ELK HUNTING WITH A TWIST! A BLOG BY TRACY BARNES

It’s so quiet that all I can hear is the sound of my heavy breathing as I make my way deep into elk country. No wait, I think to myself, I hear a noise. It’s a low grumbling. It gets a little louder, and a little louder still. Then, all of a sudden I hear a squishy, explosion sound followed by a pungent smell. I look down and see the top of my 6 month old’s head. She’s dangling from a front pack and yep, full diaper. The grumbling noises are followed by a happy squeal and then some random babbling. For a minute there I almost felt as if I was sneaking through the woods.

There’s one month until the start of archery elk season in Colorado and I’m doing some scouting. I have been hunting these woods now for over 20 years and my dad before me and we know these woods like the back of our hands. We also know that there are elk in here. My scouting this year is more focused because I now have a baby who requires much of my time and I’ll likely be taking her with me for some of the hunts as my husband will be working during season and the grandparents are out of town. Plus, it’s what we do. We’ve always hunted as a family and I see no need to stop now that I have a family of my own.

I do realize that my strategy for this coming archery season needs to change this year. I used to be in incredible shape and put in miles from sun up until sun down and I could run from one canyon to the next after a bugling elk. But this year I’ll be packing a 7 month old and she’s not only heavy, but not exactly sneaky, stalking material. My normal strategy of spot and stalk may have to change.

Today I’m putting up some game cams deep in the woods to check for some patterns that may make hunting with a baby easier. As I’m walking a long I can’t help but picture myself sneaking up on a nice bull while he’s raking his horns on a tree, unaware of my presence…. that is until the baby on my back squeals with joy at the site of a large animal and waves her arms in the air. Yep, that’s how I envision it. And I got a reassuring message from Kirstie Pike, CEO of Prois when I told her I’d be hunting with my daughter. “LMAO! Some of my worst hunting experiences were with my kids!!! Way to land on your feet!”. I’m not quite sure I’ve landed on my feet, but more likely my head.

So, my expectations are a little different than years past, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it my best effort. I’m an experienced hunter, so I’ll take what I know and try to make the best plan possible, and when that doesn’t work I’ll improvise the best I can.

tracybaby

My plan:

Scout some good locations for some ground blinds, where my daughter and I can sit and wait for an unsuspecting elk to walk by. The ground blind will be equipped with a camouflaged baby tent where Tiegan (my daughter) can move around and play without being seen. It’ll also double as a diaper changing station. Sit, patiently (or not so patiently), in ground blind while the sounds of baby babbling and the smell of dirty diapers fills the air. J

 

I consider my plan to be flawless. (insert sarcasm) But all it takes is one elk to walk by, right?

Plan B: Spot and Stalk and elk with a babbling, constantly moving baby on my back.

Again, another flawless plan….

 

Or so we’ll see.

tracyscout

Two weeks later….

Today Tiegan and I checked one of our cameras deep in the woods on this ridge next to an avalanche chute. She babbled and chewed on my finger most of the way there. It was a great day, with no clouds in sight and a crisp feel to the air, which made it feel like fall was on the way. We climbed the long logging road up to the top of the ridge, cut back into the deep woods, across two avalanche chutes and up to a high ridge. I set up her tent and she played a bit while I got the card out of the camera and set it back up. Just after noon, we were still on top of the ridge. I was feeding Tiegan a bottle and looked across to the other side of the avalanche chute and out walks 2 bulls and a couple of cows. Great! I think to myself, this ought to be a good test. We had to walk/sneak back past them to get to the truck, so I would be able to see how sneaky we could be. I pack up the tent and all our gear and get her in the pack and cut across the chute several hundred yards below the elk.

We (I) quietly move across the trees. I keep Tiegan distracted with a chew toy. We make it to within a hundred yards below the feeding elk. Not even remotely close to being within bow range, but I’m not interested in spooking them, or at least I hadn’t planned on it. As we get to the edge of the trees along the chute. Tiegan cuts loose with some babbling. I look up to where the elk are and sure enough they’ve zeroed in on our location. Luckily the wind is good and they just stare, trying to make sense of the moving thing on my back. Before they figure it out I slip into the trees and head back towards the truck.

This will definitely be an adventure, a difficult one.

This year I’ve put up some game cameras in my usual hunting spots way back in the backcountry. I’ve never used game cameras for scouting before. I’ve always just used them to check out the deer, skunks, raccoon, mountain lions and bears that roam through our property outside of town. And I’m horrible at placing the game cameras too as these are the type of pictures I get….

cowelkIsn’t she cute…

antlerelk

Yeah…the horns from this guy block the entire head of the bull in the water. Just my luck…

elkgamecam

The only 2 photos I got of these bulls. I never get a look at the far one and the closer one you only see a teasing bit of his nose and brow tines….

