in fooling these birds. Adapting to the conditions and using your equipment to your full advantage is the key to hunting waterfowl. Most important making memories in the field with friends and family is what goose hunting is all about.

These are a few of my techniques and some of the most common questions I am asked in the hunting shop at Scheels.

6 Successful Field Techniques

  1. Scouting is a must. I like to drive the fields the day before to find out what time the geese are moving, what fields they are hitting first and where they are sitting in the field. I don’t care if you have the best spread with the greatest callers in the world, if you are not on the X you will have a hard time competing with live birds in the field they are in.
  2. Concealment of your blinds or hunters is crucial in field hunts. Making your hide look as natural as possible to the landscape will help the birds finish in the spread. Ground blinds are great but they must be (mudded) covered in a mud/water mix to take off the shine. Snow covers are great for blinds but always wash them in UV killer laundry soap so they will not reflect light.
  3. Playing the wind is a key step to setting your decoys up and also to finish birds. Waterfowl will always land into the wind, it helps them control their speed and adjust to their landing spot.
  4. Decoy placement relies completely on wind direction and where you are in the field. Some of my favorite setup patters (X, J, S, I I) Placing the decoys in small family groups in the shape of the letters is what I try to follow. I place my blinds according and create a landing zone for the geese to finish.
  5. Creating movement in the decoys is a great way to mimic live flocks on the ground. You can do this by flagging (waving hand held goose flags) which looks like wings flapping. Some decoy manufactures also have motion bases on the decoys, which creates slight movement when the wind is blowing.
  6. Blowing a short reed goose call can be very frustrating; it is basically like a musical instrument. The call takes a lot of dedication and time to master the air flow and tone needed to sound like a live bird.  An experienced caller gives your setup that edge that brings your spread to life, hitting the right notes and sequences will pull birds in feet down!

Field Techniques for Canada Goose Hunting from Scheels Expert

Common Customer Questions

Q. “How do I even make this short reed call sound like a goose?”

A. Practice! It doesn’t come over night. I watched hundreds of videos and blew on my calls every day to get where I am today. We sell [in stores] an instructional video by Scott Threinen called, Bad Grammar. Watch it over and over.

Q. “Why would I buy an acrylic goose call for $150 when I can buy a polymer call for $20?”

A. The acrylic material is much more durable and also tends not to freeze as fast in the cold. The noticeable difference is going to be sound; you will get a much louder, sharper note with acrylic. Once a person tries an acrylic call and can make the basic notes they will never go back to polymer.

Q. “How many decoys do I need?”

A. It depends on where you are hunting and how much competition is around you. If you do your scouting and have a good hide, half dozen decoys will get the job done. I personally like to set 50-125 decoys out to give the look of a few family groups that just flew into the field.

Q. “Should I buy full body decoys or shells?”

A.  If you watch geese in early fall or warmer weather the majority of the birds are standing up feeding through the field and are very spread out. When it gets bitter cold and lots of snow on the ground, the geese concentrate on one place in the field and are usually sitting down feeding. In early season or warmer days I put more full bodies out with more space in between each decoy. On cold days I put almost all shell decoys out and pack them tighter as a flock.

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Buffet-style Food Plotting

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By Chase Furstenau, Wildlife Pursuit

As we reach the end of a long, brutal winter, a part of me can’t help but to start thinking about spring food plot preparations for my hunting grounds. This is the time of the year we should be ironing out all the wrinkles on what worked best and what didn’t last year. Ask ourselves, “What could we do to improve what we plant, and how we can conserve the soil for future plotting?”

I have been planting food plots for a number of years now, and by no means am I an expert, but I have come to find out what draws deer out of cover during the different times of the hunting season. You could call it a food plot buffet. It takes a variety of crops to suit a deer’s needs throughout the course of a season.

