Successful Measures, Get Fit to Hunt the Prois Way!

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By Prois Staffer April Mack

No, I’m not talking about the past elections.
How do you measure a successful hunt? Is it a monster buck or bull? Is it a successful harvest? Or is it time out hunting, with your family, friends or by yourself? Do you measure your success of a hunt by the equipment you use and the gear you have? Or simply time spent in nature soaking up God’s great creations? Me? I measure success of a hunt by my experiences…. Time with family, time with God and simply the God given ability to get out and do what I love. Oh, and then there is the success of being able to hunt without desperately gasping for air and bending to cling to my knees after climbing a hill. I’m talking about being in shape. Both mentally and physically, they go hand in hand. There is nothing more rewarding to me then to gracefully, quietly and easily make my way to the top of a mountain without feeling like I just went through military boot camp. Sure, it’s an ego boost as well when I look around and see all the guys sweating and huffing like draft horses pulling a 3000 pound sled.

All too often hunters get prepared for the upcoming hunting season by making sure they have their bow sighted in, have enough arrows and new broad heads along with checking equipment to make sure all gear is up to par. However, rarely do hunters take into consideration the physical preparation needed for the hunt. Being physically fit can be the difference of having an enjoyable hunt or a hunt that kicks your butt. We all know getting up early is part of the hunt. That alone is a hard task for some. But when you wake up the next day and your body is screaming for more rest because you are sore from the previous days hunt… What’s the fun in that? When you are in shape physically, the mental portion follows suit. It has been proven time over that physical activity (working out) improves mental clarity and relieves stress. You have enough on your mind when hunting such as spotting and stalking, calling, and concentrating on making that once in a life time shot. You shouldn’t be thinking about whether or not you can make it up the mountain without needing CPR!
So, with that being said I would like to offer some tips.

1) Set goals; start off small and work your way up. You will need to set both cardio and strength goals. A good goal to start for cardio is walking 2-3 times per week, walk up and down your driveway to get started. Slowly increase the distance by a couple miles at a time, pickup your pace and change terrain. In addition to walking, add biking to the mix. Make your routines fun, go for a hike in new territory, discover new places, or take up mountain biking. Whatever you decide to do, make it fun, make it your own, make it challenging (repelling anyone?)

2) You will need to be physically strong to not only carry all your gear around, but also to carry out your harvest. Hit the weights at least 3 times per week. Remember the smaller the starting goal, the longer the time needed to increase so don’t wait a month before the season to start getting active. You don’t have to be a gym rat to accomplish these goals; there are a lot of things around the house that you can use as weights. Get creative; fill a bucket up with sand! If you are up for the challenge, hire a personal trainer with specific needs in mind (hunting with a bow is exercise specific). Exercises to focus on for bow hunting specifically include: shoulders (front to side arm raises, arm circles, shrugs and lateral raises) upper and lower back (back extensions, seated lat row, reverse fly’s and reverse grip lat pull down) biceps (curls and pull ups) and core (oblique twists, reverse curls and good ‘ol fashion crunches). You of course want to balance out your muscles so don’t forget to throw in some chest presses and triceps pushups just for fun! In relation to the actual hunt and climbing mountains, your lower body needs to be just as strong if not more. Your tail end is one of the biggest muscles you got… work it! Lunges, squats (they don’t have to be in deep range of motion) and hamstring curls will all target the gluteus maximus, aka your tail end. Once you get started in your exercise regimen, you will need (and want!) to maintain your progress. It’s much easier to consistently exercise throughout the year then to be a one-month warrior. Schedule time in your day to workout. You may even have to book an appointment with yourself. Most importantly, be forgiving. If you miss a day or two or even a week, don’t be hard on yourself or ride the guilt train. Just pick up where you left off. Being strong enough to draw your bow back is an essential part to hunting, not only does it make it more enjoyable for you, but it isn’t fair to the game we have the privilege to hunt if the shot we make isn’t steady.

