How to Shoot a Black Bear

judge bearBlack Bear Week on Big Deer continues…

If you’re sitting 40 to 60 yards away from a bait pile, range with a rifle is no issue. But if you’re spotting and stalking, play the wind and sneak within 200 yards of a bear feeding in a snow slide or burn…150 yards is better and 100 is best and generally achievable, since a myopic bear can’t see you. The closer the shot, the better your odds of placing that first bullet perfect.

Where to hit them: A bear feeding his face is not in a hurry to go somewhere. Chill, stay patient and he will turn broadside or quarter-slightly away.

Now one good option is to place your scope’s crosshair for a high shoulder shot. A bear so hit and shocked will drop like a rock. If your bullet breaks both shoulders, he is not going anywhere.

Western bear guide Scott Denny (tablemountainoutfitters.com) is okay with the shoulder shot, but for first-time bear hunters he recommends the good old lung shot, especially when a critter is quartering away.

“Most people are used to aiming behind a deer’s leg and at its lungs, so they’re comfortable aiming there on a bear, rather than trying to take out the shoulders,” he says. Tuck the crosshair behind the top of the shoulder and halfway up the animal’s side. Don’t aim low for a heart shot! A big bear has long hair that sweeps the ground, so it’s easy to shoot too low if you’re not careful,” notes Denny.

Follow-up: I read somewhere that American hunters love to kick back and admire their first shot. That is an excellent observation. We stalk pretty well, aim well, press the trigger, drop our eye out of the riflescope, watch the critter go down and start smiling ear to ear.

Generally that works out, but it is a bad habit you need to break, especially when shooting a bear. After you hit him hard, bolt another cartridge and lock your scope on him. If the critter tries to scramble away or so much as quivers, hit him again with another bullet…and again to stop him for good. Now you can relax and go check the hide, no tracking required.

 

 

How to Bowhunt City Bucks

MT kevin robinsn bucks

People are shooting huge whitetail bucks in small tracts in cities and suburbs where bowhunting is permitted. In Connecticut, northern Virginia, New York—and out in Missoula, Montana.

Last week I filmed a TV segment with Kevin Robinson; the heavy 8-point rack with killer brow tines is from his 2016 Montana suburbs buck. Kevin will tell his story on an episode of BIG DEER TV later this fall, but here are a few of tricks.

When archery season opens in early September, Kevin hunts high in a draw that overlooks town in the evenings. His tree stand is tight to one of two deer trails that run up and down the mountain. He knows these suburban bucks, and if a big deer has not passed his stand by a certain time in the evening, he knows he is not coming on the first trail, but should be walking the second trail. So he gets down, gets the wind and thermals right and sneaks over to one of three ground spots to watch the second trail. That’s how he got the three-beamed buck on the left side of the photo.

Kevin said, “It’s all about scouting and watching early-season deer on their tight and predictable summer pattern.”

MT film kevin

He hunts fairly hard in September, but when October and the “lull” roll around he stops hunting and leaves the local deer alone until later in November. “Not hunting for 4 or 5 weeks, that’s hard to do, but I know how good the hunting will be as the rut comes on,” Kevin says.

In November he typically hunts from a tree stand set lower in the draw and much nearer houses, roads and developments. “Local town bucks that I hardly ever see up high start moving around and looking for does, and the action really gets good.”

For city bucks, Kevin says grunting works well, and a drag line with doe scent can be good in the rut.

Cryptorchidism in Deer: “Stag Buck”

doug stag buck

Have you ever seen a buck in velvet well past September, maybe into November or December, or even with velvet antlers still intact in spring or summer?

Commonly called a “stag,” the oddball buck exhibits unusual antler growth and retains velvet on the antlers due to low testosterone levels.

Scientists refer to this condition as cryptoridism, and it’s rare. It can result from a birth defect or disease that causes a buck’s testicles (one or both) not to drop normally. Or, a buck may injure his privates, say on a wire fence (ouch). Cryptorchidism can occur in whitetails, blacktails (picture above) or mule deer (below).