I prefer to hunt over and plant for an early season bow hunt. From observing deer in my surrounding areas in the late summer and early fall, I have come to find out that I must incorporate alfalfa in my plots. In my immediate area, from my experience, alfalfa is the best calling card for early season whitetails. There are a lot of clover/alfalfa seed mixes on the market today. I would recommend staying away from any clover mixes mainly because a pure alfalfa seed will grow in any soil condition and be much less susceptible to over grazing or mowing than any clover ever will.

Where to Plant

One of the nice things about alfalfa is that it doesn’t take a 5-10 acre area to plant to be able to get deer to feed on it. The ideal location would be a beautiful 1-5 acre meadow that is easily accessible, yet protected from outside disturbance. Not everyone, including myself has this luxury.

I like to plant alfalfa in small subdivisions amongst a larger food plot of a dry grain crop. These subdivisions can be as small as a quarter of an acre up to 5 acres, depending on land size, equipment, and budget. The most ideal location to plant, would be in an active travel corner of a field bordering a tree line or a strip along the tree line where deer would first enter a food plot. This is the perfect staging point to where deer are first going to make an appearance and feed briefly before going into open country to feed all night. Having an alfalfa plot will only entice them earlier when shooting light is still available.

The easiest part about an alfalfa plot, besides hunting, is planting it. Growing alfalfa gives you the option of being able to plant a Round-Up ready variety. This allows for optimal weed control to get the most tonnage out of the plot. I highly recommend investing the extra money on a Round-Up ready variety from your local co-op.

Soil Preparation

Now that you have your seed, it’s time to prep the soil. It’s best to wait to plant until you are pretty sure the last frost has come and gone. You can plant all the way up to mid-summer. As in any first planting you can do yourself a lot of benefit by spraying the area where sod will be broken with Round-Up the fall before you plant, or 10-14 days before you plan to break up with sod.

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Once the sod is broken up into small enough chunks, or the existing plot is worked, exposing fresh dirt, I like to run a harrow over to make a slightly even soil bed. The best way to seed is by broadcast method. This can be done by hand, lawn push type, ATV pull type, or larger tractor pull type.

Any way works as long as you look for a 14-20 lbs/acre spread. Once you have it spread you can either harrow over the plot once or twice, run a cultipacker over it, or simply use your ATV, pickup, or tractor tires. What ever it takes to get the seed to make contact with the soil, that’s all it takes.

Maintenance

I said the easiest part is planting it and hunting it for a reason. If you want to be able to benefit 100 percent from your alfalfa plot, you need to maintain it, which means mowing it or cutting it for baling. If you don’t keep alfalfa controlled, it will get too mature, woody, and sour, and not even a starving cow will eat it. Now, I know not everyone has, or knows someone who has hay cutting and baling equipment. This isn’t a huge problem. Its time to invest in an ATV or tractor-size, pull-type mower. I prefer an ATV size, gas operated, pull-type mower simply because ripping around on a four wheeler makes it not seem like work, but more like playing around.

In the first year of growth, (assuming a Round-Up ready variety is used and proper weed control is done by spraying) you want to let the plant get well established before mowing the first time. That second growth will be more tender and sweeter than the first, making it an even better calling card.

During the second year of growth, it is important to do maintenance mowing 2-4 times a year right after the alfalfa flowers. Ideally the 3rd or 4th time, depending on location, should be done 2-3 weeks prior to hunting. This allows the most tender, and sweetest growth of all the cuttings to establish just in time to get that monster buck you’re after off his feet and into your set-up.

Good luck!

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She Doesn’t Look Like a Hunter

She Doesn't Look Like a Hunter

by Karin Holder, Raised Hunting

It happens at least once a day. The same question gets asked over and over, or maybe it is a comment rather than a question. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it gets asked. It usually goes something like this…“ I wouldn’t expect a woman like you to be a hunter.”

My question would be, “What is a hunter supposed to look like?” I hunt with my husband, David and my two boys, Warren and Easton. I started doing this over twenty years ago when David and I started to date. It was important to me to be interested in what he was doing and to be a part of it. Even though I grew up around hunting, I rarely, if ever, got to go because I was a girl. In that day and age, girls didn’t hunt. But I loved to be out in the wilderness and exploring nature. To me, it was peaceful and has always been a place I feel close to my creator.