3) Of course getting physically fit involves proper nutrition (sorry, facts of life!) During the hunt (pack in/out intensity) you of course need higher caloric foods to sustain you. However, with day to day eating, your choices should be a little more carefully planned out. There is nothing new here and no magic pill. Fruits and veggies, balance your proteins and fats and include carbs into your foods. Now, when I say fats and carbs, I am not talking about ice cream, cookies, pizza, fast food joints and Ho Ho’s (although in moderation *gasp* it’s okay). Our bodies need fats and carbs to function, but it is the good kind. (Real butter, avocado, legumes, nuts, occasional red meats, cheeses etc). And of course water. Food has an amazing ability to heal the body; we just have to give it a chance. I challenge you to try it… even if it’s not hunting season for you. Make a commitment for at least one month. Cut out boxed, prepackaged and canned meals. Try to eat what grows naturally. When was the last time you saw a box of Hamburger Helper® growing off a tree? You don’t have to get crazy and go all organic, but I would suggest you stop eating foods that are processed and full of preservatives. Our bodies were not built to digest the chemicals in these foods. You give this challenge a try and you will be amazed at the changes your body makes.
On a side note to physical fitness and proper nutrition, I want to mention the importance of having mental strength and clarity. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities, now that you have exercised and gotten fit, you can do anything… right? Confidence comes with knowing you can tackle the hunt, climb the hill and haul out your kill. Be patient, positive and prepared (do I hear a triple “P” cheer?). Patients, well… you’re a bow hunter it’s a given that is an essential tool. Positivity will get you a long way my friends, whether you are by yourself or with a hunting party. Have you ever been around “that” person that see’s the down side to everything or is constantly putting themselves down? I have and it’s not fun… Keep your attitude up; after all there are worse things you could be doing instead of getting out to do what you love. And finally, prepared. Being prepared is such an important mental factor. Having the right clothes for the weather, terrain and clothes that fit you properly (ladies – stop buying men’s camo clothes!) makes you feel, well, good. Being prepared to gut, wrap and pack your harvest with all the necessary tools leaves you without worry of how to get the job done. Being prepared with extra food and water helps with the long process involved after taking that fatal shot. To achieve all this, you have to be mentally strong. To be mentally strong you have to be healthy. To be healthy you have to be physically fit. Yes it’s tough to get started, but all things worth working for have great rewards.

Here’s to measured success!

Sample Workout:
Just because we are bow hunters doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have big guns!
You don’t have to be able to lift a car to draw back a bow… but you should be prepared!
Building up your strength for bow season doesn’t have to be hard. Lifting weights 2-3 times a week, with a day of rest in between should do the trick. You will want to do 3 or 4 sets of 16 reps and choose a weight that will allow you to have good form, but will challenge you to get out the last 5-6 reps. Lift the weights in slow controlled motions and avoid swinging your body for momentum to lift the weight. You will want to make sure you work both sides equally rather than focusing just on your draw arm… imbalances will cause compensation issues leading to muscle injury. No pain no gain is not always the case, listen to your body and learn the difference between muscle fatigue and muscle injury. Muscle soreness is normal when you get started on a lifting routine. Drink lots of water, stretch after your workouts and if the soreness is extreme, take the recommended dosage of Tylenol®. However do not let a little bit of soreness keep you from working out it will get easier as you get stronger. Then it will be time to increase your weights. To avoid plateaus, change up the types of exercises you do about every 4-5 weeks. If you can, find a workout partner, not only will they motivate you but they can keep you safe and spot you as you start to increase the amount of weight you lift.
So, here’s to big gun bow hunters everywhere!

The Best Medicine, by Prois Staffer Nancy Rodriguez

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By Nancy Rodriguez

Cough, snort, wheeze! Cough, snort, wheeze! With every track my boots leave in the snow, I find myself using my very own custom call to locate my quarry. You may think I am somewhere in the Midwest hunting whitetail deer, but I am far from it. I’m actually high in the mountains of Nevada, hunting elk. My very own custom call is not tucked in my pocket or hanging around my neck. It’s in fact my body’s lungs and nose that are making these calls. My custom wheeze and cough are thanks to a bout of bronchitis and my custom snort is a congested nose caused by a sinus infection. Some might say I shouldn’t be out hunting right now. I should be home sitting by the fire with a humidifier plugged in, eating oranges. But, does that sound like something a Prois chick would do? No way! It’s elk season!

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I continue to trudge through the golden grass and glistening snow covered mountains in search of the majestic wapiti. With my rifle slung over my shoulder and my backpack weighing me down, I glass every nook and cranny for the distinct tan colored body with the dark chocolate neck. As I slowly climb to a high vantage point, my nose is completely plugged and my lungs burn. I giggle to myself at the advice my doctor gave me right before we left for this hunting trip, “You need to take these antibiotics, use this inhaler, drink plenty of liquids, and above all rest!” He must have sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, because obviously I didn’t comprehend a word he said. Prois chicks can be rebels after all!

