Ditch the Cotton, Merino Wool Is Where It’s At!

20160811_Merino1The start of elk archery season is just around the corner in many western states.  This has many eager hunters vigorously exercising, shooting their bow and pulling out the prior year’s gear in anticipation of that first bugle.  While some folks are interested in the newest gadgets, the latest camo patterns, or one of the thousands of scent control/cover products that are available, I highly advise you to take a look at some gear that is typically overlooked until late season; your base layers.

One item any elk hunter knows is you cannot fool; an elk’s nose.  You can get away with a little natural noise, and at times even a little movement, but if an elk smells you… he’s gone.  To complicate this matter, elk live in some demanding terrain that often makes strenuous, sweaty hiking a requirement for the job.   Even stand hunting can have you perspiring getting to and into the stand.  This would be less of an issue if one could easily wash their clothes (or carry the added weight of an extra set), but this is often is not an option in the places elk call home.

20160811_Merino5This is where the benefits of merino wool start to shine:  Not only does the moisture-wicking properties of merino keeps you cool in the summer and insulates in the cold, the natural antimicrobial properties inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria.  When most people think of wool clothing they imagine the thick, itchy and heavy sweaters from their childhood.  However, merino wool is incredibly soft, comfortable and lightweight, another added plus when every ounce counts.  The folks at Sitka Gear offer a superb line of quality merino next-to-skin layers in solid colors as well as their amazing camo patterns.  Once I don my Sitka Merino Core Crew Long Sleeve, Merino Core Boxers and Merino Core Bottoms at the start of the season, I wear them every time I hunt until the last frigid days of whitetail season.  I would put the fit and20160811_Merino2 feel of these under-layers up against my favorite t-shirt any day.  To complete the merino ensemble, DarnTough offers a bulletproof pair of merino socks that offer the same antimicrobial properties in a package designed to keep your feet dry and blister-free.Not to mention they offer a lifetime warranty…but I haven’t had a need for it.

While I will always encourage others to try new products, the one material that should be avoided at all costs; cotton.  If replacing your full base-layer system isn’t in the budget for this year, by all means don’t feel like you should hunt without gear you see as necessary just because it’s made of cotton.  However, as soon as financially feasible you should make arrangements to donate your cotton gear to a local charity.  Main reason for this is that cotton gets wet and stays wet; a potentially dangerous situation in certain climates/situations.  In addition, this wet environment is a perfect breeding ground for odor causing bacteria in sweaty conditions.20160811_Merino4
Even the best merino gear will start to smell of camp odors after a few days.  A tool I love using to keep my gear scent-free on extended hunts is Carbon Synergy.  20160811_Merino3
Brett Bueltel has a great instructional video on how to easily use Carbon Synergy to de-scent smelly hunting gear and clothing.  This lightweight and fail proof solution is so simple and effective to use, passes the cut to make it into my pack every season.  Click here to go directly to the video.

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Dead Cold – Nebraska Whitetail


I think we all have our own idea of a perfect shot, perfect angle, perfect lighting and just an overall perfect scenario. These situations are few and far between but they do happen, and usually in short order with things happening quickly. In 2014 I was able to get myself in one of these situations. With my camera set up and rolling behind me I pulled the trigger on my biggest whitetail to date, on my family ranch in Nebraska. While it was fairly textbook, I did come across a couple snags that took some on the fly adjustments. In this article I’m going to tell the story, while explaining camera set-ups and tactics I used.

I had just finished up filming a whitetail hunt in Iowa for the show, Best of the West, and then drove back home to spend Christmas with the family. I drove through a bad winter storm on the way back, dropping almost 6” of fresh snow on the ground. While it made for unfortunate driving conditions I knew the deer would probably be on the move and should make for a great morning hunt. Weather for the next day was looking fairly hopeful with a slight southwest breeze and clear skies, however I was a little shocked to see -10 degrees sfdeer2for the predicted temperature. I charged up my batteries, cleared the memory cards off and headed for bed.

At 4am the next morning I was up and getting ready to roll out. To say I never thought about going back to bed after stepping outside to start my vehicle would be a lie, but I sucked it up knowing I was going to see a lot of deer moving. With the temperature reading -8 at the house, I threw my bag in the pickup and drove out of the yard. When I got to my parking spot it was still dark as planned and I started making final organizational adjustments to all of my stuff. I clipped my Canon 60D DSLR with a 70-200mm lens onto the tripod, slung it over my shoulder, grabbed the muzzleloader and took off walking.

