Nov 7th Ohio Doe – Rich Peace

This year, for the first time in my life, I was going to have an opportunity to hunt on my own property. My wife and I recently purchased a house, and while I do not exactly own a large tract of land, I have enough to safely hunt, and early trail camera checks showed that there was plenty of deer for the upcoming season.

Before the season started, I decided I would hold off on harvesting any deer until I started getting some photos of good buck movement, and at that time, hopefully shoot a good IMG_0133buck. Early on there wasn’t much exciting happening on camera. My property sits nestled between agricultural fields to the north, west, and south. I suspected that while the crops were in the fields, there wasn’t much of a reason for the deer to venture far. My suspicions seemed to be playing out as I only had a few does and yearlings on camera for the first few weeks of season. However, I figured that once the crops came out I would start to see some antlers. Sure enough, mid October rolled around and things started to happen. On October 15th, I got home from work, and like previous weeks, I went straight to check my camera. On the way to check my camera I came across something new on the trail I always take. A big scrape! Excited, I nearly sprinted back home to see what was on my camera. 100 photos in, and I had my first antlered buck on camera. Over the next 2 weeks, I identified 23 unique bucks on camera, and several of them were coming in almost daily. It was now time to start spending some time in the tree.

I hunted a few times, but the deer movement was slow. I did manage to have a great encounter with a young 1.5 year old buck my first sit, but after that, I didn’t see many deer IMG_2710during daylight. I decided to give it another week or so in hopes that as the rut got closer, the daylight movement would pick up. It was now November 7th, and after a slow sit in Indiana, I decided to return home and give my place a try again. I got to my stand early that afternoon, and after getting all settled in, I just had a good feeling tonight was going to be the night.

Not 20 minutes later, I heard something noisily coming through the creek bottom south of my setup. I hoped it may have been a big buck with it’s seemingly “I don’t care how loud I am” attitude, but seconds later, I heard the loud clink of metal on metal. I knew immediately what it was. The stand that previously sat vacant just across my property line had finally been visited by it’s owner. Within moments, I began to hear an endless barrage of rattling, grunting, and bleating. At that point, I figured my night was likely ruined. Still, I had taken all the time to set up my cameras and get settled in, what could it hurt to sit the evening out?

It had started to cool off, and amazingly somewhere around my “buddies” 5th rattling sequence, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer walking behind me. I slowly turned around to spot a yearling doe crossing the creek in my direction. Just a little behind her, 2 other deer were making their way to the same creek crossing she had taken. At that time, I decided that if the big doe presented me with a shot, I was not going to pass it up. I still hadn’t harvested a deer on my property, and considering the conditions, this doe would be nearly as great of a hunting accomplishment as I have experienced.

As the three deer made their way within bow range, I slowly panned my camera to the lead deer. I knew very well the tree I was hunting in didn’t have as much cover as I’d prefer, but I hoped I was high enough that I could get away with the movement necessary to shoot a deer with a bow. Of course, the minute I reached for my bow, the lead doe looked right up in my direction! Panicked, I sat as still as possible, not even blinking. For what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only a few seconds, she stared right at me. FINALLY, she went12 about her business feeding in front of me. As she moved on, I finally got ahold of my bow. I positioned myself to get ready for a shot, but just as I began to draw my bow. The rattling began again! All three of the deer quickly began to retreat, but lucky for me, the biggest doe in the group stopped at about 30 yards and stared back in the direction of the rattling. I could tell she was not spooked, but she definitely wanted nothing to do with the source of the commotion.   I waited patiently for her to turn her head so I could draw my bow. When she finally did, I took one quick look at the LCD on my camera to make sure she was in view, and pulled my bow back.

I settled the pin of my Hogg Father and let an arrow fly. The arrow struck her just slightly forward, but perfect up and down. As she turned to run, I could tell she was hurting and having trouble using her front legs. She began to run directly towards my house and by the 13time I got my camera back on the general path she was taking, the woods became silent and still. I was slightly in disbelief. Had this evening I had written off suddenly become my first successful hunt of the year, and my first successful hunt on my new property? I sat down and reviewed the footage, making sure I hadn’t imagined what had just happened. After seeing that the footage upheld my belief, I started packing up to retrieve my deer. Before I got down however, I had to text my wife. She had been so excited over the fact I finally had my own land to hunt, and she had to be the first to know. Just as I expected, she replied to my message with almost as much excitement as I felt.

