2015 Nebraska Merriam’s (Part Deuce) – Jeff and Brett Bueltel

20150428_BrettGun3Our first full day had ended in excitement as I had finally taken my first Merriam’s.  With the monkey now off of my back, all focus shifted to getting my Dad on a bird.  It was still early in the week with three full days left before making the journey back East.

The next day was fruitless as we struggled to find the birds.  Our hopes once again were dwindling. We spent several hours in the vehicle glassing potential spots and put several miles on the rental before we finally found another good property to hunt.  It was getting late in the day, so my Dad and I opted to scout/listen that first evening in hopes of roosting a bird for the morning hunt.  We sneaked up to the edge of a field overlooking a vast creek bottom when we spotted a couple of hens working the creek edge heading to roost.  20150428_SunsetAs we sat waiting for darkness to fall, gobble after gobble erupted in the tree-line behind us on the neighboring property.  They weren’t on the property we could hunt, but it was good to know there were several longbeards within close proximity.  We headed back to the cabin and put together a game plan on where to set up the following morning.

As it always seems, the next morning came way too early.  We weren’t exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we woke up, but we were definitely looking forward to hunting the newly acquired property.  After arriving at the property, we grabbed all of our gear and made the trek in to the spot we had picked out the night before.  The sun was already peeking over the horizon as we finished setting out the DSD decoys and got situated in the blind.  Birds gobbled off in the distance, but the mornings hunt ended without laying eyes on a bird. Around noon we headed into town to grab a bite to eat at the local Arby’s and strategized on what we would do for the evening hunt.  Shortly after 2PM we get a text that Rich had finally killed a bird…at the expense of my brothers Hoyt Carbon Spyder.  You can read about their hunt here (Calvin and Rich’s Hunt, Part 1).  20150428_AntelopeWe drove around for a little while that afternoon looking for birds.  As we made our way back to the property to hunt, my Dad noticed a gobbler strutting along a small creek on the property.  I didn’t see anything as I was driving, so we drove down the road a bit, turned around and headed back in that direction to confirm.  Sure enough, as we passed the creek again, we saw a strutting longbeard disappear in the vegetation.

The location was absolutely perfect to get out and attempt to spot and stalk with the bow.  The creek bordered a large stubble wheat field.  The field had a slight rise to the center of it running parallel with the creek which would provide cover for us to make a stalk without being seen.  We quickly turned the vehicle back around and parked in the owners driveway before grabbing all of our gear.  Dad grabbed his bow and rangefinder, and I grabbed the DSD breeding pair, a mouth call, and my pair of Razor HD binos before heading across the field.  Sticking to the west side of the rise in the field, we crept almost 500 yards across the open wheat field in an attempt to get down to the far end of the creek.  After we were certain we couldn’t be spotted anymore, we made our way down to the creek bottom.

We setup and called a few times in an attempt to get the birds to come our direction, but never heard a peep.  We quietly worked our way back in the direction we saw the gobbler until we had made it to about 150 yards away.  We thought maybe we had spooked the longbeard as he wasn’t responding to any of the calls.  About that time I look ahead and see a tail fan sticking out just past some brush.  20150428_Dad2There he was!  With small pockets of brush between us and the bird, we slowly worked closer and closer.  Finally, after sneaking to within about 80 yards, I sent my Dad up ahead to a pile of brush while I stayed back to try to draw the gobbler past him.  I didn’t have much cover, so I laid flat on my stomach and stuck the DSD Jake decoy within arms reach of me.  All of a sudden a bird came around the brush about 30 yards in front of my Dad.  Another bird quickly followed behind the first…neither one was the gobbler we saw before.  No wonder he wouldn’t respond…he had plenty of ladies around.  The birds saw the Jake decoy and slowly came my direction…leading them right past my Dad.  Finally I see the gobbler, and then another gobbler.  As they came within about 40 yards of me I hear an arrow release and the birds scattered.  I met up with Dad to replay the shot and retrieve the arrow.  We couldn’t find any blood, but he assured me that the bird he shot at was hit.  We headed in the direction his bird had headed for several hundred yards when we were just about ready to chalk the shot up as a miss.  Just then, a couple of birds take off in front of us and I see a dark heap laying at the edge of the field.  Bird number 2 for us was on the ground!  We gathered up our gear and headed back to the truck to get pictures!20150428_DadandBrett

It was getting late and a storm was brewing on the horizon.  Calvin had still not killed a bird and the next day was our last day of hunting.  My Dad and I decided to stay put to see if we could roost something after the storm passed.  We roosted a couple of birds and made our way back to town.  After making it back to the cabin, the four of us came up with a game plan for the next day.  20150428_Sunset2Calvin and Rich had a pretty good idea of where a few birds were for Friday, so I decided to buy my 2nd tag and go after the birds my Dad and I had roosted to try to kill one with my bow.  I pulled up Google Maps and studied the aerial maps for the area to pick a spot to set up in the morning.

The next morning found my Dad and I setup in the Double Bull blind on the edge of a freshly disked field with a running creek about 25 yards below/behind us.  20150628_HenFightWe could hear birds gobbling all morning behind us, and every so often it would sound like they were finally heading our direction.  Gobble after gobble, moving parallel to our location for what seemed like an eternity.  Just after 1PM we get another text from Rich…this time there are two birds laying next to each other.  Calvin and Rich ended up doubling that morning!  You can read all about their “Part 2″ here (Calvin and Rich’s Hunt, Part 2).  The birds gobbling behind us were still close and still gobbling so Dad and I stayed put.  Finally a little after 2PM a lone hen made it into the field from our 20150628_GobblerSouth and made her way into the decoys.  She headed right for the DSD upright hen and proceeded to fight the decoy for what seemed like a half hour.  Finally the gobbles got closer and closer and before long my Dad got a visual of a gobbler heading our direction.  Cameras rolling and bow in my hand, I waited patiently for the bird to make his way into bow range.