I’ve gotten a few other decent pictures too…..

bullfullbody

But mostly it’s just nice seeing elk and it gives me an idea as to their patterns and what time of day they are moving. This is important because I’ll likely be spending a lot of time in a ground blind. I’ve never hunted from a ground blind or a tree stand before. I’ve never able to sit still for long enough. So, this will be new experience on many different levels for me. This ground blind won’t be your typical blind as it will be complete with a baby tent and a diaper changing station. The tent’s purpose is so that she can move around and play and not be seen by large animals with great eye sight. I’ll cover it with a camo netting.

BabyBarnes

I’ve been packing the tent with me on our scouting trips and she loves it. It’s great to keep her out of the rain and bugs and gives my shoulders and back much needed rest every couple of hours. Another thing I’ve been doing is practicing a call around her so that she’s used to the noise. She makes a pretty good cow call/squeal, so there’s an added bonus. I’ve also practiced shooting my bow while she’s in the pack on my back. She get’s super excited at the sound of the arrows hitting the target and squeals with joy every time the arrow flies. Yeah, this is going to be an interesting season for sure.

I’ve also been going through some of the things I’ll be packing this season that I normally wouldn’t. Here’s my list so far…

 

Diapers/Wipes

Air-tight Ziploc bags for dirty diapers (to hopefully keep the smell at bay)

Baby Tent

Bottles of milk & baby food

A small toy or two

Extra clothes/layers for the baby

BabyBarnes2

As far as failures & successes go, there is always an adventure and this one will likely not disappoint. So, here’s to family tradition, and keeping a sense of humor about all things….

-Tracy Barnes

BRIDGER RIDGE RUN by Megan DeHaan and Kelly Altschwager

“Fitness cannot be bought, borrowed, of bestowed. Like honor, it must be earned.” – Winddrinkers motto

This all started when two women, introduced by a great company, befriended each other because of similar interests. What once was a simple message, quickly turned into the start of a lifelong friendship and one badass mountain. The Bridger Ridge Run, 2015. It’s said to be one of the toughest mountain races in the country, and Trail Runner Magazine’s top 10 bucket list races for all runners. Soon, one woman’s passion forged its way into another woman’s dream. They were made for each other. KellyMegan

Prois was once again was the “middle-man” in the creation of this friendship. It’s constantly bringing women together with common interests and common ways of life. These two were no exception. Kelly Altschwager is apart of the Prois Staff, a Certified Personal Trainer and Owner of Western Workouts. She works with countless people helping them improve their lives with healthy lifestyles and fitness. Megan DeHaan is also apart of the Prois Staff, Rancher, and is an avid trail runner among other things. She balances an incredibly busy life with grace & is harder working than most.

One day, Megan asked Kelly if she would want to run the infamous ridge with her in 2015. After a few jokes about Kelly’s lack of running skill, she broke down and decided to throw her hat in the runner’s lottery assuming she would never be chosen. It was a safe move she thought. After all, Megan said she “probably wouldn’t get in her first year”. Not long after, Kelly received the confirmation letter “CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made it in!”. An immediate call was sent to Megan full of excitement and fear, if she were to be fully honest. Not long after that letter and that call her training began.

Over the next several months they exchanged phone calls, texts and messages on what to do, how to train and nutrition requirements. In all reality, that’s what Kelly does for a living, but never like this! Never on a mountainous trail in a mountain range she’s never been too?! (The youtube video doesn’t make it look any better either. You can check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qo-La-zkPY) The days of training quickly came to a close. The anxiety was relentless and finally that Thursday in August came and Kelly arrived in Montana at the DeHaan Ranch. It was an instant friendship between both women and their families alike. They wound up talking all night about what was to come, what their game plan was and how excited and nervous they were.

Then, 4:30am came that following Saturday. That dreaded alarm because you didn’t sleep a wink. That holy coffee pot that every runner glorifies. And off they went to the starting line. Several hours of driving, hitchhiking (yes, thats how you get there), and the instant energy you get after that mountain range comes into view behind the trees grew… they had arrived. Wave one starts at 7:00 am, then wave two, and then their wave at 7:10 followed by two more. They were noticed by numerous people right away. Could it btara pice the matching Nathan packs? Or the matching watches? OR, was is that they were the only two women with matching camo Prois shirts and hats? People asked if they were sisters. They laughed and said they might as well be.

Their wave’s starting time neared and they placed themselves in the front of everyone else in that wave. People joked and said they would protect the rest of the runners from wildlife. They were the hunters, they could start first. Then boom, 7:10 on the dot and Megan takes off running and keeps a good pace with Kelly. They soon come to their natural paces as they reach the bowl leading up to Sacajawea and the bag pipes start playing and the spirit of the race takes hold. Sudden addiction strikes, and they haven’t even reached the first summit. Kelly starts thinking, “What have I got myself into? Can I really make this? Sure I can! I got this! Who is that screaming my name? I think thats Megan? YES! It is!”. After a long first climb, they’re on the top of Sacajawea Peak and they about loose themselves in awe of the view. It’s simply breathtaking. You could never fully understand the massive grandeur of it all until you’re standing on the top. Then the epic downhill towards the next saddle and off they go.