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With my heart pounding in my head, I am grateful to have finally made it to my vantage point. I drop my pack and plop on the ground. I endlessly hack into my Prois neck gaiter and realize it not only keeps my neck warm, but it also works as a great handkerchief. Through watery eyes, I glass the distant hillsides. Suddenly, out of extremely thin mountain air, I spot them. Unmistakable brown dots of bedded elk are scattered amongst the patches of snow. I spot about 40 of them and my blood starts coursing through my veins. Joe looks at me and asks, “Are you up for this? They’re pretty far away.” I blow my red rimmed nose and reply “Heck ya! That’s what we’re here for!” And so the stalk begins. The elk are a couple miles away, and I know this hike is going to be grueling for me. Up and down the massive ridges we go. Cough, snort, wheeze…Repeat! My body becomes weaker, but I trudge on. The mountain wind is becoming fickle and starts swirling about. I pray it doesn’t blow my stalk. As we start to get close enough for a shot, I grab my range finder to check the distance. My nose is so plugged; I feel claustrophobic. I bring a tissue to my face and realize I have snotcicles hanging from my nose. With these custom beauties, I am sure I could give Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber a run for his money! I giggle again at what I must look like right now. But, I have more important things at hand and I need to get a bit closer for a shot. As I start to close the distance, it happens. A huge gust of wind smacks me in the back and I know my funky human scent is about to alert the elk that something’s not right. Poof! They are up and off to the next ridge in the blink of an eye. Cough, snort, wheeeeeze!

That night we camp under the starry sky in below freezing temperatures. I have so many layers of fleece on that I can barely bend my arms and legs. My Prois Sherpa beanie is pulled down over my eyes and my neck gaiter is covering my mouth. With a Breathe Right strip over my red chapped nose, I shimmy down into my 3 sleeping bags. No joke…3! As I drift off into my Nyquil, Theraflu, and cough drop induced slumber, the elbowing begins. Joe is trying to stop his precious wife from turning into a mighty snoring Ogre, but he doesn’t have a chance against the cold medicine coma! The beast lying next to him is some sort of Michelin man fleece troll, wrapped up like a goose down burrito. A weird strip of plastic lies across her nose and grizzly bear size snores are coming out of her mouth. He stares at the fleece monster lying next to him and wonders where has his wife gone? He doesn’t have a spare room to move to, or a couch he can crash on in the living room. He is trapped next to the beast! It’s going to be a long night for him…poor guy.

The next day, I wake up feeling refreshed and well rested. I stretch, remove the plastic strip from my nose, and actually feel better than I have in days. I look at Joe who can hardly open his eyes and wonder if he slept okay? As I jump out of my burrito and throw on my head to toe Prois camo, I am ready to hunt! I stare at Joe as he peels open his eyes and looks at me. For some reason I don’t think he’s nearly as refreshed as I am. I resemble a happy dog anxiously waiting for their owner to grab the leash for their daily walk. If I could, I’d be wagging my tail with excitement! Come on, come on, let’s gooooo!!!!!

We get into elk over the next few days, but unfortunately I never connect. It really didn’t matter, because we had an awesome time climbing the mountains and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. There is nothing better for your mind, body, spirit, and immune system than becoming one with nature. I have truly found the best medicine on the market…Hunting!

Katherine Grand’s First Turkey, Prois was There!!

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After having the time of our lives this past fall at Double B Outfitters on our ladies Prois Whitetail hunt the crazy ladies of Prois once again descended on the sleepy and utterly unprepared town Ozona for another incredible hunt. This was by far my favorite guided hunt to date. My trusty guide Blake Osteen was happy to hike with me for miles daily in pursuit of thunder chickens. I enjoy an active spot and stalk style of hunting so Blake was the perfect match for me. He is an excellent caller and I learned so much about turkey hunting from him.

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Prior to this hunt I had yet to bag a turkey although I had hunted the last 4 years although only for a weekend at a time and nowhere that had the density of birds that Double B Outfitters boasts. While hunting with Double B Outfitters I heard and saw more turkeys than I had in all my previous hunts combined. Furthermore my calling was enough to make the bravest Tom turn tail and run. Luckily I got a lot of practice calling in this hunt much to the chagrin of everyone trying to relax at the lodge. On future hunts I will be driven a least a mile out from the lodge before I am allowed to use a diaphragm call.