I arrived at my glassing point right as it was getting light enough to see little deer figures moving about the fields in front of me. I was going to hunt this the same way I’d been hunting it since I was little… glass up a good deer moving from the fields to the river bottom, determine which route I thought he’d take then grab all my stuff and do a sneak run to get in front of him. With a couple nice young deer coming right to me I fired up the sfdeer3camera and started filming, with the fresh snow on the ground it was looking awesome. After filming them, I threw up the binoculars and started scanning in front of me. Sure enough here comes a shooter, which was a deer we had been watching for the previous 3 years. Obviously wanting footage of him I flipped on the power switch to my camera… and nothing, black screen. After some choice words for the situation I determined that my batteries did not like the below freezing temperatures and weren’t actually dead but just too cold to function. Needing to move about 400 yards across a deep little canyon like right now, I threw the batteries inside my shirt closest to my body hoping they would heat up by the time I needed the camera, and took off towards the trail I thought he’d use. After reaching a point I thought I would be in range for, I peeked over the hill and sure enough he was slowly feeding right down the trail that would put him right below me.

I pulled the batteries out, threw them in the camera, said a little prayer and hit the power button… boom, bright screen showing almost full battery and I was back rolling. By this time he was down the trail a little ways about to cross a fence, ironically enough right where I had gotten my first picture of him 3 years prior. If he continued down the trail I sfdeer5was afraid it would put him at an awkward angle from me down the hill that would be close and hard to film and shoot, so I decided to set up and shoot him at the fence. I set the camera up and took mental note of how I had framed the shot, hit the record button, prayed the camera function Gods were on my side, and started crawling out in front of the camera to get a better angle for shooting prone. When I found a good angle, he was just getting to the fence that I had ranged at about 80 yards. I settled my crosshairs right on his front shoulder, exhaled and squeezed the trigger. With the large cloud of smoke I didn’t see the impact but I sure heard it. After the smoke cleared up I could see he was lying right where he was when I pulled the trigger. After a victory air punch I hurried back to the camera and was ecstatic to see it was still recording, which honestly I couldn’t believe after it had been running continuously for about 10 minutes in the freezing cold. Looking back briefly on the footage in the field I could see I got him in the frame for the shot. After about 3 years of solo filming my deer hunts and this was the first time I’d been able to bring it all together. Walking up to a deer like that on a place that means so much to me, with film in hand to share was one of the most accomplished feelings I’ve ever had.

Hunting any animal is tough, and then adding a camera into the mix brings a whole new world of challenges. It’s easy to get discouraged and want to leave the camera at home after failed attempts but as we say in the film industry, “if you don’t hit record, you don’t have it”. Stay determined with your filming and eventually you too will have a moment like I did. You can find the video here -> http://selfilmed.com/shortvids.php


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Wireless Trail Cameras: Changing the Hunting Industry

20160717_C3These days it is hard to make a trip to your local sporting good store without at least passing by a whole display of brand new trail cameras.  There are white flash, infrared, black flash, camouflage cams, brown cams, you name it.  The field is constantly changing with cameras getting less expensive, much smaller and compact, having unimaginable battery life, and not to mention a widely growing market for wireless trail cameras.  The way we scout today has changed drastically thanks in good part to these advancements in trail camera technology.

20160717_C2Twenty years ago, if you had mentioned to someone that one day your trail camera would send a text message to your cell phone when a picture was taken, they’d be looking at you like you had two heads on your shoulders.  Fast forward 10-15 years and the first commercially available wireless trail cameras started hitting the store shelves.  You would see thread after thread on Archerytalk and other website forums asking questions about them.  The topic of wireless trail cameras was, and in some cases still is, as polar as many political topics.  You have people strongly positioned on both sides of the debate with their heels dug in, refusing to change their opinion.  20160717_C1For the most part, your younger generation of hunters are more on technologies side, and then you would have your older generation of hunters falling in the more traditional hunting/scouting type camp.  I’m not saying this is only a young vs. old generation topic, but from my analysis, the split between the two was pretty apparent.

20160811_Covert1As the years have gone by, more and more hunters have opened up their eyes to the benefits these wireless cameras can have on their hunting.  Time has become a valuable commodity and not everyone has the necessary time to properly scout their properties as effectively as they should prior to their season.  I recognize that putting the boot leather to the dirt for some good ol’ fashioned scouting is hard to beat, but I have found that wireless cameras are becoming an invaluable asset to my arsenal.  I joined the “pro-wireless” trail camera group this past year when I purchased a 2015 Covert Code Black from Covert Scouting Cameras.  A year later, I added the 2016 Code Black 12.0. Notification ViewMuch like every piece of hunting equipment I buy, I read review after review before finally deciding on which camera to buy.  It must be the Engineer in me.

You might be asking, why did I join the wireless trail camera group?  As I alluded to earlier, time.  I’m sure you can all relate.  Working a full-time job, having a family, and several other hobbies all fight for my time.  This tug of war with my time leads me to having to be efficient in the time I do have to dedicate to scouting.  So how does time have anything to do with being more efficient with scouting?  The biggest benefit the wireless trail cameras offer me is the ability to remotely monitor an area and get almost instantaneous feedback.  If I set a camera out and I’m not getting any activity in a day or so, I can get back out there, move it to a new location and try again.  20160811_Covert2The prompt feedback of having a picture sent directly to my smart phone from my wireless trail camera is a game changer for me in being able to scout more efficiently.  I no longer leave a camera sitting in the same location for weeks at a time not knowing if there has been any activity in the area.  With a wireless camera, I know when I pull that memory card, I’m going to have some pictures to filter through.