This was a large learning curve for me to be out with David. What do I wear? Where do I go to the bathroom? What do I use for a bow? Can I just use his? Can I wear my makeup or will it have a scent to it that will alarm the animals that a human is near? What about the tree-stand? Do I have to stand on that tiny platform while the wind is blowing the trees from side to side, not to mention Im afraid of heights? How will I shoot my bow if I’m holding on to the tree so hard my knuckles are white. All of these things were running through my mind and had me quite anxious as a new hunter.

However, excitement and the desire to be outside to start to experience wildlife up close and personal pushed all that anxiety to the side. I will never forget one of my first experiences with deer when a doe and her fawn laid down under my tree stand. As the doe relaxed in the warm sun, her eyelids got heavy and her eye lashes were so long they laid on her cheeks. She never knew I was there and I got to witness nature in one of its purest forms.

My point with this story is everyone has to start some where. Being a hunter has nothing to do with how a woman or a man looks on the outside but everything to do with what is inside. A hunter or huntress, as I hear more and more often, is someone who respects wildlife. Someone who believes in conservation. Someone who wants to share experiences and the journey with their loved ones. Someone who wants to push their own limitations physically and mentally. Someone who is patient and understands they aren’t in control of every situation.

Life and wildlife can take unexpected turns and as a huntress or hunter you need to be ready for them. As for equipment, the hunting industry has come far in the past 20 years. There is a better selection of bows, arrows, guns and clothing. In addition, there is more than enough resources of other hunters willing to share their knowledge.

More women are hunting every year as they are gaining the knowledge, experience, equipment and confidence in the sport. This is a movement that is powerful and important. It brings you close to your family and close to nature in a way that is beautiful. Give it a shot, you may find this is right for you.

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Hunting with Men

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by Ruth Jaeger, Wildlife Pursuit

Hunting with all men never seemed like anything unique. For thirty plus years I hunted with my brothers, my husband and when they were old enough, my sons. Having been raised on a farm and having spent my early life outdoors, I was perhaps in my mind, just ‘one of the boys’ at deer season. I am grateful for having the life’s lessons that came with growing up on the farm; operating machinery, working with cattle, etc., as it is part of the reason I am comfortable and happy to be in the outdoors and continue to enjoy hunting.

From what I recall, my hunting companions never seemed to extend any special favors to me because I was a woman. Although I can tell you that I never field dressed the animals that I harvested. I imagine I could have done it after having helped field dress scores of animals, but there was always a male who offered to do the task. And, when it came time to drag an animal out of the woods or load an animal on the back of a truck, it was plainly obvious I couldn’t match the physical strength of my companions. On the other hand, none of the companions ever trudged through the snow and slush, climbed up and down the hills while carrying a pack and gun when they were six months pregnant as I did. I have no complaints and given the choice, would redo those times as they are memories of hunting experiences that will live with me forever.

Like any adventure or activity, we all had our pre- and post-hunt responsibilities to ensure the success of the hunt. No one ever designated me as the head grocery buyer and sandwich maker, but food and beverages were my responsibility. The men were charged with transportation, mapping and overall coordination (i.e., deciding who should walk and who should post).

There were of course instances when the differences were painfully obvious; like when it came time to use the facilities. I had to find bushes or trees for cover and suffer the cold and wind of the outdoors while the guys had no such issues. The remedy I believe is a challenge to the hunting clothing manufacturers to figure out a way to design women’s hunting gear that doesn’t require us to pare down to the basics. I’m hoping that happens before I retire from the sport!

Now I hunt with many women including daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, etc. Our original party of all males and me has expanded to a point where we have more women than men. In my experience, females bring a much different and enjoyable perspective to hunting. Many of the women in our party do not carry rifles, but enjoy the outdoor experience equally. Those who do carry rifles and have harvested an animal(s) are excellent marksmen (women). Women often express their views of a clean and precise harvest. And, truth be told, women have a much better sense of direction and will tell you when they are lost in the field!