On the second day of the hunt we were hiking while Blake was calling periodically and suddenly we heard a gobble extremely close to us. We had to post up right where we were when we realized we were covered by two groups of Toms. One group was coming in from behind us and one group was on the hill above and in front of us. We dropped down to a seated position, Blake handed me a shooting stick, and I got in the best position I could given the circumstances. Suddenly I saw the colorful heads of two different Toms on the hill and began to shake and breathe hard in my excitement. I started to draw up my shotgun but Blake whispered words of reassurance and told me to stay still and wait as he couldn’t see the birds well enough yet. The Toms were milling about and gobbling behind some brush and an occasional glimpse of their bright blue, red, and white heads was all I could see. The group that was coming in from behind us gobbled loudly and was converging on us at that same time. Blake spotted a good Tom and my opportunity for a shot and told me to shoot when I was ready. I drew up as my heart was beating a million miles an hour and shot. Blake told me I missed as three Toms from the group that approached behind us took flight over my left shoulder. Without thinking I swung, shot, and dropped a Tom mid-flight. I couldn’t believe it as I saw the Tom I shot at drop from the air like a ton of bricks. I leapt up with shot gun in hand and ran to the Tom lying on the ground. Blake approached the scene and was excitedly laughing and grinning ear to ear at my shot and frenzied run up to my Tom.

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Instinct took over for my last shot and I could not believe that I had my first Tom on the ground. The flood of emotions including elation, gratitude, and excitement I felt in that moment was overwhelming. It was such and incredible hunt. Blake had never guided someone that had shot a turkey in the air and was so excited for me and surprised that I had turned and shot at the flying birds before he had a chance to say anything to me. He was still looking toward the bird I had shot at to make sure it was a clear miss when he turned as I shot and saw my Tom falling from the air.

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Although the Tom I shot was smaller than the first bird I missed, I wouldn’t change a moment. That hunt built my confidence and I was much calmer when I shot my second Tom, an older Tom that was later nicknamed Rocky as he was a fighter and was missing tail feathers and his wings were all beat up from strutting and fighting. That was a more ideal scenario where I was posted up in a good spot and the Toms came in right where we expected them to.

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Not only was the hunting incredible at Double B Outfitters but the group of ladies that attended were fantastic. We laughed until our sides ached, and shared many delicious meals at the lodge lovingly prepared by Kendra and Linda. The lodge was comfortable and well appointed, the weather was perfect, and a fantastic time was had by all. The guides were superb and we made memories together that will last a lifetime. We cannot wait to go back there for our next Prois and Double B Outfitters hunt in Ozona TX.

Prois Pro Joni Qualm’s Gone Hog Wild!

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Prois Pro Joni Qualm says: “350 pound boar…What Miss Rodeo Nebraska does on her time off before the American Rodeo in Dallas, Texas…HOG HUNTING(horseback of course!) Thanks @proishunting for always making sure I’m dressed for the part! The cool weather allowed the dogs to go all day and we caught 15 hogs!! This boar was the biggest one my guide has ever caught, weighing 350 pounds!!! Yes, we are in mesquite trees, horseback, chasing 12 dogs! ‪#‎prois‬ kept me from getting punctured by thorns. My partner on the other hand…. Not so lucky!” ‪#‎proiswasthere‬

Prois Archtach Down Jacket, Better than Chocolate

By Azura Dee Gaige

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The Archtach Down Jacket from Prois is the most amazing down jacket I have ever owned. I

have owned many other down jackets but know of them could keep up with my incredible

outdoor adventures.

I’m going to list the reasons why it’s the most amazing down jacket. In less than a month, I have

already tested it out on Ducking hunting, Shed Hunting, Predator Hunting (-10 degree) and

Steal-head fishing on the Umatilla River.

The reasons:

1.) It’s filled with 800 Gray Goose Down. “It will keep you warm in -10 degree winter winds, with

snow surrounding your body, while keeping still for the first predator to come into your scope.

2.) While hiking most of the day looking for shed’s, it will keep your body and arm pits dry

because of the “Lycra Vented Arm Pits” which are designed not to leave the moisture, but allow

air to naturally flow under your arm pits.

3.) Made of 100% Microfiber Ripstop fabric it will help you deal with the outdoor environment

from snagging on branches and bare limbs throughout the timber hunts.