If you have questions as to which wireless camera would be the best fit for you, reach out to the good folks over at Covert Scouting Cameras and they would be happy to assist you.

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Benchmade Hunt – Nestucca Cleaver

Nestucca_Cleaver02The Nestucca Cleaver is definitely a unique looking knife.  Similar in design to an Inuit Ulu, the Nestucca was made to be a versatile, all-purpose knife.  The Nestucca is a true piece of art with its unconventional hatchet like design, satin blade and skillfully sculpted orange scales.  The true beauty of this knife lies in its ability to perform just about any task thrown its way.

The Nestucca Cleaver is 6.58 inches in overall length making it the second Nestucca_Cleaver01shortest fixed blade knife in the HUNT. series.  The Nestucca measures a mere .26 inches longer than the Hidden Canyon Hunter.  However, don’t be fooled by its compact size.  Thanks to the tremendously large radius of the blade, it sports an overall cutting edge of 4.41 inches.  The longest blade length of any knife in the HUNT. series lineup, and a full .24 inches longer than the blade of the very popular Saddle Mountain Skinner.  Longer cutting edge equals greater edge retention, and therefore a sharper knife when you need it most.  The Nestucca is 2.15 inches shorter in overall length compared to the Saddle Mountain Skinner, and has an extra .24 inches of cutting length. It is easy to see why the Nestucca Cleaver would fit the bill for the back-country hunter who is looking for a compact, all-around knife.

Nestucca_Cleaver03Unlike the traditional Inuit Ulu, the Nestucca features a finger cutout in the center of the blade allowing for better blade control.  Like all of the other knifes in the HUNT. series, the Nestucca sports a satin CPM-S30V blade.  Not only will this knife feel good in your hand, it will also retain one of the best cutting edges you could ever hope for.  You can read more about the benefits of CPM-S30V in one of our previous articles (here).  Additionally, the Nestucca Cleaver features bright orange G10 handle scales which are rugged, provide the knife with an excellent grip, and will help you keep track of it when you happen to lay it down in the field.  Last but not least, the Nestucca comes with a custom leather sheath which fits over its rounded blade like a glove.

Nestucca_Cleaver05Whether  you are skinning or gutting a deer, cutting kindling to start a fire, or preparing food in the kitchen, the Nestucca can be used for virtually any cutlery application.  There is nothing worse than your knife letting you down when you are miles from civilization.  Thanks to the superior quality of Benchmade HUNT. knives, you would be hard-pressed to find a knife of better value.

If the time has come to upgrade your hunting knife, look no further than the Nestucca Cleaver.  Coming in at a retail price of $145.00, you won’t find another knife that can beat it in performance for the price.  More likely than not, you’ll quickly find out that the Nestucca is the most useful piece of gear you were missing in your hunting pack from seasons past.


For more information on the Nestucca Cleaver and other knifes in the Benchmade HUNT. series of knives, click here to visit the official HUNT. page.


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Stic-N-Pic Trail Camera Mounting System – Mini Ground Mount Review

20160717_SP6One of the biggest selling points of the Stic-N-Pic Trail Camera Mounting System is the versatility of their mounts.  Whether you choose one of their two ground based mounts (original or mini), or one of their three tree mounts (mini, screw in, or strap on), you are sure to find the perfect mount for your unique situation.

20160710_SticNPic_3I’ve had the opportunity to play with all of Stic-N-Pic’s signature mounts this spring, and by far my favorite is the Mini Ground Mount.  It always seems like I find that one location to put a trail camera and sure enough there isn’t a tree within sight that is suitable or close enough to the target area to mount a trail camera.  Whether that be with the traditional camera strap, a bungee cord or cable lock.  For example, camera setups along field edges, fence rows, or even creek crossings.  Sure you could strap your camera up to a tree 10 yards off the field edge, or somehow rig up your camera across barbwire or brush along a fence row, but then you are competing with the small undergrowth growing on the edge of the field while drastically reducing the effective range of your trail camera or fighting to position the camera exactly where you want it facing.  20160717_SP5_labeledBeing able to place your camera anywhere you want it will not only enhance your trail camera scouting, but will also allow you to hide your camera better from potential thieves.  No more big boxy cameras sitting on the side of a tree like a sore thumb.