Kelly’s husband decided earlier that he would hike several miles up to the halfway point with the kids and take Megan’s oldest along as well. A simple, yet steep (OK, VERY steep) mountain that most kids couldn’t make. But the boys pushed on to watch their momma’s run. They got there 5 minutes before Megan crossed into the halfway point and she lost it. Hugging her son, she told him how proud she was of him for making it all the way up there. It took her about a mile to recover and breathe again. She had been so inspired seeing her handsome boy there cheering her on. Soon after, Kelly came across the same point fresh as can be, hugged her family tight and pushed on. Kelly

The hardest half was over, but the push to the finish had just begun. Megan was going in and out between negative and positive thinking. Could she make her goal time? No way. Wait, she felt better, maybe she could? “Just keep pushing,” she thought. “You can still make it in under your last years pace no problem.” So she pushed on prepared to do just that. She knew her friend was pushing through the hardest race of her life so why couldn’t she do the same? That’s the thing about this mountain, your mind has to overcome what your body is telling you, you can’t do. But you can, and you will, and you will never regret it. It will change you, it always changes you. You can’t go back to the wuss you thought you were, especially after you just overcame that treacherous mountain that most will never attempt.

Megan finally reached Mt. Baldy and knew it was “all downhill from here”. She knew she could bomb down that mountain. She knew it well and knew every last trick in the book. As she reached the aid station she took a sip of gatorade and quickly turned and noticed some downright angel of a person had carried up a keg of locally crafted microbrew…and it was cold. So. Very. Cold. So she drank down a few gulps, took a second to savor the intense moment of happiness, and started down that downhill section. Kelly was making great time and pushing hard and she was feeling more confident than she had expected. And then, in the blink of an eye, the rocks crumbled below her feet and in an uncontrolled instant, went her knee. Her GOOD knee, at that. She knew in that second she had the push of her life ahead of her to finish this thing. Her “I won’t quit” nature kicked in full force. She was ready to conquer. Even if conquering meant limping, which she did, across that finish line. She pushed, she dug deep, she refused to quit and then, she too saw the angel at the top of Mt. Baldy with a cold glass of beer. It was like heavens parted and you could hear “Hallelujah” being shouted from the mountain tops!

It’s at this point though that the work really started. It’s hard enough getting down that torrential downhill slope as it is… and that’s with two good legs. Add a bad knee and a limp and its dang near impossible but it had to be done. Another self pep talk and off the side of the mountain she went. Meanwhile, Megan had crossed the finish line below. She was pushing for another PR this year. She had PR’d every year since she started running this race. This being the 4th attempt, she thought another 30 minute PR would be sufficient. However, she felt like she finally reached that point where 30 minutes was too much to ask. She Bridgerknew she was going to be faster than last year anyhow. And she was, by 19 minutes. Only 11 minutes shy of her goal. Success! (And there’s still next year.)

By 6 hrs and 30 minutes (into the race) within the time Megan knew Kelly should finish, she and Andy (Kelly’s husband) started to get a bit worried. She was pacing well at the halfway point and should have been off the mountain by now. Megan checked with the Hamm radio operators who would know if anyone had gotten hurt and/or couldn’t continue. They said they hadn’t heard anything about her. That was a good sign, but still. Once 7 hours passed they knew something was wrong. Megan asked Andy, “Is she going to hate me when she gets done?” Andy said, “Umm, no. She is going to be pissed at that mountain and she is going to be back next year to prove it wrong!” Sure enough, after the 10th time asking each other “Is that her?”, they saw her. They knew it was her immediately. She was limping, struggling, and fighting the urge to quit. The last few miles are almost quite literally straight down. Megan ran up the end of trail in flip flops with open arms and started yelling up the mountain, “YOU GOT THIS KELLY!!! COME ON GIRL!!!” Kelly soon got down to Megan and being the incredibly friend she is, Megan offered an arm to help her down. Kelly quickly said “NO! I JUST NEED TO FINISH THIS!” Megan laughed loudly, she knew she was going say that. Megan couldn’t have been more inspired or more proud. She let Kelly past and followed her, cheering her the rest of the way down. Kelly collapsed into her family’s arms a handful of gimpy strides later. It was over… Take a deep breath. Let it all sink in.

All the anxiety, all the training, all the mental preparation. Nothing can prepare you for that. Nothing like being up there on that mountain and experiencing the spirit of the ridge. Kelly will be back next year, it’s already been scheduled. Megan has proudly created a monster. This is a story about two women, two states apart, who have the same passion for love and life and beating all the odds. The odds that come fully stacked against you on that ridge. All of this started with Prois, it always does, and it always will. No other company can bring people together in a way quite like this. This is something beyond average or normal. Its exceptional and it’s inspiring.