4.) The coating on the jacket keeps the down jacket dry and protects the goose down from

getting wet and losing the insulating properties that protects the individual in extreme weather

conditions.

5.). With the extended back length it keeps the irritating back draft that causes cold air to chill

your back bone, while sitting still in a duck-blind waiting for a flock of mallards.

6.) Happily to add, while fishing the Umatilla River the less puffy layer fit was amazing for

casting multiple times throughout the day.

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This versatile down jacket from Prois is an all round Great Jacket for multiple outdoor adventures. Even for the finicky sportswoman out there, there are four different color choices that are sure to please. It comes in three camo patterns (Realtree Advantage Max-1, Realtree APX, and Mothwing Mountain Mimicry) an black. I highly recommend the Archtach Down Jacket for the avid huntress or outdoors woman.

How To Get Started Hunting

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By Prois Staffer Andrea Haas

So you think you would like to get into hunting but don’t know where to start? Whether hunting is completely new to you or you grew up in a family of hunters, knowing how to begin can seem a little overwhelming at first. The good news is there are plenty of people and resources out there that can help you if you are willing to do a little research and put in some work.

Getting Started – Hunter’s Safety Course

Getting the right introduction to hunting is important. A good way to start is by finding your state’s wildlife agency and finding a hunter’s safety course. Here is a great online resource from The National Shooting Sports Foundation with hunting information for each state. You can find your state, get direct links to your state’s Conservation Department, hunting regulations and more. You can also take the test online through Hunter-Ed

Next Step – Apprentice Hunter Program

Even if you do pass your hunter’s safety course, become certified and buy your hunting license, it’s still a good idea to go hunting with someone else first. If you choose not to go through a hunter-ed course until you are positive that hunting is for you, most states offer an “Apprentice Hunter Program”. This means you can purchase a hunting permit and legally harvest an animal in the presence of someone who is hunter-ed certified. For example, I live in Missouri. Missouri allows you to do this for 2 years. After 2 years you must become hunter-ed certified in order to continue hunting & harvesting animals. 

Safety First

Most people begin by hunting with a firearm. While I encourage everyone to take up bow hunting, it’s not something that I recommend doing the first year you hunt. Before you handle a gun, make sure you are familiar with the NRA gun safety rules. Even if you’ve been hunting for years, it’s still a good idea to review these rules from time to time. Another great resource for all things women hunters/shooters is the NRA Women’s Network! They have weekly episodes that are fun & informative:

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Practice With Purpose

To me, this is one of the most important steps to take in becoming a hunter. You must take into consideration that you are shooting a live animal. Strive to make the best, most ethical shot possible so the animal does not suffer long and so you can save as much of the meat as possible. With that being said, find a place where you can shoot, get out there and start practicing! We have about 200 acres of private land outside of the city limits where we can practice shooting. Private land is not available to everyone though, so if not try finding a gun range near you. Here is another great resource from the National Shooting Sports Foundation to help you find shooting ranges in your area.

Choosing Your Gun & Ammo

It’s not necessary at first to rush out & buy your own gun. When I first started hunting, I borrowed a family member’s rifle, practiced and hunted with that. Making sure you select the right gun is more important. Make sure you are comfortable with the gun and select the right type of gun & ammo for the game that you wish to hunt. The “Love at First Shot” episodes at NRA Women’s Network are an excellent resource on how to choose a rifle & the proper ammo: 

Love at First Shot: Rifles

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Love at First Shot: Ammo

Study Up – Learn About the Animals

Learn as much as you can about the animals you want to hunt. Study about their feeding habits, their senses (sight, smell, etc), and breeding seasons so you can be as prepared as possible for your first hunt. There are multiple organizations out there that have endless information about game animals and their behaviors such as the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Deer and Deer Hunting, Mule Deer Foundation and many many more. 

Learn The Area / Pattern the Animals

If you’re able to, get out and scout the area you plan to be hunting before season starts. Start by becoming familiar with the land and your surroundings. Always tell someone where you will be and take your cell phone with you if possible.  Check for signs of the animal you’ll be hunting and scout out good areas to put a tree stand or ground blind to hunt out of. Set up some game cameras near known trails and food & water sources so you know more about the animal’s activity & patterns. Here is a great blog from Dale Evans at EvoOutdoors about scouting new land. 

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Gear & Apparel

While it may not be necessary to purchase your own rifle at first, I do recommend investing in some of your own hunting gear, equipment & apparel. 