20160710_SticNPic_1The Mini Ground Mount is made of durable powder coated steel and collapses down for easy transportation into the field.  To use the Mini Ground Mount, simply step the spaded end of the mount into the ground (making sure the shaft is straight up and down) and you have yourself a “tree” in the perfect spot.  Attach your camera to the pivoting “flag” that is welded to the top of the shaft using either the included 1/4-20 x 5/8″ thumb screw (if your camera has a threaded tripod mount).  If your camera does not have a 1/4 x 20 threaded tripod mount, you can still use Stic-N-Pic’s mounts by utilizing one of their universal brackets.  There is a Camera Guide on their website here that may be useful to determine what hardware you’ll need to mount your camera.

20160710_SticNPic_2After you have the camera attached to the flag, loosen up the thumbscrew on the coupler located on the spaded end of the mount, slide the portion of the shaft that is connected to your camera into the coupler and set to your desired height.  You can also rotate the shaft 360 degrees to face your camera the right direction.  Tighten down the thumbscrew on the coupler and you are set.  In addition to the 360 degree rotation and height adjustment, the flag is also adjustable using the thumbscrew on the side allowing you to tilt your camera up or down in relation to the shaft of the mount.  Having the ability to position your camera EXACTLY how you want it is what sets Stic-N-Pic apart.

20160717_SP8If you are ever in the situation where you’d like to mount multiple cameras, in one location to capture movement in several directions at once, Stic-N-Pic’s Add-A-Cam bracket can be easily added to the Mini Ground Mount to mount 2 or more cameras in the same spot.

Best of all, the Mini Ground Mount is made right here in the USA.  It is lightweight, portable, and with a resistant powder coated finish it should last you a very long time in the field.  Retail price for the Mini Ground Mount is $29.99 and can be ordered directly from Stic-N-Pic’s website.  For more information on all of the great products available from Stic-N-Pic, stop by their website and take a look.  Make sure you let them know that SELFILMED sent you!logo

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Bowhunting with a Thumb Trigger Release Aid

Carter Too SimpleWe as bowhunters are always researching the latest and greatest equipment. Anything we can do or buy that could potentially increase our odds at harvesting the trophy of our dreams gets evaluated each off-season. There are many ways to decrease your group size however one of the often overlooked variables is your release aid.

When I started bowhunting many years ago I quickly found out that using a wrist strap release was problematic for me. While in high school I fractured my wrist while playing football and though the injury never really affected my way of life I found out that the pressure from using a wrist strap caused me pain. After prolonged sessions of shooting I began to get the feeling in my hand that you get when you sit Indian style for too long, pins and needles as we used to call it. After pushing through for a few months I looked into other options.  After doing some research I settled on a thumb trigger release.

IMG_8700My first thumb trigger release was a Carter Chocolate Addiction 3 finger. Immediately the problem with my wrist was solved as now I could shoot endlessly without any pain. I found out however that I had to retrain myself with a new anchor point and release method because no longer could I use my index finger to fire the release from my old anchor point. It took some time to establish my anchor point and thumb release method but now over a decade later it still remains unchanged.

My personal path to using a thumb trigger release was out of necessity, however in my opinion there are advantages to using a thumb trigger over a wrist strap release for all bowhunters.

IMG_8690Consistency. Boom – I said it! The number one way to become a better archer is to have perfect repeatability and consistency. This should come as no surprise to most dedicated bowhunters but ask yourself this question, “How consistent is my anchor point?” A lot of us spend most of the off-season shooting on relatively flat ground. It’s easy to maintain a consistent anchor point with your release when shooting horizontally but what about when you start practicing uphill and downhill shots or hang a treestand in your backyard to mimic those whitetail shots? Is your anchor in the exact same spot? IMG_8698I feel like with a thumb trigger I can anchor in a place that regardless of body orientation or bow angle it can be repeated every shot all season long. I can rotate my forearm vertically and lock my first two knuckles of my release hand into the corner of my jaw so that my index knuckle and middle finger knuckle bracket the point of my jawbone. Using this anchor it is nearly impossible to be inconsistent regardless of your bow angle.

IMG_8689Second only to consistency is the ability to shoot your bow with a surprise release. Most hunters that are good shots with firearms possess the ability to squeeze the trigger until the gun fires. I have found that this ability is not lateral across weapon platforms. The problem lies in the fact that watching a reticle float around a target and watching a pin float a target are two different things. Also the fact you are using different muscles to steady the weapons also makes it a comparison of apples to oranges. You are probably thinking of why I even mentioned firearms in an article regarding bowhunting releases. The reasoning being, that a lot of bowhunters started out using firearms when they were young and transitioned to archery at an older age like myself. So they are using their foundation of how to shoot a rifle with their index trigger release aid and can’t seem to ever master the weapon transition and suffer from target panic and trigger punch. IMG_8691The way to start with a clean slate mentally is to change which finger you are triggering with, i.e. a thumb trigger release. Reprogramming your mind to squeeze with your thumb to trigger your release will let you start fresh with new body mechanics and a new thought process. I my opinion if an archer can conquer this principle you will be able to maximize your ability and in turn decrease your group sizes.