“You can’t cheat the mountain, it knows how much you’ve invested. It won’t give you anything you haven’t worked for.” – Author Unknown

-Kelly Altschwager and Megan DeHaan

5 Tips to Get Your Dog Ready for Duck Season

Brittingham's Bag of Tricks Dixie returning from retrieving a mark during a training session.

After duck season, our pups tend to get a little loose in their training when we don’t work them regularly. Luckily, it usually doesn’t take much to get your retriever back on task and ready to roll by opening morning. All you have to do is spend a few minutes a day working on these basic drills by yourself or with a friend to get your retriever ready for hunting season.

 

1) Basic Obedience

Every dog needs a little obedience work throughout the year. If pup can’t get it in the yard, he’s not going to do it in the field. By spending 10 minutes in the yard a few times a week doing these basic obedience drills, your first day out in the field will be much more enjoyable for you, the dog, and your hunting buddies.

Alex doing remote sit drills with 8 month old "Dixie" in the yard

Alex doing remote sit drills with 8 month old “Dixie” in the yard

  • Sit- When used correctly, the “sit” command should communicate to your dog to sit and not move until told otherwise. I like to sit my pup on a training mat with a check chord in the yard. I then walk the length of the check chord 360 degrees around the dog. If he moves as I am walking, I command “no sit” and walk in to physically correct him by placing him back in his original location. I do this until he stays seated without movement and then switch directions. If your pup is having trouble, move closer to simplify the task.
Alex working with Dixie on "heel", using a bumper for added distraction

Alex working with Dixie on “heel”, using a bumper for added distraction.

  • Heel- An obedient dog should be focused on the task at hand and work as a team with his handler at all times. Make sure your dog understands this by doing basic heeling drills in the yard with your e-collar. Once your dog is reliably heeling at every pace, incorporate a bumper or other distraction to make sure he understands to always stay with you until released. Doing these basic heeling drills will ensure that you and your pup are both on the same page. If your dog is having trouble, place him on a lead with a pinch collar so you can physically control him until he better understands.

 

2) Casting Drills

Alex casting Dixie to the left "over" pile.

Alex casting Dixie to the left “over” pile.

“Casting” is using hand signals to direct your dog to the bird.  Generally, the four commands that are used are “Sit”, “Over” (left or right), “Back” (away from the hunter), and “Here” (toward the hunter). Keeping your pup’s casting sharp will make things much easier for both of you when hunting season rolls around.

The easiest drill for casting is the “baseball” drill. Put your dog in the remote sit position, and place three piles of bumpers (2 or 3 in each pile) around them. These should be at the left, right, and back positions, roughly 20 yards from the dog. From your remote position, command the dog to retrieve the bumpers one at a time using the “over” or “back” commands with the corresponding hand signals. To increase difficulty, toss a bumper to the pile of your choice and cast the dog to a different pile. This creates suction and teaches the dog that he must retrieve to the pile of your choice no matter what. If he’s having trouble, simplify by tossing a bumper to the pile you want him to go to and then cast him to that same pile.

Another great drill is called “walking baseball.” It’s a bit complicated to explain here, but you can get the full run-down by watching this video demonstration by Evan Graham. If you don’t have a field to train in, head to your local park or soccer fields.

 

3) Training Out of Dog Blinds

Alex teaching Dixie the mechanics of retrieving out of a dog blind.

Alex teaching Dixie the mechanics of retrieving out of a dog blind.

If you plan to hunt your pup out of a dog blind or off a stand, be sure to train for this in a controlled environment. This way, there aren’t any surprises and your dog understands what is expected of him.

 

4) Marking

Dixie in the remote sit position, waiting to be sent for a mark.

Dixie in the remote sit position, waiting to be sent for a mark.

Marking can be a tough thing to train for by yourself, but with a steady dog and 2 or 3 bumpers it can be done. The easiest and most effective way to do marks alone is to do walking singles. Sit the dog in a remote location and walk to the distance you want to throw from. When you get there, throw the bumper and send the dog by yelling his name. You may need to do this from 20 or 30 yards at first to teach the dog the mechanics. Once the dog gets the bumper and brings it to you, sit him and walk to the next location. Repeat 5 or 6 times, making sure the dog doesn’t get too hot. If possible, invite a friend and have him throw for you. If you have a friend with you, stay in one spot with your dog while your friend walks the field and throws singles in different locations at different distances.

 

5) Steadying to Shot

Alex and 6 year old "Nitro" after a successful duck hunt in Oklahoma.

Alex and 6 year old “Nitro” after a successful duck hunt in Oklahoma.