As I made my way down to the spot the doe was standing when I shot, I could see immediately there was good blood on the ground. The Grim Reaper Whitetail Special appeared to have done the job again.  I had a good idea of where she had gone down, and instead of following the blood trail, I simply walked up the trail a short ways and sure enough she was there. She was far from the monster buck I hoped to shoot that night, but she may very well have been one of my most memorable harvests to date. At this point, nothing could ruin my night, not even being locked out of the house by my loving wife! But that’s a story for another time. For now, it was time to focus on getting my hands on some antlers!


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HECS Stealthscreen Suit – Become Invisible

I will be the first one to admit I am a gadget guy, and by that admission, I must also admit I am always over eager to try out the new “gimmick” products. Granted, a lot of them turn out to be just that, a gimmick. But every once in a blue moon, there is a product that comes along that is truly revolutionary. The HECS Stealthscreen lineup of clothing fits that mold perfectly. Revolutionary gear that once you own, you will refuse to enter the woods without it.

So what exactly is the HECS Suit? Well, before I answer that question, let me ask you another. Have you ever had that perfect treestand location, nestled into a cedar tree, a1 stand you only hunt on a certain wind direction, a stand that sits on the side of a cliff where zero deer could ever get down wind of you? Yet somehow, when that first doe walks out in the field, she immediately starts acting nervous, alert, it’s like she knows you’re there? Have you ever experienced a deer with that “6th” sense? I think it’s safe to say that most of us have, but what exactly is it? And how can we beat it.

It has been scientifically proven that all living creatures emit an electrical energy signal. It is also widely accepted that all living creatures can sense those electrical energy signals. Even humans can to an extent, but unlike wild game animals, our senses are not as keen, or at least not as honed due to a lack of necessity.  Studies conducted by HECS show, with certainty, that electrical energy detection is the infamous “6th sense”. Suddenly, top of the line camo and meticulous scent control are no longer enough. As if a deer’s eyesight and nose weren’t hard enough to fool, we now have to worry about something innate within each of us that cannot be controlled? Enter HECS.

I said above that the HECS Suit was a revolutionary product and it has changed the way I hunt, but the question still exists, what exactly is the HECS Suit and how does it change 3the way I hunt? The answer lies within the name HECS itself, Human Energy Concealment System. Simply put, the HECS Suit is designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, to conceal the electrical energy signal your body emits. HECS achieves this by utilizing a well-known and commonly used principle known as the Faraday Cage. This technology was invented in 1836 by a scientist named Michael Faraday and has since been used throughout numerous industries to successfully block electromagnetic signals from being transmitted from one subject to another. In our case, from us as hunters to whatever game we are pursuing. To read more about the technology used to develop HECS, click here.

Earlier this year, I wrote an initial review of the all new for 2015 HECS Suit, which you can find here.  My previous article outlined some of the new features available on the 2015 HECS Suit, but even more important than the quality of build the suit provides, is its ability to perform in the field. Now, if you are sitting there reading this thinking there is no way this works as advertised, you are not the first, and you won’t be the last. But what I can tell you is this, if you give the HECS Suit a try, you will eventually have one of those, as Ozonics has called it, “Ah-Ha” type moments.

For me, it came at the most unlikely time. I was hunting in 2013 and I had just climbed into the stand. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon on an early October hunt and I was not 4expecting any movement until close to dark. I went through my usual routine of pulling my bow up in the tree, setting up my camera, and getting everything organized for the afternoon. What was not normal, was the fact that when I turned around there was a doe feeding a mere 20 yards away. Now at first, I was shocked that she had not seen me. I like to think I was pretty quiet while setting up, but I certainly made enough movement to scare away any deer within sight. To my amazement, she continued feeding on as if she didn’t have a care in the world. This alone should have been enough to sell me on my HECS suit, but it gets better. As I grabbed my bow and positioned my camera for a shot, still a little unsettled and feeling as if I had to hurry or else this deer was going to do exactly what I thought she should have done already and bolt for the woods, I rushed my shot and bounced my arrow right off the top of her back. ASTONISHINGLY she jumped a few feet and turned around to begin scanning the tree line where I was sitting. I know her eyes passed over me several times as she searched for whatever had startled her, but after a moment of looking…she went back to feeding. I could not believe what I was seeing. Usually our camo is good enough to keep us hidden from unsuspecting game, but when a deer is alert, there isn’t much than can fool their eyes. As I nocked a new arrow and drew back, I took more time, and settled my pin. Even after watching the doe expire about 60 yards away, I was still in disbelief that she did not pick me off. Say I just got lucky if you wish, but I can only weigh the facts together, and for me the only reasonable explanation was the HECS suit.