When the gobbler got to about 5 yards from the Jake decoy he suddenly dropped strut, spooked, and circled around in front of us before hitting the tree line to the North of us.  I quickly dropped the side window and tried to get a shot off, but the gobbler dropped down into the tree line behind the blind.  I dropped a second window and came to full draw but had to let down as he went behind a tree.  He cleared the tree and I came to full draw again.  By this time I couldn’t pan far enough left to get a shot off as the bird moved right to left and had to once again let down.  At that moment I thought my hunt was over. 20150628_Blind I peeked out of the window directly behind where my Dad was sitting and surprisingly saw the bird again.  My Dad grabbed a hold of the window and held it open for me as I came to full draw one more time.  I guess the yardage at a touch over 20 yards and released an arrow.  I heard an impact and the bird twirled in the air before taking off.

20150628_Blind2I replayed the shot in my head several times before heading down to investigate the location of the shot.  We searched and couldn’t find the arrow, nor any sign of a solid hit.  Frustrated, I headed off the direction the bird left to attempt to find some sign.  Finally, about 20 yards away, I found some blood…then some more…and finally a bit more before it disappeared.  We searched for almost an hour and started walking the creek looking in brush piles hoping the gobbler had piled up inside one.  Just as we were about to give up, a gobbler popped up out of the brush only 10 yards away from me!  He headed into another pile of brush on the other side of the creek right in front of where my Dad was standing.  I sprinted back to where I had left my bow and sprinted back to put another Grim Reaper in the bird.  And with that, I had finally punched a Nebraska tag with my bow!

I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off our last full day of the trip!  By weeks end, we ended up killing 6 birds between the 4 of us; Our best Nebraska hunt to date.  Out of the 6 birds we killed, 4 of them fell within the last 2 days of the hunt!  Only 1 more sub-species to go and I’ll have finished my archery Grand Slam with a bow.  Watch out Osceola turkeys…I’m coming for you!

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Bird Stats:

  • 17 lbs. 12 oz.
  • 9″ beard
  • 1″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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Rich and Calvin Nebraska Merriam’s – Part 2

article_2-12If you haven’t already, go here and read Part 1 of mine and Calvin’s 2015 Nebraska Merriam’s hunt.

Our first few days in Nebraska for our annual Merriam’s hunt was nothing short of frustrating. Despite the high hopes and unwavering confidence we had brought along with us, Nebraska had decided to humble us in what would become our most memorable hunt to date. We had never worked so hard to get on birds, similarly we had never before found the success we had on this trip.

article_2-1If you recall, our first “successful” hunt didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. I had managed to put a bird on the ground, but with only 2 days left to hunt, Calvin and I were still puzzled as to what exactly happened earlier in the day. After recovering my bird, we wasted no time getting pictures taken before heading back to the cabin so we could prepare for the rest of the day. The first order of business was to review the GoPro footage from in the blind to see if we could make heads or tail of Calvin’s self-destructing bow. Calvin had an idea of what might have caused him to miss, and a growing ache in his knee made his suspicion seem to be the likely culprit. Sure enough, as we watched the footage, on Calvin’s first shot you could see his bottom cam slightly bump his knee. It wasn’t bad, but it was enough to send the shot low. On his follow-up shot, there was no question about it! His bottom cam hit his knee so hard it nearly knocked his bow out of his hand! Definitely an unfortunate turn of events, but done is done, and with the mystery solved it was time to get back to work.

article_2-11In no time flat, Calvin was feeling confident in shooting my NO CAM out to 20 yards and we headed back out to the same property I had killed my bird earlier. Our plan of attack was going to be identical to the night before. We were going to focus on locating birds, and set up for a hunt if, and ONLY if, a great opportunity presented itself. Patience had definitely proven to be valuable when it comes to killing these Merriam’s, and with 2 days of hunting left, we weren’t in a huge rush. As we pulled up to the property, we quickly gathered our gear and headed back to where we had left the blind. We arrived undetected and took a moment to re-organize everything. It was later in the afternoon and we did not count on much action throughout the remainder of the day. The previous night, the birds had roosted at the very back of the property, and so we decided we would head that way with only the bow and camera to do a little scouting.

As we had expected, we did not see or hear anything the rest of the afternoon. We were, however, able to determine that based on the sign we were seeing throughout the farm that the spot we had set up and killed from that morning was likely going to be our most productive spot. We waited patiently until almost last light before splitting up as we had the night before to listen for gobbling on the roost. Within no time, we had at least 5 different birds located and after a little discussion, we decided to set up in the exact same place as we did that morning. We walked out that night with smiles on our faces, feeling confident that tomorrow we would once again capitalize on our patience and scouting efforts.

article_2-2Morning, as it often does, came far too quickly. Despite a few moans and groans, we made ourselves get out of bed and head back to the blind. We were running a little late, and as we arrived at our blind we could already see the sun starting to peak over the horizon. We got settled in the blind as quickly as possible and sat waiting patiently for the morning to come alive. Much to our surprise, a few birds began to gobble west of our setup. We were positive that we did not hear these birds gobble the night before. They were considerably closer, and from the sounds of it they were roosted up near to the property we had hunted the first few days we were in town. We tried letting out a few soft clucks and tree yelps, but the birds did not seem to be answering us. We decided we would just be patient and wait them out. Shortly after they started gobbling, they went silent. Throughout the rest of the morning, we heard a few occasional gobbles and saw only a single lone hen. Feeling a little tired with the warmth of the morning sun beaming down on our blind, we both decided to relax a bit. Following our typical routine, Calvin and I were both paying far more attention to our phones than our surroundings when a bird gobbled only a few hundred yards away. It was not the close startling gobble my bird had let out the morning before, but it was something. We tried to call to the bird, but he simply would not respond.