Regardless of being male or female, it’s the personalities and strengths of each individual that makes the team successful. I’ve been fortunate to have great hunting companions. I have been able to learn from them and become a better hunter.

In turn, I’ve been able to do the same for them, male…or female.

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Hunting Africa? Checked

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by Jason Wright, Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

Throughout the years I have listened with curiosity as people discussed their “bucket list” and/or what they have been able to cross off from their “one day” list.

If truth be told, I have secretly kept a few of those items hidden deep in my own “bucket list.” My realistic approach to life has kept that bucket hidden deep while living one day or one outdoor adventure at a time. My thoughts have been more of an, “If it happens, great!” I just went on with life knowing that what I have and the adventures I had experienced were already a true blessing and that asking or expecting more was not necessary.

My first “bucket list” item came about while listening to a well-known children’s book author during a luncheon at the Bismarck (ND) Civic Center nearly 18 years ago. He explained with great passion how his latest book came to be, which included an extended stay in Africa while living with the Maasai people. My interest spiked as Ben Mikaelsen described – in excessive detail – his entire experience while living with the Maasai and the cultural differences. I was hooked!! Not knowing it at the time, I had just noted my very first item which would be buried deep on a growing list found within my own “bucket list”.

Since that experience in 1996, I had been drawn to articles and television shows that featured hunts in Africa. I also took every opportunity to listen to others who had experienced such a hunt. But, as I mentioned earlier, hunting in Africa was buried so deep among the items on my bucket list that it was going to take a giant Maglite to locate it at the very bottom. Many years went by and the thought or dream of traveling to Africa would periodically find its way into a conversation as hunts were being planned for the following year. While others were focused on an elk hunt or chasing caribou on the tundra, I would – if only for a brief moment – wonder about what it is truly like to experience a bowhunt in Africa. But, then the “realistic me” would reappear and that dream would fade away like the setting sun.

Then during the early winter of 2012, a good friend, Attas Boutrous, turned my bucket list upside down and my dream of hunting in Africa was brought directly to the top. Attas invited a group of hunters from the surrounding area to a local establishment to meet Shannon van Zyl from Bushmen Safaris in South Africa. Shannon is a professional hunter who had been traveling to various sport shows throughout the states promoting Bushmen Safaris and took time to come and visit directly with us. Throughout the evening, Shannon shared video, photographs and information about bowhunting with Bushmen Safaris. This prompted lots of interest, excitement and questions. This incredible opportunity to meet Shannon brought a whole new meaning to the thought and possibility of traveling to Africa. After the evening get-together, the possibility of going to “Africa” was brought up more and more throughout the year.

Like many things, I knew the likelihood of this actually taking place was slim. Like the faint glow of embers after an evening bonfire, it doesn’t take much fuel to turn those buried embers into a roaring fire. Little did I know that in less than two years, I would call Shannon van Zyl my friend, and that bowhunting in Africa would be “checked” from my bucket list.

Reality Hits

As we were flying high above the Atlantic Ocean with a final destination of Johannesburg, South Africa, and an approximate arrival time of 5:30 PM on Saturday, July 6, it was amazing to reminisce as to how this trip with 7 great friends had truly become a reality. Throughout the 15-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa, we would stand, stretch and visit with other hunters on our flight, some of whom had traveled to Africa many times. While others, like myself, were experiencing this adventure for the first time.

The anticipation of what the next 10 days had in store kept me from sleeping. Incredible stories were shared by others that brought high expectations. I tried to keep my expectations in check, but with comments from others like, “Once you experience Africa, it isn’t if you will return, but when!” or “Africa will dig her talons into you so deep as you see everything from poverty to wealth, causing you to plan your next trip before you leave.” This made it very hard not to have the highest of expectations. Again, it was too early in the trip to know whether or not my expectations would be met.