Some basic items you’ll probably want to purchase:

-A good quality, sharp knife

-Rifle Sling

-Hunting fanny pack or backpack

-Scent Control Products, (depending on the type of game you are hunting)

-For women, I recommend Her Non Scents scent free shampoo, conditioner & body wash

-Hunting Boots

-Hunting Socks

-A good moisture wicking pair, try FirstLite & Minus33 brands at www.EvoOutdoors.com

-Gloves

-Camo clothing

-The type of clothing you pick depends on where you will be hunting, what season it is & the

type of animal you’ll be hunting. 

-Prois has a line of women’s hunting apparel that meets the needs for any type of hunt you

will be going on, whitetail, turkey, upland, etc. They even have a new safari line for 2015!

-If you need help picking the right apparel for your hunt, EvoOutdoors Camo Concierge is a great option!

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Resources

Make sure you do your part to learn as much as you can before you go hunting. I began by going on a whitetail hunt with my husband one year & watching him harvest a buck. I practiced a lot and asked him as many questions as I could until the following deer season. I went out by myself one afternoon and shot my very first deer, a nice 8 point. I observed him hunting first, practiced and asked questions. By taking what I learned from that and applying it to my own hunt, I was able to successfully harvest an animal on my own. Not everyone has a family member or a friend to learn from though. Here are a lot of great websites, blogs and other resources to help you out!

Women Hunters:

Huntress View

EvoOutdoors

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NRA Women

Women’s Outdoor News

Girl’s Guide To Guns

Youth Hunters:

Student Outdoor Experience

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Enjoy!

Most important, second to safety of course, is to enjoy yourself! Hunting is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy the peace & quiet of nature, and just relax. Observe wild animals in their natural habitats. You will learn something new each time you go out! Not only that, you will gain a deeper appreciation for wildlife and for the food that you eat, knowing that you are providing yourself & your family with healthier, organic meat, free from steroids & preservatives. Get out there & do some grocery shopping!

Joni Kiser’s Spot and Stalk Gator Hunt!

By Joni Kiser Prois Staffer and Prois dealer at Full Curl Archer in Anchorage AK

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“Joni. Seriously. What the hell are we doing out here?” Jayme whispered to me. There we were, kneeling down in tall grass in the edge of the swamp. Our guide, Glen, had left us there to go and set up an electronic alligator call off the the right of us, up the bank about 50 yards away. In the grass all around us were spiders. BIG spiders. Now to many, the fact that spiders creeped us out sounds silly, we were after all, tough Alaskan chicks. We were bear hunters. In fact in 2012, I took a Pope and Young Brown Bear with my bow, so if I could do that, then how in the world could a bunch of spiders freak me out? I guess it just depends what you are used to! We don’t have many spiders, let alone big poisonous ones in Alaska. We don’t have snakes or anything of that sort either. The things that can hurt you in the woods in Alaska are big, huge actually, and you can see them coming! They don’t crawl up on you without you knowing like these spiders that were as big as my fist were trying to do! Jayme was looking all around her in the weeds, trying to flip the spiders back away from crawling up on her. Glen started the baby alligator distress call and came back and we hunched down to wait.

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Usually an alligator bowhunt is done out of a boat. It is a much safer alternative, its alot easier to get close and you have a far better opportunity for shot placement. But in my mind, a spot and stalk alligator hunt with a bow sounded alot more exciting! Over the course of the first 3 days of the hunt we tried calling them in from various locations, spotting them from afar sunning themselves on the bank and stalking in on them and were were having trouble getting within a good bow range. I knew I had the boat option as an alternative but I REALLY wanted to stick it out and get it on land. The alligators eye sight and hearing is great, so getting close enough for a good shot was tough; especially with the 850 grain arrow that is needed to punch through their thick hide. I needed to be 15 yards or less! The guide warned me that out of over 720 hunts that he had guided, he had only done 5 of the hunts as spot and stalk, and of those 5 – one got too freaked out and called it off. And these were all men, he had not ever had a woman do spot and stalk before. This just fueled me more. I was taking this beast on land up close and personal!