In all the excitement that goes along with duck hunting, it’s easy to pay more attention to shooting ducks than what your dog is doing. Get him excited by shooting guns around him prior to opening day. He needs to know that steadiness is required even with distractions. If you can, take him to your hunting spot and work him out of the blind you’ll be using. This will help to further solidify those obedience rules in the field. Have a friend come along and throw bumpers for you while you shoot. If your pup is having trouble, have your friend shoot the gun while you focus on the dog.

 

Keep It Fun

DSC_0784Last but certainly not least, always remember to keep it fun! I like to release my dog from work by giving them an “Okay, good dog!”. After we are done, I always throw a few “fun” bumpers to let them know they did a good job. I also throw “happy” or “fun” bumpers when a dog is getting stressed during a tough training session. We all need a little break from work at times!

-Alex Brittingham

 

WHO’S READY FOR SEPTEMBER TEAL?

For some, teal season is right around the corner! Who’s excited to get back out on the water and shoot some birds? tealseason

ALL GRRRLS TURKEY HUNT IN KANSAS

by Joni Marie Kiser

In April I had the privilege to attend an all girls turkey hunt in Mound City, Kansas with Wheelers Whitetails. The hunt was organized by Becky Lou Outdoors and my company Rockstarlette Bowhunting was one of the hunt sponsors.  There were a total of 13 ladies that attended, split into 2 groups who hunted 3 days each. My group consisted of 3 girls from my Rockstarlette Bowhunting Pro Staff: Jayme, Ashley and Kate, some new friends Cyndie and Kerry, myself and the always energetic and fun Becky Lou.

Day 1: I am from Alaska, born and raised. I’ve hunted lots of things with my bow, but never turkeys. We don’t have turkey in Alaska so not only had I never even seen one in the wild, but I really had no idea what their calls sounded like, let alone how to make them myself with my cheap calls bought the day before! So after my first morning of sitting in a blind, we all came back to camp to regroup and have lunch. One of men who worked at the camp asked if any of us had tried to call from our blinds. I said, “I did” and got my box call to show him what I had done. He smirked, shook his head and said, “oh no!” He took the call and made a completely different sound from it. Well, I guess that’s why I didn’t see any toms! I laughed at myself and then did some practicing in front of him before heading back out so I wouldn’t scare anything off. Strike one for this Alaska girl! TurkeyHuntingSelfieJJ

Several of us were actually novices at turkey hunting. 3 of us had flown down from Alaska so everything was new to us. Ticks? They do what? We were horrified! Snakes? Brown Recluse Spiders? Hunting in Alaska and avoiding bear attacks was sounding easier and easier!  For the type of hunting that I’ve done in Alaska: black bear, brown bear, moose etc…. We don’t even use face paint (or hunt out of blinds!), so even this was a real change from the norm.  The  “Lower 48″ girls in the group painted the Alaskan girls faces up for us and we headed back out. Jayme and I sat in a blind together. We saw quite a few hens and jakes (young male turkeys), but no toms.  Mike at Wheelers doesn’t allow jakes to be taken, so we were just waiting for mature toms to come in for this hunt. My calling was getting better and we got some answers back. We stayed till last light and hiked out with a pack of coyotes calls getting closer and closer as dark approached.

Day 2: 4 AM again? Good Lord. I barely got to bed and we were back at it. Of the 3 days hunt; the guides took each newbie hunter out for one 1/2 day sit in the blind with them. This morning Jayme and I split up and she went with guide David and I went with guide Mike.  My spot in the woods was near a river. We hiked in in the pitch dark. Once settled it wasn’t long before you could hear all the gobblers that were roosted on the river start to call. For someone who had never heard anything like that before, it was such an incredible experience to hear the woods “wake up”.  Eventually hens, jakes, deer  and finally 2 toms started to come in. However the toms were off to the left of the blind, angled too far back for me to see them at all. As there were no windows/openings on that side farther back. Mike was sitting to my right and could barley see them at an angle and though he called and they answered back and even were making the “drum” sound, they never did get to an angle where I could see them. Regardless, it was a cool experience and I really enjoyed learning from Mike so I headed back for lunch feeling really fulfilled. We hiked back to the truck and started to drive out. But to make things even better, when we stopped at Becky Lou’s blind she had a great Gobbler on the ground with her shot gun and when we got back to camp, Jayme had also gotten one with her bow in her blind with David! I get just as excited when my buddies get something as when I do, so I was hugging them and jumping around. Then we drove the guides crazy taking a ton of photos before finally heading back out. We each had 2 tags but Jayme, being the super loyal friend that she is, refused to hunt any more until I got one, saying she “wouldn’t feel right about it”. So we headed back out to the blind with her as my side kick.