For the next hour, we sat and listened as the bird(s) gobbled every 5 to 10 minutes. It was clear that they were either unable to hear our calling, had hens with them, or simply didn’t care about what we were trying to tell them. Either way, our patience was exhausted; It was time to act. We decided that I would slip out of the blind and try to get a little closer to the birds. If I could not pinpoint their location, I would simply set up and call in an effort to lure them in closer to Calvin.  With any luck, they would at least come into the field and see our decoys. I moved in their direction and set up at the point of a small draw and let out a few yelps. Nothing. But a few moments later, they let out a gobble. They still sounded a decent ways off, but I was certain that there were two of them now. I waited for about 20 minutes and tried to call a few more times, but the result was the same. They would gobble periodically, but it was evident they were not answering me. All the same, there were two birds gobbling, and we decided to pack up and go after them.

article_2-6We made our way cautiously to where we thought they were hanging out, but when we got to the edge of the field, they were nowhere to be seen. We had been extremely quiet, but knew there was a chance that we would spook them. Despite that possibility, we continued onward stopping every few steps and glassing the field ahead. We decided that instead of moving any further, we would wait and see if they gobbled again. It took what seemed like forever, but soon, they each let out another gobble. They were still about 150 yards away but they were not far. We put our heads together and quickly decided we would move up close to a big set of power lines before setting up the blind. We put out the DSD decoys and retreated back to the blind. As I moved a few items around in the blind, Calvin began setting up the camera and motioned to me to start calling. I began a short sequence of yelps followed by a few soft purrs and clucks. The birds did not answer as we hoped, so I turned to help Calvin situate the rest our gear. I grabbed my Red Bull and kicked my feet out ready to relax. Immediately I heard a bird…but it was not the sound I had expected. I could hear wings dragging and two birds purring to our right…I nearly fell out of my chair in an effort to get Calvin’s attention. It was no wonder they did not answer my calling, they must have come in on a dead sprint straight to our setup. Just like that, they were suddenly right in front of us. Two beautiful birds in full strut circling our decoys. I don’t know who was more surprised, Calvin or myself? I watched and had to bite back my laughter as Calvin slowly worked his hand down my bow inch by inch, trying not to make too much movement. article_2-3I wanted him to grab that bow and shoot so bad that I was nearly ready to scream when finally the birds began to move in towards the DSD Jake. At that point, it was obvious they were completely unaware of anything else in the world as Calvin came to full draw. I looked briefly to make sure that big knee of his was out-of-the-way before returning my attention back to the two strutters in front of us.

article_2-4At last, Calvin’s chance had come…it was time to settle down and make this one count. As soon as Calvin applied pressure to his Carter release, I saw the arrow streak forward and strike the closest bird. I was positive it was a good hit, but both birds jumped and gobbled. As soon as they landed, both began to strut again, I stared in disbelief reliving yesterday all over again. Calvin knocked another arrow and just like the previous morning, I whispered over some words of encouragement. I knew he had this, he just had to be calm and execute. Again, he released, and this time there was no question his arrow had hit true. The Grim Reaper did quick work as the bird ran only a few feet before piling up.

article_2-7We started to celebrate, but before we could throw the first high-five, the second bird went back into full strut and started slowly walking towards Calvin’s downed bird. Without
hesitation, Calvin handed me the bow and I nocked another arrow. I tried to quietly shift over to his side of the blind, but in my haste, I punched my Grim Reaper tipped arrow clear through the front of my blind. I even managed to kick over my Red Bull which hit one of the legs on the camera tripod. It was with complete amazement that I looked up and the second bird was still there at 5 yards. No wonder they had not been gobbling, this bird must have been deaf! Whatever the reason, he was still there, and I quickly drew back my bow and settled the single pin on my Spot Hogg Hogg-Father. article_2-8I slowly applied pressure to the thumb barrel on my Simple 1 release and sent the arrow on its way. It struck the bird right where his tail feathers all came together and he went down in a heap. Now there was no more being quiet, Calvin and I erupted in congratulations and cheers. Once again, Calvin’s hunt had turned into “Our” hunt, which had a much better ending.

We could not believe it. article_2-9At the start of the week we were uncertain if we would even see a bird, and now between the 4 of us in camp, we had put down 6 birds in just over 4 days.
Our 5 year quest to have each of us tag a Merriam’s with our bows had finally come to a close. There were many ups and downs, but the memories we have made each year in Nebraska continue to be some of my favorite hunting experiences to date.

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SELFILMED Hunting Gear:

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“The Monkey is Off My Back” – Brett Bueltel 2015 NE Merriam’s

The 2015 turkey season began much like the past several years have.  Opening day quickly approaching and I’m not nearly ready for it to begin.  I had obviously been looking forward to season beginning for several months, but with working a full-time job and other life events in general, it always seems to sneak up on me.

We had decided to head out to Nebraska for our annual turkey hunt a few weeks earlier this year in an attempt to get at the birds before they were able to be pressured by other hunters.  If you have read any of my previous articles covering my turkey hunting success, you’d notice that Nebraska certainly hasn’t been too kind to me in the past.  From missed shot opportunities to plain bad luck, it seemed like the Merriam’s turkey was always just a step ahead of me.

20150601_Scenic1We arrived a little later in the afternoon on the first day, grabbed a bite to eat at a local favorite BBQ place and headed out in search of some birds to hunt the next day.  Our searches seemed futile, and by the end of day one our excitement had already began to dwindle.  My Dad and I headed out right before sunset in an effort to roost a couple of birds.  Not a single peep.  We headed back to camp to regroup, and fortunately, Rich and Calvin were able to roost a couple of birds for us all to set up on the next morning.

20150428_MuleDeerThe next morning we awoke to a coughing roommate.  Rich had been battling a little bit of a cold and without being able to go more than a couple of minutes without coughing, elected to pass on the first mornings hunt.  My Dad and I setup several hundred yards away from an old home site while Calvin setup a few hundred yards in the exact opposite direction.  We sat until about noon and after only seeing a lone hen, decided it was time to pack up and try to locate more birds.  We split up and covered a lot of ground, not having any luck.