After landing at the Johannesburg airport our main concern was whether or not our archery equipment tagged along for the journey! But, once we figured out how things were being shuffled, we were directed to the police station where lots of impatient hunters were lined up looking and hoping to find their hunting equipment. It wasn’t long until our last bow appeared and a sigh of relief was shared amongst us all. Then we stowed our gear into the Bushmen Safari’s trailer, jumped into the van as Shannon van Zyl started us out on the next leg of our journey. Next stop: Bushmen Safaris – approximate arrival 12:00 AM. The 4-hour drive to Bushmen Safaris was filled with incredible camaraderie. Everything from here on out made for out-of-this world experiences and incredible memories.

Settling In

Arriving at the Bushmen Safaris ranch we were immediately greeted by Nick and Lydia van Zyl who showed us to our rooms. At this time it was becoming very obvious that my expectations were not only going to be met, but exceed anything I could have ever expected.

After quickly settling into our beautiful rooms we were treated to the first of many incredible dinners. It wasn’t long before Nick began to share stories of past hunts and his own experiences from over the years, which became an evening highlight after each day of hunting.

After a great breakfast, we were introduced to the game room where Nick gave each of us a spiral-bound book with a photo list of each animal. It included shot placement and how to determine whether or not the animal is a trophy. The most important piece of information during our animal introduction was shot placement. It is very different than what you would expect having hunted North American animals – this is very true.

After our morning briefing we had an opportunity to head outside and shoot our bows to make sure that nothing had changed after they traveled from North Dakota to Africa. Everything was shooting perfectly! Most of the hunting takes place at waterh

oles, and since it was winter in Africa while we were there, it was very dry. This made for great opportunities while sitting in extremely large and comfortable blinds both on the ground and elevated. Not only did we want to enjoy this trip but it was also our goal to capture our hunts on video to share via Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV. Therefore, Russ Arman and I paired up for the entire week.

Animals on Alert

Russ and I decided that during our first afternoon of hunting we would do more “scouting” and videoing while trying to judge the difference between non-trophy and trophy animals. It was also interesting to see how the whole arrangement worked for us and how the animals would react to scent, movement and sound. It was truly awesome as we got our first glimpse of an African animal. I/we soon realized that these animals had all senses on “high-alert” and this wasn’t going to be as easy as we might have thought – which from a hunter’s standpoint is good! Although we had originally agreed not to release an arrow that first afternoon, that notion was thrown by the wayside after a herd of zebras came to the waterhole.

Up until that point I hadn’t planned on trying to kill a zebra, but then a trophy stallion began to make its way to the waterhole. That is when I went from calm to meltdown. Everything was going pretty good considering I was about to release my first arrow in Africa, but just when we were trying to get me in the best place for a shot and the camera going, we bumped something in the blind. Even though the stallion was 34 yards away, he bolted immediately. Another clue that led me to believe these animals are extremely alert and that this was going to be a true hunting experience!

The next couple days were extremely fun while having the opportunity to spend all day from sunrise to sunset in the blind, watching many animals come and go throughout the day. Like all hunting adventures, it isn’t always easy to have the right animal come to the waterhole at the right time or right location. Add to that the fact we were trying to video every hunt as well as trade off and take turns, depending on what the next animal next approached the waterhole.

Russ and I eventually determined we needed to have a prioritized list of what animals each of us wanted to kill. We determined that the first trophy kudo bull that came Russ would shoot and the first trophy gemsbok I would shoot. This sounds great in theory, but again, add to the fact that we are trying to video creates more of a challenge than one would think. It wasn’t until day 3 we decided it was time to kill something.

The First Kill

Jason Wright-WarthogAfter watching warthogs come and go, we each made great shots knocking two down. We were finally on the board! Oh and “the board” really exists, where magnets are used to keep track of who has scored and what type of animal. Pretty cool

After each day of hunting we were eager to return to the incredible accommodations, change into our lounging clothes, and then meet for beverages and the most incredible meals, followed by desserts that would make any top chef jealous. Then we would meet in the trophy room to share more stories and watch video of how the day unfolded. A good friend, after hearing I was going to Africa, mentioned that one of the best parts of my hunt in Africa would be the accommodations and the camaraderie that takes place each evening – so true!