A stag buck is different, and he doesn’t engage in the seasonal rituals of normal bucks. Cryptorchids don’t rub or scrape as the rut approaches. They lack the chemical stimulation to express dominance or individualism. Their necks don’t swell and they don’t breed. Reproductively, they are stuck in neutral.

A stag doesn’t shed his antlers; they remain in velvet year-round. The fuzzy antlers can continue to grow as the animal matures. Older-age-class cryptorchids can grow to become true freaks, known as “cactus bucks.”

If you see a stag in the woods, take him, you’ll have a rare and interesting trophy. Big Deer TV producer Justin Karnopp did just that one day last fall, and you’ll see the hunt on a new episode of my show later this summer on Sportsman Channel.

oregon stag

 

Amazing Wild Turkey Trail-Camera: Kansas Birds Gone Wild!

 

kansas 83 turkeys and countingMy friend Brian Helman, who lives in southeastern Kansas and works for 180 Outdoors, sent me this image the other day with the message: If you get a chance come on out this spring, these turkeys are waiting on you…  

The more I study the image the more amazed I am. I can definitively identify at least 18 longbeards, and surely there are many more, though some of the black blogs must be hens. Moreover, looking back to the far wood line, I count at least 83 birds marching out into the field, and who knows how many more are still back in the woods?

How many turkeys do you count? Isn’t this the most interesting turkey image you’ve ever seen?

BTW, I hunted deer with Brian last December and had a great hunt, which you’ll see on BIG DEER TV later this year. In fact I hunted a ladder stand in that same field where these turkeys are one evening and saw and filmed a lot of the same birds, though not as many. I definitely plan to return to hunt deer with Brian next fall, but for now I’m thinking I might take him up on it and go back for a few days in April—can you imagine how much gobbling you could hear in those surrounding woods at daybreak?

Note: To enlarge the photo above and get the full effect of it, just click on it.

Clyde Roberts: Oldest Hunter In the U.S. Shoots His Biggest Buck

va clyde roberts 1

Photo by Meghan Marchetti

Last year I posted on Mr. Clyde Roberts and the buck he shot from a tree stand during the 2015 Virginia deer season. Still hunting strong at 103 years young, Mr. Clyde shot his biggest buck ever during our state’s 2016 muzzleloader season.

va clyde roberts

He was hunting in Bedford County that afternoon with his granddaughter, Christin Elliott, who told the Virginia Game Department:

I (saw a deer and) held my hands out in front of me to describe antlers and he just smiled. I knew things were going to happen quickly, so he got the gun up and ready. Papa was so calm when the buck walked out broadside. I knew he was a great buck and time literally stood still for me. I never heard the gun go off, never saw the smoke, just watched the buck fall with one well-placed just shy of 100 yards.

Papa likes to tell everyone that I got so excited after that. Of course I did! Not only had I been able to hunt with my 103-year-old grandfather but I had witnessed him take the biggest buck of his life. Most importantly, I had the hunt of my lifetime with him! It was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my hunting career. I will never forget it. Papa is still on cloud nine and I have relived the hunt every night since.

Interestingly, Mr. Clyde was not always a hunter. He started hunting in his retirement years at the urging of his son Mike—40 years ago.

“I bought him a rifle when he retired to keep him busy,” Mike said. “My father is a very simple person and a devout Christian. He says the secret is ‘hard work and living for the Lord.’”

As I blogged last year, this story makes me proud to be a Virginian, a Christian and a deer hunter. Mr. Clyde Roberts, you are a great man and an inspiration to all of us.

Side note: Our producers are planning to be in touch with Mr. Roberts and his family, and we hope to visit Bedford County and film a TV segment with him soon for an episode of BIG DEER TV to air later this year on Sportsman Channel.