After covering miles and miles of back roads, we finally spotted a couple of birds working away from us along a fence row.  We were able to track down the property owner and gained permission to go after them.  Being that I had yet to kill a Merriam’s I grabbed my bow and my Dad stayed close behind with the 12 gauge in hand.  I stalked slowly along the fence row until I was within about 30 yards of the strutter.20150601_Scenic2

I came to a point along the fence row where I couldn’t continue on unless I crawled under the fence.  Doing so would put myself at risk of being spotted, but I had no other choice.  I decided it was going to be almost impossible to belly crawl my way into range, pop up, and draw my bow, so I grabbed the gun from my Dad before making my way under the barbed wire fence.  The field side of the fence row was at a lower elevation with thicker/taller grass outlining the fence.  The tall grass helped to conceal my advances as I made my way closer and closer to the flock.  I belly crawled, inch by inch, for what seemed like an eternity.  I slowly lifted my head to try to see where the birds were located, when at no more than 3 yards away, a hens head popped up out of the tall grass.

20150601_Merriam1Crap!  She putted and several more heads popped up a couple of yards away.  I hastily made it to a kneeling position and sought out the longbeard.  There he was, still in full strut!  He was oblivious to what had startled the hens.  I shouldered the gun, drew a bead on his head and squeezed the trigger. BOOM!  The shot rang out and less than 20 yards away laid my first Merriam’s!  I let out a loud yell of excitement as my Dad made his way around the corner to make sure I had connected.20150428_BrettGun2

I had finally kicked that monkey off of my back!  After a few minutes of reliving the stressful seconds leading up to the shot with my Dad, it was time for pictures!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my hunt.  Several more Merriam’s hit the ground, and this time it is with the Hoyt!

20150428_BrettGun3

Bird Stats:

  • 17 lbs. (estimated weight)
  • 7 5/8″ beard
  • 11/16″ and 3/8″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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Rich and Calvin Nebraska Merriam’s – Part 1

There is little that gets me more excited than the thought of our annual Nebraska Turkey hunt. Each year as the trip approaches, my mind cycles through endless scenarios of how I’m going to arrow my Merriam’s. We all dream of that quick slam-dunk hunt where you nail a bird right off the roost, and every once in a while you get just that. Yeah sometimes, but then there are the other times. The times where the birds leave you standing in frustration; wondering why you drove 1200 miles only to chase your own shadow.

2015 was one of those years. Almost from the minute we arrived in Nebraska, the odds seemed stacked up against us. The bird numbers appeared to be down, and landowners we had established good relationships with in the past were reluctant to let us hunt.  Others refused us permission altogether. Very few people were seeing birds, we had extremely high winds, and to top things off I wound up with a nasty cold that kept me in bed on morning number 1. By the end of day 2 in Nebraska, Calvin and I were at a loss for words. Had we really come all this way to get shut out? We stood and watched the sun sink below the distant horizon and listened to birds gobble in the distance, right then, we resolved that we would not go down without a fight.

The next morning, we threw together a quick game plan, hopeful that we might at least get a better idea of where the birds we heard the night before were roosted. However, much like the previous morning, the birds were silent on the limb, and as the morning hunt camarticle_1-1e to a close, we elected to pack up and head to town for lunch. Just as we were about to leave, I happened to look down on my phone and saw a local area code calling. I quickly snatched up my phone and answered the call. It was exactly what we had been waiting for. Long story short, our accessible acreage had just gone from approx. 85 acres to nearly 1000. Talk about a confidence booster! We were finally in business, and it was time to plan.

Much like previous years, we decided to take things slow on our newly accessible ground. We had never before set foot on it, and we were hesitant to go stomping around and possibly spook birds. We slowly scouted along the field edges and occasionally called in hopes that if we did wander up on a bird, he would sound off alerting us to his presence. It took several hours, but we finally spotted a lone tom making his way over a ridge north of our location. We waited patiently for him to crest the hill and then slowly made our way to the last spot we had seen him. The opposite side of the ridge gave way to several draws, marticle_1-4ost of which were extremely steep rocky ledges. Only one of the draws, consequently the one he was headed right towards, had a nice gradual slope leading down into the big valley towards the property boundary. Confident that the bird we just saw had left the
area, we set out to search for the best location to set up a blind. One particular spot kept bringing us back over and over, it was at the point of the draw the bird had just left in. Where an old roadbed came up and intersected with the dirt road that ran through the middle of the property, there were turkey tracks every which way we could see. It was obvious this was a spot that birds came to, and frequently by the looks of things. We quickly set up the blind and split up to see and wait for the birds to start gobbling on the roost. Just like the past two nights, the birds started gobbling towards the back of the property. None were as close as we had hoped, but they were much closer than the previous setups. With that, we decided to leave our blind where it was, put out the DSD decoys, and quietly retreated back to the vehicle. It had been a rough couple of days, but we knew our bad luck was about to change.

No more than I lay down and closed my eyes, the alarm was sounding off. I felt like I had gotten no sleep, but we were too excited to let that deter us. Today was our day. The plan was for Calvin to shoot first, and then we’d quickly get on another bird for me. We gathered all of our gear, got dressed, and then headed to the blind. We got there in plenty of time and had over 30 minutes to get organized and ready before the first bird gobbled. Once they started, they didn’t stop. For nearly 40 minutes, they hammered on the roost. We kept our calling to a minimum, but every time we made a peep, they would gobble back. The kept it up until they hit the ground, and then the gobbling slowed. Occasionally we’d hear a gobble, and several times we heard hens behind us. But never did we get anything to come in more than a few hundred yards away. We let out occasional yelping sequences, and around 10 AM, we decided to let things be for a bit.