When I had been out with Mike and he called those 2 toms in, I heard them do their drumming sound. I was floored. I had no idea that they did this and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I tried to explain it in camp to Jayme, Cyndie and Kate like this; “you know when you pull up to an intersection next to a guy in a hooptie car and he has all the windows up and all you can hear is the bass pumping and booming from inside the car?” Because that is really what it reminded me of! They looked at me like I was crazy until they each got to hear it for themselves. That night, as we sat in the blind, Jayme and I got to experience it together. First one, then two, then three, finally a total of 5 toms, all in a row came strutting up over the hill towards us and they were all “pumping bass.”  With 5 of them doing it all at once, it was vibrating the tent. We were giddy with excitement; totally in awe, gasping and smiling at each other. They never got closer than 50 yards and even then it was through the trees and I never had a shot with my bow, but it didnt matter. We left the blind that night at dark, totally elated. I didnt care if I got a turkey or not, because I had gotten to share that amazing experience with my friend. It was a once in a lifetime thing for us Alaskan girls. To me, that is really what the hunt is all about more than a trophy in the end, its the beautiful memories that you make along the way. TurkeyJoniField

That night David had headed out with Kate to her blind and Becky Lou had gone with Ashley. They didn’t get birds but learned a lot by having a seasoned turkey guide along with them in the blind. Cyndie however, came home with a beautiful, bearded hen with her shot gun. It was incredible! I don’t even think she realized how rare it was until we all told her. Extra cool for her first turkey ever!

Day 3: 4AM again and Jayme just wasn’t having it. So I let her sleep in and I went out alone. I had fun, but didn’t see any toms just lots of jakes and hens. After lunch she agreed to come back with me since it was the final night of the hunt. I had had a lot of fun on the hunt, learned a lot and seen some really cool things. I felt pretty peaceful about it. Of course I wanted to get something but ultimately I felt happy with my experience with my friends and I know that getting a turkey with a bow can be really tough so I was okay with just having a fun afternoon in the blind with my friend.  We had lots of jakes and hens come in, in fact we had 2 jakes that bedded down less than 2 ft from the blind and took a nap for hours. Then finally 2 toms came in. They were on the left side of our blind and one came right in to 10 yards but stopped right behind the metal feeder leg. He just stood there with the pole blocking him so that I couldn’t shoot. I was ready, just waiting for him to take 2 steps when I heard footsteps off to my right. A deer had come up and was beside the blind, then he winded us. He started stomping his foot and snorting; and the next thing I saw was the turkey disappearing into the brush to my left. Jayme and I looked at each other with disappointment, we thought that was going to be it! I called more and got answers from 2 directions. It was so funny, I would make a call and Jayme would whisper “oh that was such a good one”. I found it really funny that 3 days earlier we had never even heard a wild turkey call and here we now were experts on what made a “good one”.

Finally, another 2 toms came in strutting. They walked straight in and stopped at 10 yards with no obstructions. The larger one was all puffed up, but the smaller tom had mellowed out and was starting to peck corn. I’m not a trophy hunter, I enjoy hunting but I am not concerned with having the biggest or best of anything, I just enjoy the whole experience of the hunt. So I raised up to shoot the smaller tom. Mike had warned us not to shoot a turkey in strut so I was fine with taking the smaller of the 2 toms. I drew back, put my pin on him and was about to shoot when the larger one all of a sudden dropped his feathers down and started to eat. I swung my pin over to him and dropped him. He went face down in the dirt. Jayme who had been tense this whole time watching this all go down, yelled out, “Bird down! Go get em!” Super loud, scaring every other turkey, deer and raccoon that was around us. Things went running, scrambling, flying in all directions. It was hilarious chaos. I unzipped the blind and lept out and ran over to my turkey. On Jayme’s turkey she had taken a side shot through the vitals and afterward, the guide picked it up by the feet and stood on the neck to finish it off. Well we didn’t know anything about turkey hunting and my turkey wasn’t moving, just twitching, but there was no way these inexperienced Alaska girls were taking any chances! So we both ran out and each grabbed one leg, turned him upside down and stood on the neck, just in case! We were giggling and squealing. Normally on a hunt, we’d be hugging at this point but we couldn’t since we were holding up the turkey so we just head butted over top of the turkey and laughed about how Jayme scared the whole forest off with her yell.

I felt really proud that I went from Day 1 never having seen a turkey on my own, to day 3 harvesting one with my bow without a guide! I learned a lot in a short amount of time and got to spend some amazing time in the woods with girl friends. I will definitely be back to the lower 48 to try it again in the future!

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*Joni Marie is owner of Rockstarlette Bowhunting and Full Curl Archery and has harvested a wide variety of big game animals with her bow.