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Day 4 we hiked out to a little peninsula that stuck out into a huge lake. We had seen several gators swimming in the lake and were going to try to call some in. We were walking single file down the bank and through the marshy grass. I looked down to my right and saw a snake sunning itself on the bank. I pointed down to my right and said “snake” softly over my shoulder to Jayme so she wouldn’t step on it. We walked another 10-15 ft and crouched down in the weeds. I whispered to the guide, “theres a snake right there in the weeds” and described its markings. He said, “oh its probably harmless,” but I could see the wheels turning in his head. A minute or 2 later he crawled over to the waters edge to take a look and came back and whispered, “Uh, guys, thats a Water Moccasin and their deadly, just don’t go over there, and keep an eye out.” Hmm… not too comforting for someone who had never seen a snake in the wild before! Jayme’s eyes were huge and she whispered to me, “couldn’t it just sneak over here in the weeds?” I shrugged, I really wanted a gator so I was just trying to not worry about it. The guide started calling and immediately the gators responded. We joked that he was the “Alligator Whisperer” because when he called vocally rather than using the electronic call – they would make a bee line for him! Right away we could see 5 different gators that were swimming towards us from all different directions. Now you have to imagine: you are on a thin peninsula sticking out with water on 3 sides of you, crouched down in tall grass you can barely see over with Big Old spiders crawling all around you, a deadly snake laying in the grass about 10 feet away and 5 different alligators are headed toward you – responding to a baby alligator call because they think he is in distress and they want to EAT him. I am not gonna lie, our hearts were pounding! One gator was now about 10 yards away out in the water, but everything was under except its eyes. Glen whispered, “thats a female, she’s real close, keep an eye on her she’s watching us.” Jayme’s nerves were getting the best of her and she said, “Oh hell no!” when she realized how close it was and started to slowly raise up and back up. I grabbed the back of her belt and pulled her back down in the weeds. “It can jump from there to here very quickly if it thinks you are food, stay down!” She looked white as a ghost. She kept looking back over her shoulder and I figured she was checking for the snake. Then she whispered, “there is one right behind us” and Glen says, “no I don’t think so.” He and I are focused on the one in front of us which was now moving forward to shore. Glen got a better look and said “she’s about 9 foot, I think you can do better.” About that time Jayme was frantically tapping on Glens shoulder looking behind her, “Glen! It is RIGHT there, I see its CLAW!” and her voice raised a little louder. Suddenly there wa a huge Splash! A gator spun and dove into the water. Not the one in front of us, but a huge one behind us, which Glen later estimated was close to 12 feet long. It had snuck up on land behind us! We were now all shaking, it had been less than 5 yards away, ovbiously watching us, and we hadn’t even known it was there! But there was no time to worry about that because we needed to deal with the one in front of us which now had its head up on shore and was only about 4 yards away. She would easily be able to jump from where she was to where we were in a moment. Glen whispered, “just shoot her right in the forehead.” “What?” I said, I was so confused. “Right in the head, you don’t have a good shot on her anyhow, but she isn’t backing off so that will scare her and she will just swim off.” He’s the gator whisperer so I didn’t argue, I drew and shot her right in the head. My 250 grain, razor sharp broadhead bounced off her like a rubber ball, not even breaking the skin. She spun around with a huge splash and swam off. Jayme and I looked at each other in disbelief, we were both shaking from the last 10 minutes of excitement and finally stood up and walked back up the hill. Jayme said, “my nerves are shot. I am just about over this, its really intense!”

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At this point I knew she was wondering how in the world I talked her into coming with my on this hunt – for only her 2nd hunt ever, and I was feeling a little guilty for putting her in situations where she was afraid for her life! Meanwhile, my mind was racing. I’ve never bounced an arrow off anything in my life. Everything I have ever shot has been a full pass through. Glen explained that I did exactly what he wanted me to do and that he knew it was going to bounce off. He said “that isn’t where you would ever shoot to kill one and even a bullet will bounce off that dense area of the head”. We regrouped and set out for a different area but still in the back of my mind I was thinking, CAN I actually penetrate an alligators hide with my arrow? Maybe I am not pulling enough weight?” We spotted a gator quite a ways off across a lake sunning itself on shore. We hiked out around the end of the lake which took about 20 minutes, careful not to get winded, we came down from above it. This time Jayme stayed back up on the hill, her nerves were shot from 3 days of continuous close calls with gators and I wanted to be sure she was having fun on the hunt! She videoed my stalk down the hill. Glen and I snuck in to about 20 yards and the gator must have heard us in the grass because he spooked and dove into the water. My heart sank; but then he suddenly turned around! I crouched down in the weeds, which were over my head. He was just sitting out about 15 yards away in the water, facing me. Glen was about 5 yards behind me up the bank also crouched down. The gator was looking my direction and seemed to size me up huddled in the grass and decided that I looked like a pretty tasty little snack and he decided to come in for some lunch. I was thrilled that he was coming back to give me another chance. I slowly started to stalk in through the weeks towards the water. Later, Glen told me that he was really impressed with how my instincts took over without him being near me or saying anything, I just started stalking down the bank alone, staying low. He said as he watched me he imagined that I had inherited alot of my fathers natural knack for hunting. My father is a very experienced hunter but is now too ill to hunt anymore, so this comment really gave me a sense of pride. There is no greater compliment than to be compared to him.