I decided it was time for a nap, so I moved my blind chair and plopped down in the grass for some rest. No sooner than I closed my eyes however, a bird let out a thunderous gobble less than 75 yards away! Now this was the sort of wake up call I wanted to hear! I nearly jumped out of my skin and hopped back to my feet. I hastily but quietly positioned my chair back in place and sat down. We waited a few minutes but never heard anything else. Calvin let out a soft purr and was instantly cut off with another gobble. I slowly leaned forward, and just as I did, I saw a big old red-head pop over the crest of the hill. As soon as he saw the DSD decoy spread before him, he went into strut. It had been nearly a year since article_1-3I heard my last bird drumming and was completely taken back by the beauty of this bird standing only 20 yards away. As he slowly approached the decoys, I could hear and see Calvin’s knee shaking. I whispered over some words of encouragement and watched as the things began to unfold. The bird was unsure at first whether to whoop the DSD Jake or get to know the DSD Submissive Hen a little better. Finally, he decided that the DSD Jake was too much and decided to show him who was boss. Within seconds of his first wing slap, Calvin had his bow raised and at full draw. He slowly setarticle_1-2tled his pin and released. Immediately, the bird took flight, but only went a short distance. Calvin said he hit him good, but as soon as he landed, the tom started to strut again. I told him he better get another arrow knocked and put a follow-up shot on the bird. We both scrounged around the blind searching for Calvin’s quiver. Finally he found it and nocked another arrow. The bird was now about 15 yards away by the time Calvin drew back again and settled in for the second shot. I quickly told him, “breathe, this is a simple shot, just take your time”. He released and I watched in amazement as his arrow hit almost 2 feet in front of the bird. That was the least of my surprises. As I looked over to ask Calvin what happened, I saw that his bowstring was completely derailed off of his cams.

NO! This couldn’t be happening! We had worked so hard, our bad luck was supposed to be gone. I was so shocked, and felt so bad for Calvin that I nearly forgot that my bow sat just to my right with an arrow already nocked. Amazingly, the bird had only gone a short distance and was just slowly walking away. I grabbed my bow and ripped it back to full draw.  I estimated the bird to be at about 25 yards, settled the pin on my Hogg Father and released. This time, there was a distinct thud and the tom flew away with my arrow through his back. It looked like a good shot, but I was still too stunned to think. What on earth had happened to Calvin’s shots? How on earth did we come so close to messing this hunt up? I wasn’t sure whether to scream in frustration or excitement. I was only slightly pumped that I had put an arrow through this bird, most of my thoughts were sympathy for Calvin.

Calvin being the person he is, was not deterred, he was just thankful we had accomplished our goal. He was irked to be sure, but he knew what we had come to do, and it did not matter who got the job done. What had been his hunt, quickly turned into our hunt, and our hunt was a success…despite the obstacles along the way.

article_1-5We slowly organized our stuff, and after about 20 minutes decided we would get out and start looking for my bird. We quickly came across the spot where he landed after taking off after the shot. There were feathers everywhere and a decent amount of blood. Unsure whether the bird continued along the field edge or made his way down the draw, we split up to maximize our search efforts. Within minutes Calvin called out that he had found my bird. I sprinted back up the hill and made my way to the bird he was pointing out laying before us. As I picked him up, Calvin came up and greeted me with a smile and a high-five. Still slightly at odds with my feelings and the turn of events, I was thankful that we had finally put a bird down on the ground. We had pictures to take and more birds to kill! There was nothing else that mattered at that point more than getting Calvin some redemption.

Redemption would come, but not without a little more excitement! Stay tuned for part two of mine and Calvin’s Nebraska Merriam’s hunt

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North Carolina Turkey Season for the Ages

GamePlan Gear Bow bat also converts to a tom's pillow

GamePlan Gear Bow Bat also converts to a tom’s pillow

Two weeks prior to the opening weekend of the North Carolina spring wild turkey season, I was running four trail cams on three different farms and getting up early most mornings before going to work to locate birds. The past couple season I had not done my homework, and ended up having to work my tail off to just get close to tagging a bird. This year was going to be different!

As my alarm sounded off on the morning of opening day, I headed off to the farm to meet up with my brother for what would soon become the best Spring turkey season I could have imagined. There would be no standing around till daylight, or easing into a position to blow an owl call to locate the birds on the roost. I had made the decision the day before with 100% confidence that we would be in the best area to tag a bird shortly after daylight. We loaded up with a blind, bow, cameras, and an entire flock of DSD decoys before hiking 500 yards to a knoll in the corner of the pasture and 30 year old pine forest.  This was the location where I had been seeing the most activity on trail cam as well as morning sightings. I looked at my watch, 8:30am. We had only heard a faint gobble in the distance shortly after daybreak and my heart began to sink. Our first morning was a bust and had me questioning my abilities. It seemed that no matter how much preseason scouting, preparation, and footage I had of birds on the farm, I was going to have a hard month of hunting ahead of me.

Let’s fast forward to noon on the first day of season. I had seen 3 Toms hit the ground (brother/dad/mine), and called  a total of 6 toms all within 10 yards. Even though all of these birds were killed with shotguns, and not on film, it was by far our best opening day ever.

Dad and I double on the opener

Dad and I double on the opener

With my first tag punched and my best farm un-hunted, my confidence was back to tag out on the second day of season with my bow. I made it to the farm well before daybreak, loaded down with all my SELFILMED gear, and made trek into a bottleneck end road bed between two patches of big hardwoods. The spot was flanked by a two acre cornfield to the NW and a 30 acre cornfield to the SE. This was a turkey killing spot. After getting all my

decoys, blind, and gear setup I had about 15 minutes to spare before first light. I leaned back in my Huntmore 360 and rested my eyes as I prayed for a beautiful hunt.

Right after first light, three birds sounded off just to the west edge of the small field a mere 80 yards from my spread. SFBLOGARCHERYSETUPStill running on the adrenalin of the hunts the day before, I was excited to hear these birds so close. Shortly after fly down and a few clucks on my slate, three jakes and four hens (one bearded) were in the decoys and bullying my DSD Jake (Frazier).  It was easy to lay off the three jakes and not get trigger happy as they put on a great show at five yards. The bearded hen, however, had me torn. I had set the blind up right next to my trail cam that had been getting multiple pictures every morning and afternoon of Toms. More or less that trail cam saved the bearded lady.