 

PROIS STAFFERS TAKE 1ST PLACE

Christy Turner, Amber Brandly, and Michelle Bodenheimer made Prois proud this weekend at the The National Wild Turkey Federation Camo & Pearls sporting clay tournament! Congrats ladies! ‪#‎proiswasthere‬ ‪#‎sportingclays‬ ‪#‎1stplace‬ Sportingclays

Archery Terminology: Understanding the Lingo!

by Joni Marie Kiser

“I want to buy a bow and get into archery, but I don’t even know where to begin.” I hear this all the time from customers who come in to my archery shop. Reading the specs on a bow, or hearing someone go over the details of it, can be like listening to a foreign language if you don’t know what some of the acronyms and terminology mean. Here are some basic terms and definitions that can make that process a little bit less intimidating.

Draw Length

Draw Length on a compound bow refers to the distance that you draw a bow back until it stops where it reaches your appropriate anchor point (consistent point that you come to in order to begin to aim the bow). On a compound bow this is a very important measurement, unique to you, to be sure that the bow fits you properly. There are some Drawlengtheasy ways to get a measurement of draw length. One of the simplest versions is to stretch out your arms at your sides, parallel to the ground. You then have someone measure from the tip of your middle finger on one side, over to the tip of your middle finger on the other side. This gives you your overall wingspan and then you divide this number by 2.5.  This will give you a relative idea of your draw length.  This method is not perfect; but it will give you a good starting point and you will likely be within an inch of that number depending on what bow you choose.  Draw length can vary a bit based upon the type of bow you choose; so in the end – the bow you pick must be fitted appropriately to you.  The shop that sets it up for you will make sure that your front arm is not over extended when you are at full draw, that you are not “bunched up” trying to get your nose to the anchor point on the string and that your back elbow is extended properly and level.  Going to buy a bow and having a rough idea of what your draw length may be can be helpful however, so that you can ask which bows can be adjusted to your draw.  There are some bows that are cam or module specific bows, meaning in order to make them another draw length you need to put a different cam or module on them to change the draw. Others have sliding modules on them so that they can be changed to any draw length. If you have an idea up front of what draw you might be, it can be helpful for you to narrow down which bows may not work for you.

Axle to Axle

The axle to axle lHTR_Profile_Lostength on a bow refers to the measurement from the center axle of the top cam to the center of the bottom cam. If it is a solo cam bow then this would be from the center of the idler wheel to the center of the bottom cam. How do you know what a good length would be for you? Hunting bows have gotten shorter over the years overall; the limbs are more parallel than they used to be and they are more compact. The majority of hunting bows now range from 28-35 inches in axle to axle length.  Bows that are used just for competition shooting are generally longer axle to axle and could be anywhere from 34-40+ inches in length. This is because a longer bow gives you more stability overall. A longer bow is heavier, thus often ruling it out for some hunters who are trying to shave off weight that they have to pack in.  The length of the bow can also have some effect on the “forgiveness” of it. A longer bow can be more accurate because of the angle of the string at full draw.  If you imagine pulling back a long bow to a 28 inch draw length and then imagine pulling back a short bow to a 28 draw length; the shorter bow will have a much more severe V or string angle at full draw. A deeply angled V can create what is referred to as “nock pinch” and can produce more human input on the arrow itself when it is released; therefore making it less forgiving. A long bow would have a very wide V and would not pinch the nock so much, therefore making it easier to be accurate with. This all becomes more of a concern the longer your draw is.  I have a short draw length of 25 inches. There is much less chance of this being an issue for me on a bow, because I don’t pull it back as far. A man who is over 6 foot tall and has a 30 inch draw however, pulls the bow 5 more inches than I do, and a short bow will get a very severe string angle in the back for him, creating much more nock pinch than I have.  If you have a long draw length, the axle to axle length of a bow can be more of a concern when shopping for a bow.

Brace Height

The measurement of brace height is from the throat of the grip of the bow back to the resting point of the bowstring. Brace heights can measure from 5-8 inches roughly on most bows. A short brace height bow is going to be faster, but less forgiving to shoot. A long brace height bow is going to be slower, but more forgiving to shoot. Most hunters choose something in the middle with a 6-7 inch brace height in order to get decent speed with some forgiveness. An easy way to think about brace height is to think about how long the arrow is on the string. If you are shooting a 5 inch brace height bow; when you pull it all the way back, the arrow stays on the string for a longer period of time until it comes to its resting point – 5 inches from the grip of the bow. Therefore the arrow is faster, it was on the string longer being pushed forward. It is also less forgiving because since it was on the string longer, there is more time for you to have human input on the flight of the arrow before it leaves the bowstring. Generally bows with 8+ inch brace heights are used as competition bows due to their higher level of accuracy but slower speed.