Whether a person is hunting in Africa or Montana, making the perfect shot especially while bowhunting, is always the goal. But, unfortunately this doesn’t always happen and it can be a tough experience.  Bowhunting is such an up close and personal experience between the hunter and the animal; therefore, a perfectly placed arrow can provide the most incredible feeling of accomplishment.  However, nobody knows the opposite and understands the feelings of “What did I do?” more than a true bowhunter. This was the case for me on a couple of occasions, which is tough, but as sportsmen/women, we also know what needs to be done – find the animal.

Less Than Perfect

My first experience in Africa of a less-than-perfect shot was with a blesbok that was standing broadside at 34 yards. My shot was high and my heart sank as I watched the animal run much farther than what I had hoped. After contacting Shannon via radio, he showed up with the Polaris Ranger and a couple of trackers and tracking dogs. I would soon realize that tracking animals after a less-than-perfect shot is not only an incredible experience, but a reality of your African hunting adventure. We followed the blood trail for a much longer distance than I would have preferred. Shannon decided that it was best for Russ and I to head back to our elevated stand and he would continue until he found the dogs.

At this time I was at a low point. It is tough to swallow when I make a shot that is not good. Not feeling good about the shot I took and/or more importantly the timing of my shot, I began to hear the Ranger coming towards us, which meant that in just a few minutes I would find out whether or not Shannon found my blesbok. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually the ranger rounded a corner and I could see the white belly of my blesbok in the back of the Ranger. I nearly exploded with emotion flying out of the blind and thanking both the trackers and Shannon. The blesbok was found expired nearly a mile from our blind and had it not been for these incredible Jack Russell Terriers, it wouldn’t have been found in the African bush.

Quick pictures were taken and with my confidence restored, I was ready for whatever would happen throughout the rest of the day.

I didn’t have to wait long until I spotted a trophy waterbuck approaching the waterhole from behind us. I let Russ know. We switched positions while I grabbed my Hoyt Spyder and Russ placed the camera in the best spot to capture the action. This time I was confident. As the waterbuck began to walk away from the waterhole I stopped him at 36 yards, drew back my Hoyt and released an Easton Arrow tipped with a NAP Killzone broadhead.

It hit its mark perfectly and the big waterbuck was down in less than 60 yards. After going through a period of feeling down only hours earlier to now elated, I couldn’t hold back the excitement, which truly shows in the captured video. Let’s just say I got a bit animated!!

The rest of the week was filled with both “highs” and “lows” as far as my shot placement was concerned. When you travel to a place where you can shoot more than one animal, the chances that a “less than perfect” shot will occur is much greater. However, having had the opportunity to track with these professionals was truly an amazing opportunity which is a big part of hunting in Africa. Watching these fearless but small Jack Russell Terriers in action is amazing.

I ended my hunt with a trophy gemsbok with the assistance of Nick van Zyl and his tracking team, which was ironically the animal that was at the top on my list which I had hoped to kill first.

Beyond Expectations

The time spent with Bushmen Safaris not only met, but exceeded any expectation I could have ever had. Not only did we encounter great hunting, large blinds perfectly placed, incredible accommodations, and the best dining… but most importantly I/we established lifelong friendships with Nick, Shannon and Lydia van Zyl, who seemed more like family as we prepared for departure back to the states.

If you have an African bowhunting adventure somewhere deep within your “bucket list”, I would highly recommend looking into Bushmen Safaris of South Africa.

I was fortunate to bring back a warthog, grey dieker, blesbok, waterbuck, and a gemsbok. There they will capture the spirit and preserve the memories of my African bowhunting adventure. This opportunity was shared by a group of friends who left the states bound for an African adventure. We returned better friends with shared memories of an incredible and, possibly the ultimate outdoor adventure.  However, I do want to make note that I only “checked” this item on my bucket list and I did not cross it off!

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