Frazier Cam

Frazier (decoy) Cam

The time was now 12:00pm and the birds were still within 80 yards of me.  With every call the jakes would gobble.

They had not left my sight all day, but I had also not seen a single Tom. So I cleared out a spot in the blind to stretch out for a bit. At 1:25pm I awoke from a quick power nap and eased up to the window to peak out….50 yards out in the corn stubble…same three jakes. What had already been a long day, seemed to be getting longer. I made my way back into my chair and decided to make a few yelps on my slate. I hit the slate; yelp…yelp…yelp,yelp,yelp. The

Trail cam photo seconds before impact.

Trail cam photo seconds before impact.

three jakes sounded off right on cue. Then a lone bird to the NW of my setup sounded off at around 150 yards. I throw my gloves and mask on and hit the call one more time; yelp….yelp…yelp, this time the only gobble was the lone bird to the NW who had already covered a lot of ground and was directly behind the blind at 50 yards.

As I start to ready my camera and grab my bow, the jakes take off by the blind in the direction of the lone bird. I can hear them fight in the woods behind me. Shortly after, I hear foot steps running thru the leaves behind me headed right toward the

blind. I ready my bow and out pops a nice mature bird at 4 yards. The jakes then tear back thru the woods my direction.   The Tom pops up and spurs my jake decoy as the other jakes come in and start fighting the Tom. The Tom is not leaving the decoy spread. After a few gobbles from the jakes, and the Tom working on Frazier, I see my shot opportunity. I get my Elite Energy 35 to full draw and pin buried, I begin to squeeze off my Carter Fits Me release and…thwack!

No Clue. Freeze frame

Video still frame – No clue what hit him

The Tom turns quartering towards me, and stands there for a split second stunned with the arrow and Grim Reaper Whitetail Special sticking halfway out of his chest.  He has no clue to what has happened, and soon takes off toward the blind.

Grim Reaper creating a little drag. Two foot from the blind!

Grim Reaper creating a little drag. Two feet from the blind!

He cross right in front of the blind at 3 feet and drops at 6 yards. By 1:45pm on the second day of season, I was tagged out with two birds coming in with a total of 21″ of beards and 4 5/8″ of spurs.2015 Archery Bird

The 2015 North Carolina spring turkey season was one for the ages! It ended with me tagging out in the first two days, getting my brother on his second bird a week before the season was closed, and going with a few friends and giving them good opportunities to connect on birds. With the numbers of birds I have seen this year, it seems the flock is healthy and looking good for the coming years!

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2015 NWTF Convention

nwtf1 Amidst the endless echo of yelping hens and constant gobbles, it’s easy to find yourself daydreaming of that next longbeard racing to meet his fate at the hands of an all too realistic flock of Dave Smith Decoys. And while it’s not quite as fun as sitting in a blind, the annual NWTF Convention comes close. As I race northbound ahead of winter storm Octavia, I find myself thinking of warmer times to come, but also I reflect on the great memories made at the convention this year.

For those of you who have attended the convention before, you know this isn’t just another hunting show. Of course, many of the similarities exist. Retailers setting up booths, selling goods, showing off new products for the year, but there are many things that set the NWTF Convention apart from other sporting shows. For starters, it has found a home at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. That alone makes this convention exciting and worth your while. Filled with beautiful atriums, a quarter-mile long river system, numerous waterfalls, and many more exotic features, the Gaylord is second to none when it comes to luxury hotels.

With so much fun and excitement packed into one weekend, it’s hard to pick a place to start. But for me, my favorite part of the convention is meeting and talking with some of the greatest turkey hunters to walk the earth. While browsing through the Primos booth at the show this year, I was greeted by a gentleman asking how I was doing. I was not completely sunwtf5rprised, but still taken aback to look up and see Will Primos standing before me. It’s not often you get to see, let alone pick the brain of a hunting legend, so lets just say I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass. Not only did we get a chance to talk nwtf2turkey, but when I asked a question regarding my double bull blind, Will was quick to introduce me to the Primos Product Manager who oversees Double Bull. Talk about customer service! When was the last time you talked to the president of Apple in order to get assistance with your iPod?

So, this one encounter is cool to be sure, but it does not exactly explain in detail why the NWTF Convention is so awesome. And yet at the same time, you can begin to paint a picture of what makes the convention such an attraction. Occurrences like the one I laid out above happen frequently, and if you’d like to talk to your favorite hunting celebrity, you likely won’t have to try too hard to make it happen. But what about the guys and gals who aren’t so celebrity like in nature, well they are in attendance too. One group of individuals you will find in no small shortage are the many representatives from state wildlife offices. Over the years we have made it a habit to stop by the Nebraska DNR booth to gather info for our annual pilgrimage to Nebraska for Merriam’s. Talk about good people to network with!

Ready to make the trip to Nashville next February yet? Honestly, I could spend hours and hours of my tnwtf3ime writing about the great experiences I’ve had at the convention, but really, it is just something you have to experience for yourself. Between the calling competitions, seminars, and numerous other events hosted each year, the NWTF Convention simply provides one of the best experiences you can imagine if you are anything close to a turkey hunting enthusiast.

Last but certainly not least, the convention provides an awesome opportunity to join the NWTF. At $35 dollars, you can get your annual membership and free admission to the convention. And for the past few years, members have also received a $25 dollar gift nwtf4card to Bass Pro Shops. If you ask me, that is a pretty good bargain and one I am all but certain to make for years to come. I highly suggest you take the opportunity to experience the annual NWTF Convention, but even if it’s not in the chips, I would encourage you to join the NWTF. You’ll search hard and long before you find a more dedicated organization to such a worthy cause.

For more information on the NWTF or the NWTF Convention, be sure to visit them at nwtf.org.

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2015 ATA Show Recap

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The 2015 ATA show has come and gone, and as usual, the SELFILMED crew was onsite to report on the action. I myself have been fortunate enough to participate the past two years, and I have toata5 say, the ATA show is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated trips of the year. Along with the excitement of seeing all of the newest products on the market, it is a great opportunity to see old friends and make new relationships alike.