The gator continued to come straight at me, but I felt really calm, everything seemed like it was happening in slow motion to me. As he climbed up on the bank and started to slither out toward me, I could see the look in his eyes so well. He was angry and aggressive and there was no doubt that he was planning to make a meal of me. This was the break that I needed to get close to a gator! When he closed the gap and got to 6 yards in front of me I raised up and drew and shot, no bounce off this time! The broadhead went all the way through. The gator broadheads are barbed so they won’t come back out and he spun and dove back into the water where he felt safe, as they do when shot on land. My arrow was stuck all the way through him and was attached with a cord to the reel on my bow. The line deployed from the reel as it should, but the buoy was supposed to pop off the end to float behind the gator so we could go find him but it jammed. Now I had a cord attached to my bow from a fleeing gator and my hand got caught in my wrist sling – due to the heavy tension on the attached line. As the gator swam away, it drug me down to the waters edge at a rapid pace. I could not get my hand out. I was stumbling along thinking, “oh my god I’m going in the water with a wounded alligator!” I yelled out, “Im stuck!” and Glen ran after me, grabbed the bow and pulled to relieve enough tension to get my hand out and then it pulled him out into the water up to his knees before he finally just broke the reel off the bow and tossed it into the water. The buoy floated out to the middle of the lake. Glen walked back up to where I was and we looked at each other and started to laugh, that nervous happy laugh that you do after you have just avoided a disaster. Jayme came down from the hill above us and videoed us as we hugged and I jumped around so thrilled that I had just taken my bucket list animal with a bow at 6 yards! We went and got the airboat on the trailer and went out to retrieve my gator from the middle of the lake. He measured an amazing 10.5 foot Much bigger than I had ever hoped for! I couldn’t be more thrilled with the whole experience. I feel proud that I wanted to do it the “hard” way, that I stuck to my goals and that I harvested an incredible Alligator, spot and stalk.

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Spotting and Stalking with Meghan Simpson

By Meghan Simpson

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Fingers and toes tend to freeze easily during deer season in Alberta. There’s usually a foot of snow by mid November and temperatures are around -20 Celsius. This year was a bit different. I have been hunting whitetails by Edmonton Alberta in mostly tree stands, and I have a trail camera set up and have seen some small bucks and lots of does. This tends to be a good sign, because where there are does there will be bucks close behind! We have only a few inches of snow on the ground and it has been pleasantly warm for sitting in the stand until the sun goes down. This kind of weather makes it hard to get a good stalk on crunchy leaves so my stand is pretty handy.

Besides the whitetail hunting I’m extremely excited because this year I drew a Mule deer tag in southern Alberta! I have put in a specific zone for over five years now and it’s finally my turn to kill a big buck! I designated my dad to be my super guide, which is usually my first choice. We have been on many hunts together and have been very successful as a team. The drive to my hunting zone is four hours from where I live, and we stayed at a bed and breakfast where the cook made homemade meals hot and ready when you want them. This is a bonus, because I was able to get an extra bit of shut eye! It was the end of November and the forecast for the weekend was -30 and close to 30 inches of snow. I decided I had one good day of hunting and since the hunting days are Wednesday to Saturday so I better make it worth while! We left camp around 7am on Wednesday morning , the sun was coming up later and later, so that was the perfect time to head out. After seeing around twenty bucks and over fifty does in eight hours I set my eyes on one specific old boy. He seemed to be quite the stud, since he had four does bedded around him. He was laying on a rock pile like a sheep. After making a game plan we decided to sneak up a coulee and make a stalk. One chest shot later I had my big mule deer! I was lucky enough to get a shot at this great buck the first day, because that night it started to snow and didn’t quit for three days! Lots of hunters were out hunting and hadn’t shot their bucks before the storm, I guess they just didn’t know what a good stalk was!