The final advantage to a thumb trigger release verses a wrist strap is the ability to leave your release clipped onto your string loop. Whether you are spot and stalk hunting or sitting in a treestand at the moment of truth its nice to have both of your hands free until its time to draw your bow for the shot. IMG_8692Personally I shoot a moveable sight which needs to be moved each shot depending on the yardage. Having my release clipped onto the D-loop lets me be able to hold my bow in a ready position while I range and adjust my sight to the correct yardage. While stand hunting during the whitetail rut its nice to have your bow ready to go at a moments notice. Having to look down for two seconds to clip your release onto your string will cause you to lose very precious time on a fast approaching whitetail buck. The ability to never break sight of your target as it approaches a shooting lane can give you a few extra seconds to correctly field judge an animal that will disappear as quickly as it appeared.

This off-season as you put together your archery wish list for next year ask yourself, “Could I benefit from a thumb trigger release?” Whether you are looking to break target panic, decrease your group sizes, or simply like the convenience of leaving your release on the bowstring, a thumb trigger release could be the new piece of archery equipment that increases your taxidermy bill.




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Brett Bueltel – 2016 Ohio Opening Day Gobbler

Covert Code Black PicAfter having a successful weekend hunting down in North Carolina, it was time to head back home to Ohio to prepare for the opener of the 2016 turkey season.  I had been running several trail cameras on the property I hunt, and had started moving my Covert Code Black camera around every weekend for the past month trying to locate where the birds were moving through on the property.  Several weeks had passed of not getting many trail cam pictures, not seeing birds, and not hearing any gobblers, so I really didn’t think I’d have a shot at filling a tag on opening day.  I have been fortunate in past years to have had some good luck on opening day, and did get a couple of pictures a few days before season, so maybe some luck would come my way again.  After getting all of my video cameras charged up for the mornings hunt it was time for bed.

That next morning came early.  I packed up all of my hunting gear, Double Bull blind, DSD decoys, camera equipment, and headed off in the dark of the night.  Not knowing if I was even going to see a bird that day, I chose to set up on a point in the field where I would be visible from 3  different directions.  I set up my blind under a small tree on the edge of the field, set out 4 decoys, and started up the GoPro 2nd angle cameras before hopping into my blind.  Darkness started to recede as the sun spilled over the rise behind me.  I sat up my primary camera to my right and slapped another GoPro on the blind rod to my left.  Mic check one…two…mic check.  Wireless mics were ready to roll and I began my normal morning interview when all of a sudden I got cut off mid sentence by a gobble off to the far North end of the field.

Gobblers in the DistanceI quickly pulled up my binoculars to try to locate the gobbler in the treeline.  He gobbled again…this time I pinpointed him in a tall sycamore tree.  I filmed him for several minutes up on the roost, semi-strutting, gobbling, until finally the sun had lit up the field enough for him to feel safe and pitch down.  A slight rise in the field hid his landing and all went quiet for a few minutes afterwards.  I gave him some time after landing to “do what turkeys do” before I pulled out the mouth diaphragm call and gave a few yelps.  “GOBBLE-GOBBLE-GOBBLE”  A bird fired off in the field behind me.  He was closer, so not knowing what the bird on the other end of the field was doing, I began to concentrate on calling this new bird in.  I’d call, he’d gobble.  I did this 2-3 times before shutting up to see if he’d make his way down to me.  I sat there in silence for several minutes, which felt like forever.  I look back up to the far end of the field 350 yards away and see two red heads emerge from the hidden rise in the field.

Motion Madness Decoy SetupThe dominant gobbler, in full strut, paced back and forth as the sub-dominant gobbler stood there and picked apart the decoy spread.  I reached for the remote control of the Motion Madness Decoys DIY kit I had installed in my DSD Feeding Hen a couple of months before, and turned it on.  The pecking and sweep motion of the decoy did the trick, the dominant bird to break strut and start heading my direction.  10 steps – blow up in strut…break strut to come another 20-30 steps – blow up in strut again.  The two birds slowly but surely made it about 150 yards across the unmolested crop field and then stopped for a moment.  I looked out the blind to my left and could make out another strutter about 100 yards away.  Did the new gobbler spook the pair and were they going to hang up?  About that time, the pair began to sprint my direction!

Strutter Sizing up the DSDOnce they reached the 80 yard mark, they slowed to a walk and the dominant bird began to strut again.  They looked like they were going to bypass my setup as they stood there now 40-50 yards out in front of me.  Trying not to make too much movement in the blind, I reached down to try to locate my rangefinder thinking I was going to need it to make this far shot.  I decided to give a few light clucks on my mouth call and that was all it took.  The dominant bird turned and started walking directly towards the DSD Jake.  It was game time.