I remember in my days prior to attending the ATA show, I heard many people say things like “the ATA show isn’t that great”, “I don’t really think it’s worth the trip”, or “the ATA show really isn’t a big deal”. Well let me tell you, the ATA show is a BIG deal! Imagine everyone in the iata3ndustry, big or small, all gathered together under one roof. That’s the ATA show for you. Manufacturers, personalities, consumers, they are all there. One of the best things is you can go up and speak to any of them at will. This isn’t necessarily the venue to get star struck over your favorite hunting celebrity, but it is certainly feasible to have a conversation with them, and perhaps even a long one aata6bout what has helped them along the way. The ATA show is a place where relationships are made, ideas are shared, and where the archery community comes together as one.

Now I know all of that sounds really serious, and I know that it is. But let me tell you what else the ATA show is, the ATA show is fun! If you are like me, you have checked your mail before, only to find you received your annual copy of the Cabelas hardback edition master catalog. You browse for hours upon hours, dreaming about the new gear you will buy. The ATA show lets you do the same thing, but you don’t just look at the products, you pick them up and handle them. Shoot a new bow, sit in a new treestand, you name it. It is safe to bet if it’s made for bow hunting, it’ll be at the ATA show.

If that isn’t good enough, any questions you may have on a new or possibly older product you own, can be right then and there. And often times, you can ask the folks who literally thought the product into ata1existence. Who better to ask about your Carter release than Forrest Carter himself? Or if you have purchased one of the many great products from Firenock, but you just don’t quite understand how to maximize it’s effectiveness, Dorge Huang would be more than happy to set you on the right path. To have this opportunity alone makes the ATA show worth attending.

Aside from all of the functional perks, it is amazing just to think about all of the time and energy that has to go into setting up such a huge show.  To see the extravagant displays some of the companies setup really speaks well to how excited they are about the products they make. After all, making a quality product is only half the battle, and adding in a great presentation never hurts your business.

And speaking of presentation, if you are one of those people who got to the ATA show in a rush like I did and didn’t really haveata4 time to prepare your personal presentation, have no fear…hair cuts were being given on site! I mean really, who wants to go make new friends when you haven’t had the time to properly groom yourself.

One last thing I should mention, for those of you who don’t already know, the ATA show is not an open to the public event. And despite all of the fun to be had there, at the end of the day, the ATA show is focused on business. One thing is for sure, if you have a chance to attend, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

For more information on the ATA show and how to get there, visit their website at http://www.archerytrade.org.

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Sitka Gear – New Whitetail Line – Elevated II

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This year at the 2015 ATA show, Dennis Zuck, Whitetail Category Leader for Sitka Gear was kind enough to give us a look at their all new Whitetail line of hunting clothing. Over the years, I have grown used to the exceptional quality of clothing that Sitka Gear produces. But this year, they took things to a whole new level starting with a completely re-engineered pattern, Elevated II.

Elevated II plays successor to the original, and highly successful Optifade Forest pattern. Elevated II was designed using the same scientific principles as its predecessor, however Elevated II now sports a higher level of contrast throughout the pattern. Still considering the micro/macro pattesitka4rn science for those close encounters, the higher contrast now allows Elevated II to break up your silhouette better at longer distances as well. Another great thing about Elevated II is that by introducing lighter tones, the pattern works better as an all season camo where as Optifade Forest was less suited to the inevitable change in the fall foliage.

Elevated II by itself was a huge hit for SITKA GEAR this year, but it was far from the only change introduced at the ATA show. Nothing was safe from internal scrutiny as SITKA GEAR put everything back on the drawing board. Starting with new materials, SITKsitka3A GEAR rebuilt their entire Whitetail line to better meet the needs of the treestand hunter.

I won’t go into the Sitka Gear methodology in terms of why they develop their clothing the way they do, I’ll leave that reading to you. If you care to study up on the company, you can find all of the information you need HERE. Instead, I’m going to delve right into the new products and enhancements made for 2015.

To start things off, we have the CORE series. These are considered to be next-to-skin/base layer garments. Sitka has introduced 10 new items to their CORE series, 8 of which contain their Polygiene Odor Control Technology. Within the CORE series, there are 3 standard weights, Lightweight for early season, Midweight for cooler temperatures, and Heavyweight for those days the thermometer bottoms out. Each item is designed to provide optimal results in it’s respective temperature limitations. And a great new feature for the CORE series tops, they all feature an extended tail in the back of the shirt to make sure you don’t get any unwanted breezes.sitka2

Next are the insulation layers. Sitka has introduced two products for this line. The Celsius Jacket and Celsius Shacket. Both pieces contain PRIMALOFT insulation. The Celsius Jacket is described as the Whitetailer’s puffy jacket. But it’s not your typical puffy jacket. Sitka has sheathed all of the jackets PRIMALOFT in an ultra-quiet Micro-Fleece to make it warm as wellsitka7 as quiet. The Celsius Shacket was one of my personal favorites at the show this year. The Shacket is a first of it’s kind! It is designed to give you insulation where you need it, and only where you need it. Featuring short sleeves, the Shacket is features a quilted design and very little bulk. It is ultra soft and quiet, with none of the typical noise you get from other insulation jackets. The Shacket is a must have for 2015!