Speed: ATA and IBO

Bows have gotten faster and faster over the years. Most hunting bows now can go from 310 ft per second up to 360+  Any bow rated over 310 ft per second is plenty fast enough to take down anything you would choose to shoot. There are 2 different speed ratings on bows. ATA and IBO. ATA ratings are set and are taken at a 30 inch draw, 70# draw weight and with an arrow weighing 5 grains per pound of draw weight (350 grain arrow). This allows you to compare, apples to apples, different bow brands to see which are faster. Are you actually going to hit these ATA rated speeds yourself? No. Its important to understand that the rating is there so that you can compare bows accurately, however unless you are exactly a 30 inch draw and shooting the same set up – you are not going to attain that exact speed. A 350 grain arrow is very light and is one step away from a Dry Fire (shooting the bow with no arrow in it). Why would companies use such a lightweight arrow to rate their bows? To give them the best possible speed rating! You would never actually hunt with such a light arrow because you would get nothing more than a superficial stick into an animal. An arrow that is heavier is going to carry more energy behind it and once it impacts, its going to carry that momentum forward to pass through the animal. An IBO rating on a bow is similar to ATA but it is not as predictable. To do an IBO rating companies are allowed to use 80# instead of 70# and they may use a 31 inch draw rather than a 30. Unfortunately this can inflate the speed numbers of bows rated only on IBO. There is a lot of talk in the industry about making all companies use ATA in order to be fair, but so far it has only been talk.  If you have an IBO rating on a bow and you are comparing it to an ATA rated bow, keep this in mind. So why might you want a faster bow? More speed gives you a longer effective range to shoot. You have less drop in your arrow trajectory and you have less wind drift. Most bowhunters agree, depending on their bow set up that they are comfortable that they can take an ethical shot between 20-50 yards or so. There are a few individuals that feel confident out as far as 70-80 yards as well. Its important to practice out father than you would actually shoot in a hunting situation and to know your accuracy at different distances and in different conditions. Now that being said, taking a 100 yard shot is possible with many of todays bows at their top speeds and it is a lot of fun. However you would not ethically take that shot on an animal. But shooting long distance in 3D Archery competition etc… can be a lot of fun and can increase your confidence in judging distances and calculating for variations.

Draw Weight

If you are planning on hunting with your bow, it is important to know the hunting regulations on draw weight. For many animals in Alaska like Black Bear, Deer, Caribou, Sheep etc… the legal limit is 40# or more. For thicker skinned animals like Goat, Moose, Brown Bear and Musk Ox the legal limit is 50#. It is important to be sure that it will adjust to a weight that meets and exceeds these limits.  I find most female new shooters start up about 35# or so. The more that they shoot, the more their strength increases over time and they will adjust their weight up.  It is rare that I see women who shoot too much over 50#. On a good bow at 50# of draw weight you have plenty of speed to get a pass through on any animal you choose, as long as you are making shots within your ethical distance rangJoniBirdHuntinge for your speed. I have taken Brown and Black Bears, Alligator, Moose, Wart Hogs etc… which are all thick skinned animals – with a 52# draw weight and have always had pass throughs. I know what my distance limits are for shooting my draw weight and I will not shoot an animal beyond that. The bows are so much faster today than they used to be. My 52# Mathews bow is faster than many of the older bows were at 70#.  Most men that come through the shop shoot bows from 50-70# of draw weight. Depending on what is comfortable for them, whether they have had shoulder trouble etc… will determine where they settle in and are comfortable.  It is important when you are picking out your bow to be sure what the low and high ends of the draw weight are on it. There are some beginner bows out there that go from 15-70#. This gives you a huge range of adjustability and can be very appealing to beginners who are not sure where they will end up settling in. These adjustable bows (such as the Hoyt Ignite or Mission Craze 2) almost always also have large adjustable draw ranges, making them easy to fit to anyone. However because of their larger adjustable ranges you do sacrifice some speed in a less efficient cam system.  They also tend to be shorter axle to axle bows and therefore are not as forgiving to shoot.

Having an understanding of some of this terminology can be very helpful when reading about bows or when visiting shops to look at what is available. There are lots of other variations in bows such as the material that the riser is made out of; whether it is cast, machined aluminum or carbon etc… These can have an effect on the way the bow feels, how heavy it is and how much vibration and noise you experience after the shot. The best bet, once you read about a variety of bows and narrowed down what you are looking for, is to visit your local Pro Shop and try out some models. The grip, the weight of the bow, the draw cycle and the shot – all feel different brand to brand. You will start to tune in on what feels right for you. Ultimately, it is all about what feels the best to you and what you are going to enjoy shooting the most! Once you are all set up on a bow and it has been customized to fit you – you will want something that you can shoot throughout the year for fun – not just during hunting season! With a bow, you get to pull your ammo back out of the target and reuse it! Making it fun and inexpensive to use year round!

Joni Kiser is CoJoniProisDrawSM-Owner of Full Curl Archery in Anchorage. She is a National Factory Pro Staff for Mathews Archery and HHA, a Field Staff for Prois and has harvested a large variety of big game animals with her bow.

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