Grim Reaper Strikes!The dominate bird struck the DSD Jake first.  A peck to the face, a wing flap and a spur to the body.  He blew up in full strut and passed in front of the decoy.  I took this opportunity to grab my bow and come to full draw.  I took one more peek at my camera LCD to make sure everything was in frame.  As he turned to face the blind, now on the other side of the Jake decoy, I settled the pin on my Hogg Father right on the base of his waddles and let the Grim Reaper fly.  The arrow hit its mark and he dropped like a ton of bricks.  His buddy had no idea what had happened.

Gobbler Looking OnI sat in that blind for almost 2 hours after I took the fatal shot.  Waiting.  Waiting for the other bird(s) to decide to leave. (3 jakes came in to investigate)  He didn’t, and honestly, I think I could have sat there all day and he wouldn’t have left that field.  Knowing I still had another tag left in Ohio, and unfortunately and not being able to fill more than one a day, I had to let him walk off.  If I let him see me get out of the blind, I’d never be able to kill him on another day.  So I sat there.  Finally, he worked off to my south just enough that I could close up the opening in the blind facing him and unzip the back of the blind.  Aerial View of SetupI was able to sneak out unnoticed.  I got about 90-100 yards away from the blind before deciding I couldn’t keep the blind in between the bird and myself any longer.  Finally…he saw me and tucked tail to run off.

My season had started off great, 2 birds down in 3 days.  Unfortunately, it’s like the birds completely disappeared after that.  I hunted the remainder of the Ohio season, every weekend possible, with only a few hens coming to the decoys.  Season has since long passed and I’ve now been busy running trail cams and freshening up mineral licks in preparation of whitetail season as well as training for this upcoming elk season.  Stay tuned for more SELFILMED action!


Bird Stats:

  • 20 lbs. (estimated)
  • 9-1/8″ beard
  • 1″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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Turkey Decoy Setup Tips

With spring turkey season well underway in many parts of the country, most social media feeds are blowing-up with pictures of big birds, long beards and lengthy spurs.  How do these folks manage to get such magnificent birds?  While there are no magic recipes for bagging a wary old tom, there are some general rules of thumb that make the process a little bit easier. Aside from simply being where the birds are, one of the biggest items to consider is use and placement of decoys.

Strutter CloseupNow—from a distance—almost all decoys are going to look somewhat like a turkey.  However, to pull those wary birds in those last few, precious yards to get them within range, an ultra-realistic decoy pays for itself many times over.  Dave Smith Decoys makes the most realistic decoys money can buy and I can attribute many birds to the surreal, almost too-lifelike decoys they provide.

When setting up your decoys try to keep one thing in mind; visibility.  If they can’t see the decoy, that defeats the purpose of using one in the first place.  Having visibility will often play into what areas you can effectively hunt.  DSD Jake and Breeding HenA large, open field with a food source is ideal; provided the grass is not too tall.  On the other hand, hunting a 200 acre field will take more than just decoy visibility to draw in birds.

Early in the season there is typically a lot of competition between toms around receptive
hens.  This is when a breeding pair such as DSD’s Jake and Submissive Hen can make a deadly combo.  This combination can attract both older, mature toms as well as younger, aggressive gobblers and jakes looking for a fight.  If you are in an area with mature birds, your best bet may be to swap your jake for a Strutter decoy with a jake tail fan.  Territorial gobblers usually will not let a jake set up shop in his back yard.  Keep enough space between your Jake/Strutter decoy and your Submissive Hen that a strutting tom can walk between them, with your male decoy facing the blind at about 8-10 yards for a short bow shot.   Breeding PairI would not recommend placing them any closer to the blind as this can make for a tougher bow shot. With a gun you could stretch that range slightly, but I still like to keep the decoy within 20 yards.

Later in the season the number of receptive hens dwindles and toms will be willing to cover more distance looking for that lone hen.  They probably have been in more than one skirmish with other toms or groups of jakes by this point, so I’ll typically abandon the male decoy and go with one or two hen decoys.  My favorite is DSD’s Leading hen decoy.  Place her about 10-15 yards out from your blind with her facing or quartering towards the front of the blind.  Decoy SpreadThe idea behind this is the tom will cut her off trying to get her attention, putting him within 8-10 yards for an easy shot.

Regardless of which phase of the season it is, you can never go wrong with the Feeding and Upright hen combination.  I like to place the feeding hen within a couple of yards of the blind in order to ease the tom’s concern about the blind.  However, actual location isn’t all that critical as long as she is visible.  You can also add a little motion to the decoy by using a pull-string (fishing line) or one of the Motion Madness Decoys DIY assemblies and you’ll be almost guaranteed to draw the bird that has “seen it all” to your setup.  Upright hens are a great decoy for just about every situation or setup.  Feeding Hen 2Place your upright hen where you want your shot to be and get ready for action!

Keep in mind, there are multiple ways to skin this proverbial cat.  There is no fail-safe method to getting up-close-and-personal with these fickle birds.  If you find birds aren’t responding to your setup (even if it has worked in the past), switch it up!