Next we have the Outerwear. For those of you who have previously complained that Sitka Gear was too limited in their Whitetail series offerings, prepare to be silenced! Sitka Gear has released 11 new pieces this year. A few of the outerwear pieces are largely unchanged from last year, however all Whitetail gear from Sitka is now offered in the new Elevated II pattern. But for the new and improved items, they are sure to satisfy even the pickiest whitetail hunter. From the warm early season until the bitter cold late season, Sitka Gear has you covered. The early season Equinox Series features a durable 4 way stretch material that is both water repellant ansitka8d super quiet when traversing through thick underbrush. The newly designed Stratus features and all new Gore WINDSTOPPER material that is the most quiet WINDSTOPPER to date. Whether you choose to wear the Stratus Jacket and Pant alone, or pair it with the new Stratus vest, you are certain to appreciate the extreme versatility of this system. The newly designed Fanatic Series features the same WINDSTOPPER as the stratus, but is more robust and engineered for the truly fanatical whitetail hunter. Both the Fanatic and Stratus series are super quiet and guaranteed to keep you comfortable on the stand. Best of all, the Fanatic series offers three different tops: The Fanatic Jacket, The Fanatic Hoody, and the Fanatic Lite Jacket. Both jackets come with diagonal zippers to free up room for valuable real estate on the front of the jacket for pockets. The hoody isn’t just a hoody, it is a hoody on steroids. Sitka coins it a “stealth hunting apparatus”, and from our initial impressions it will be just that. In my opinion, the Fanatic Hoody is going to be another must have for my collection this year.

Moving on, Sitka has taken their Accessory line and developed it to the max. No matter your preference of gloves, hats, belts, etc…once again Sitka has you covered! They have ramped up their accessory line to a total number of 25 sitka5items, each one serving a well thought out purpose. A trend you’ve likely noticed by now in all of Sitka Gear’s products.

Wrapping things up, Sitka has introduced 3 new packs for the Whitetail line. The Tool Box, Tool Bucket and Launching Pad. The Tool Box and Tool Bucket are very similar in design as a top load pack. The Tool Box is geared more towards half day sits and the Tool Bucket is designed for the hard-core hunter who makes those all day sits through the critical days of the rut. Both packs are extremely durable and designed for maximized organization and efficiency in the treestand. The Launchpad is a brand new idea from Sitka Gear. It is for all intents and purposes a way to get your gear from home, to your hunting area. Focusing on keeping your clothing from being contaminated by foreign odors, the Launchpad has large mesh pockets which are ideal for organizing your hunting clothing so that you can quickly get dressed once your arrive to your spot. The Launchpad also features large mats positioned in the center of the pack that are used to step on so you can dress more easily without running the risk of getting your feet dirty or sitka6wet. Lastly, the Launchpad is capable of holding your bow as well, so once packed, the Launchpad can be grabbed without fear that you are forgetting anything.

I think it goes without saying, this is not the Whitetail line of old. Sitka has put massive amounts of time and energy to develop a line of outdoor gear that will not only meet, but exceed the expectations of the Whitetail hunter. As much as I would love to go into granular detail on every new item released in the Whitetail line by Sitka Gear, there is simply too much to cover in one article.

For more information on the Whitetail line, as well as the other great lines by Sitka Gear, be sure to keep an eye out for updates on http://www.sitkagear.com.

For a nice video overview of the Elevated II pattern and Fanatic series, be sure to check out our 2015 ATA Video HERE.

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Grim Reaper – Hybrid Broadhead

gr1The Hybrid broadhead by Grim Reaper is nothing short of amazing. Combining the pinpoint accuracy of a true flying 2 blade fixed head and the devastating cut of a mechanical, the Hybrid makes for a truly terrifying 4 blade that is sure to put your game down in sight! That is exactly what Grim Reaper intended when they first developed the Hybrid broadhead. But it takes more than an idea to be successful. It takes the kind of quality engineering that has put Grim Reaper at the front of the broadhead market for years.

Grim Reaper has already had amazing success with their mechanical lineup of broadheads. Thgr3e shock absorbing spring that is used on the Razortip, Razorcut SS, and Fatal Steel can also be found on the new Hybrid. And while the Razorcut SS is also a cut on contact, it does not match the Hybrid for it’s initial cutting abilities. Seated between two of Grim Reapers patented mechanical blades is a 2 blade broadhead that would be plenty lethal all on its own. Built up from premium 70 series aluminum feral, this broadhead sports 440 grade stainless steel that is sure to be durable and dependable even with the biggest animals.

Although this is not a brand new broadhead for 2015, the Hybrid is relatively unknown to mgr2any Grim Reaper shooters. If you are new to Grim Reaper, or even if you have been shooting their heads for years already, be sure to check out the Hybrid. It will not leave you disappointed.

For hunters out there who are looking for a lower cost broadhead, Grim Reaper has also become the distributor for a secondary line of broadheads titled Old Glory. Available in two configurations, a rubber band supgr4ported mechanical and a three blade fixed head, these lower price point broadheads are sure to satisfy the archery that is looking for a quality head without breaking the bank. One other great thing about Old Glory broadheads, they share one important trait with Grim Reapers, they are made right here in the USA.

For more information on Grim Reaper Broadheads, be sure to visit their website at http://www.grimreaperbroadheads.com.

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GamePlan Gear – 3D XL

gpg2 Fresh from the 2015 ATA show, GamePlan Gear has introduced their all new 3D XL Tournament Series bowcase. With the competitive archer in mind, the 3D XL is made to fit longer axle to axle bows up to an overall length of 45”. The 3D XL also features a pocket configuration much more suited to tournament and 3d archers.

For starters, competition archers typically use much longer stabilizers than normal. The 3D XL has you covered with a stabilizer pocket that will fit stabilizers up to 36” in lgpg3ength. The 3D XL also features a large front pocket that easily fits an arrow box as well as other necessary archery accessories. Perhaps one of the ggpg5reatest things about the 3D XL is that, like all other GamePlan gear, it is built to last. The 3D XL is excellently constructed, featuring the same rugged quality that you will find in all GamePlan Gear packs.

Also on display at the 2015 ATA show was the rest of the GamePlan gear lineup. It is easy for one to get lost in the wide assortment of packs and accessories offered by Mike and crew. From sight covers, to bow slings, to backpacks, GamePlan Gear has you covegpg6red. And in the future, don’t begpg4 surprised to see GamePlan Gear cross over into other markets with their top cutting edge packs. For more information on GamePlan Gear, be sure to visit them on the web, at http://www.gameplangear.com.

 

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