Calvin Merriams

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Brett Bueltel – 2016 North Carolina Gobbler

It had been a couple of years since I had made the trip back to North Carolina to hunt.  To say I was a little excited when I got the call from my good friend Forrest to come on down and spend the weekend chasing gobblers would be an understatement.  North Carolina wild turkey season was already in full swing, and I was itching to get back to chasing the elusive thunderchicken after a dismal whitetail season last fall.

20160416_NCGobbler4_SFI checked out of work around noon on the 16th and made the 430 mile drive from Cincinnati, Ohio down to western North Carolina.  Minutes after pulling into Forrest’s driveway, I hopped out of the truck, threw on my camo, and we were on the road again to head to a property to scout for the next morning.  Less than 30 minutes after arriving at the property, we were watching a Tom strut 300-350 yards away.  He was going to be in a perfect spot for the next mornings hunt.  As the sun started dipping behind the horizon in the distance, we packed up and started the short trek back to the truck.  Gobbles erupted off to our left 100 yards or so away and immediately smiles hit our faces.

After making it back to the truck, we headed back into town to meet up with SELFILMED’s Brad Blackwelder and our good friend Ben for the evening.  The 20 minute drive back to town gave us time to discuss our plans for the following morning.  After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back to “The Shed” where we ended up staying up much later than we should have game-planning for the next morning, telling stories, and shooting the bull before finally getting to bed around 1:00 AM.

20160416_NCGobbler2_SFWhen the alarm clocks started going off around 5:00 AM that following morning, the thought of the strutting gobbler from the night before made crawling out from under my warm/comfy sheets just a little bit easier.  I threw on my HECS suit, Sitka Gear, and a couple extra layers to help fight off the unseasonably cool temps before loading up the truck and heading out to the property we were going to be hunting.

Under the cover of darkness, we made our way to a point in the field within approximately 75 yards of where we had watched the strutter the night before.  We setup a couple DSD hen decoys about 20 yards in front of us, and positioned ourselves a few steps inside of the wood-line.  I’m usually a bow hunting strictly kind of guy, but ultimately, we decided to go after that bird with the shotgun based on several factors.  Forrest had actually killed this gobblers friend from a blind less than a week prior, within yards of where we were setup.  Knowing he would be much tougher to call into bow range of a blind, coupled with the short amount of time I would have to hunt before heading back to Ohio, we decided this would be our best option to get a bird on the ground.

20160416_NCGobbler3_SFWe weren’t setup more than 5 minutes before we hear a couple gobbles ringing through the woods behind us.  Then minutes later one sounded off less than 100 yards away in the direction we saw the gobbler work towards the night before.  Several more minutes had now passed and by this time we could tell the birds behind us had now flown down based on the sounds of their gobbles.  All of a sudden movement catches my eye and I turn my head to see a bird pitching down into the field in front of us…then another.  My first thought was it was a couple of hens, but after hitting the ground their heads immediately started changing colors and they hesitantly started in the direction of the DSD hen decoys.  I could hear spitting/drumming off in the distance the gobbler had sounded off from earlier in the morning on the roost, but the field topography kept him hidden from my view.  A couple more minutes passed and I finally catch sight of the gobbler about 75 yards away.

By this time, one of the two jakes and another hen had almost made their way into the decoy setup.  The gobbler was just about into gun range when all of a sudden another jake comes sprinting in from our left.  I hear Forrest say “kill him”…”kill him now”.  I pulled up the gun and settled the fiber optic sight square on his waddles as he turned in full strut to face my direction…BANG!  The birds in the field scattered and headed off in every direction, except for one…  Laying there at 51 yards was bird #1 for 2016.  Less than an hour after sunrise and turkey tag #1 had been filled!

20160422_Benchmade_SFAfter gathering up my bird, a few congratulatory high-fives, and a few pictures we headed into town to get some breakfast to celebrate.  While enjoying a warm stack of pancakes and country ham, we decided we would go and try to fill Forrest’s 2nd turkey tag.  Long story short, after an intense 30 minute encounter with a longbeard at 8 yards, we got it done and he stuck a Grim Reaper whitetail special in the 11 ring.

The following morning ended in an unsuccessful hunt for Forrest, Ben and I.  We saw and heard birds, but nothing in range.  Brad, however, was able to fill his first tag for the year.  I’ll let him fill you all in on the story.

All in all, it was another successful trip down to North Carolina and I was able to spend time with old friends doing something we love to do…turkey hunt.


Bird Stats:

  • 19 lbs. (estimated weight)
  • 9 1/8″ beard
  • 1-1/16″ and 1-1/8″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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Turkey Hunting Setup Tips and Gear Preparation

As winter gives way to spring, and the emergence of fresh new life dominates the country side, I find it impossible to keep my mind off the upcoming turkey season.  My thoughts are constantly drifting back and forth between successful hunts, and others that, let’s just say, didn’t go so well due to lack of preparation.  Turkey hunting with a bow is a challenge in of itself, but when you add in the extra component of filming…well, things can get interesting quick!  I still remember the first turkey I ever killed with a bow.  I had every intention of the hunt being SELFILMED, but several key factors led to a botched attempt. It was complete luck that I actually managed to arrow a bird after what seemed to be a blown hunt.

2011 Ohio

Since that first attempt at SELFILMing, I have learned that a little extra planning can save a lot of grief in the field.  Carrying so much gear tends to add a lot of time and noise to your setup process, and both have played a part in a few of my hunts.  As a result, I have found that developing and practicing a setup routine helps to mitigate some of the headaches that come along with filming your own hunts.

IMG_7569Before turkey season opens, I like to lay out all of my gear and systematically organize everything into groups that represent a “phase” of my setup.  This allows me to pack everything so that I can unload quickly, stay organized, and setup with as little noise as possible.  We’ll get more into exactly what those phases are in a moment.  Before we do that, let’s think for a minute about exactly what we’ll be taking along with us on our hunts.  My gear list generally consists of the following items: bow, ground blind, blind chair, video camera, tripod, secondary angle camera(s), turkey calls, decoys (2 to 4), and various other accessories.  Your gear list will likely differ from my own, but it is important to keep efficiency in mind when you pack.  Try to pack your gear in a way that allows you to distribute the weight of everything as evenly as possible.  I also recommend you separate your gear between items that stay in the blind with you, and items that do not.  The reason for this I’ll explain in the first phase of my setup.

Phase 1 – Blind Setup:  When I arrive at my hunting location, the first thing I like to do IMG_7571is pop up my blind.  This is typically the noisiest part of setting up, and so I like to get it out of the way before I do anything else.  After I pop my blind up, I also like to throw everything in blind that will remain in the blind with me through out my hunt.  This allows me to keep my gear organized, and I can avoid the need to get in and out multiple times.  It also allows me to keep my gear dry in the event it is raining or heaven forbid, snowing.

Phase 2 – Decoy/Decoy Camera Setup:  The next thing I do after setting up my blind and re-organizing my gear is set up my DSD Decoys and my Decoy Camera.  Decoy setup deoyc_camand Blind setup are the only two phases of your setup that require you to be out in the open, so it is important to complete both before there is enough light to be detected by any nearby birds.  In the upcoming days, we will be releasing an in-depth article going over some decoy setup best practices to help you maximize the effectiveness of your decoy spread.  Make sure you don’t miss out, as decoy setup can often times be more important than anything else, even calling.

Phase 3 – Camera Setup:  Now that we have out decoys ready to go, it’s time to get in the blind and start setting up our camera gear.  It is important to take note of your decoy placement in relation to the window(s) on your blind.  If you don’t set your camera up in a position that allows you to shoot to all of your decoys, you are setting yourself up for failure.  Being right handed, I like to keep my camera set up on my right side, and I usually sit sideways in my blind with the camera tripod positioned so that one of the legs is between my legs.  This allows me to face the camera at all times so I can see the view finder, but I am also sitting in a comfortable position to shoot out the front of my blind.  Last but not least, I typically like to keep my camera slightly further back in the blind than I am, this also allows me to shoot further to the right side of my front window if necessary.  More often than not, if a bird commits to coming all the way to your decoys, they are going to be right in the thick of them providing you an ideal shot opportunity, but you don’t want to leave any stone unturned as nature has a strange way of humbling us if we give it the chance.

Phase 4 – Gear Organization: The last phase of my setup process may seem like a trivial concern, but if you don’t stay organized in the blind, you can sabotage your hunt just as quickly as with anything else.  Mark sure you have quick access to your calls, binos, YOUR BOW!  I cannot stress this enough.  Think through every possible scenario you can imagine.  In the event you miss a bird, do you have a follow up arrow close at hand?  If a bird hangs up at 50 yards, do you have your favorite slate call near by to do a few soft clucks and purrs?  You can certainly get by with a lot more movement and noise inside a ground blind than you could without, but nothing is a given.  You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by avoiding any extra movement other than what is absolutely necessary.

IMG_7573So now that we’ve taken a 30,000 foot look at my setup process, what’s next?  PRACTICE!  Get out your ground blind and set it up, figure out how long it takes you to set it up, and make sure you become proficient at it.  If you can’t setup your blind quickly and quietly in the comfort of your own back yard during daylight, chances are you won’t have any more luck in the dark when you are in a rush.  Make sure you are comfortable shooting out of your blind in a sitting position.  Setup your camera and practice filming targets while you shoot.  This is the best way to figure out what is going to work for you when you are hunting.

Filming your hunts can add an exciting new challenge to an already difficult task, but failure to adequately prepare yourself can quickly turn you off from an otherwise enjoyable hobby.  If you are considering filming for the first time this year, make sure you carefully think things through.  For many of us, we don’t have many opportunities at a bird with a bow each year, so it is important to capitalize when those opportunities present themselves.

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