Since that day, I can count on one hand the amount of times a deer has busted me (non-2scent related), and not once has a visual sighting been enough to send a deer running. It amazes me each and every time my HECS Suit saves my tail, but I have long since quit questioning it’s ability to perform.  Now, I even make sure I have my HECS Suit on for simple tasks such as checking my trail cameras.  Today, hunting pressure in many areas is greater than it has even been, it’s hard enough to locate a mature deer, it’s harder still to get a shot opportunity. Don’t leave your next hunt to chance, get your HECS Suit today to find out how it can help you become more successful.



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2015 Colorado Archery OTC – Brett Bueltel


It’s hard to believe it has now been over a month since my first archery elk hunt.  The vast expanses of the back country, untamed wilderness, and of course, the sounds of bugling bulls.  I periodically catch myself daydreaming of sitting on top of a ridge glassing for another bull.  I now know what everyone means when they say that elk hunting gets in your blood.  It’s 100% true.

My Dad, Brother and I had always talked about one day going on a DIY archery elk hunt.  This spring we finally got the push we needed, due in large part to my Brother and his friend Anthony starting to put plans together for a Fall 2015 trip.  We haphazardly put together a few dates that would work and began gathering up gear we would need.  Collectively we spent hours upon hours gathering information, researching Colorado OTC regulations, scouting aerial and topography maps, and training ourselves physically to prepare ourselves before making the trip.  The Rokslide forum and the Western Bowhunting Gallery sub forum on the Archerytalk forum proved to be extremely valuable in providing information on hunting tactics and gear selection as well.  Unfortunately about a month and a half before leaving for our trip, Anthony had to back out due to work obligations.  It was now down to a father and son trip.


20151022_lookoutThe day had finally arrived!  I showed up at my dad’s place around lunch time, and as always happens on our trips, we hit the road much later than we had anticipated.  The ~20 hour drive had begun and even though it was late, we were looking forward to it.  Other than stopping for gas, it was non-stop/pedal to the floor until we reached Denver.  While in Denver we made a quick trip to the local Cabelas’ to pick up a couple necessities and to purchase our OTC archery tags.  We loaded up again and continued west.  It was roughly 2 hours prior to sundown when we finally arrived at the Unit we were hunting.  After glassing for a while, setting up a quick camp and chowing down a Mountain House meal, it was time to crawl into my tent and catch some sleep before our first day of hunting.


20151022_waterfilterThe next morning, after having a local hunter stop by our camp, we headed off to a nearby glassing spot and quickly spotted up 3 bulls.  Two nice 5×5’s and a smaller 4×4.  All legal bulls in the unit we were hunting.  They were working across a semi open slope towards the dark timber to bed for the morning/afternoon.  We waited for them to disappear around the ridge before circling around on top of them and dropping in to the dark timber to see if we could find them.  No luck.  There was an intermittent spring nearby, so we slowly worked through the dark timber until we made our way down to the spring.  Since the area was dry, we took the opportunity to fill up all of our water bladders before climbing out.  We spent the rest of the afternoon driving roads and pulling off to glass canyons/ridges.  As it got later in the afternoon, we headed back to the spot we camped the night before and setup camp.  Calvin and I headed off to where we spotted the bulls earlier that morning.  20151022_elk1Within 10 minutes, he spotted a bull, then we spotted another, and another…all in all we spotted up 6 legal bulls.  It was starting to get late, and in hindsight we should not have gone after those bulls.  Thermals can be your friend, but not late in the day when you are trying to come in from about 900′-1000′ elevation above them.  Lesson #1 learned.  Lesson #2…get in better shape before going on an elk hunt in the thin mountain air.  The hike back to the top was rough…I was in for a long week.


20151022_wetroadThat evening a storm moved through around 3:00 AM.  Thunder erupting around, lighting crashing, followed by about an hour of intense rain.  Luckily I stayed completely dry in my Tarptent Protrail setup.  After spending the morning glassing, and only seeing a few mule deer, we decided to pack up and take a road trip up north to a new area.  When we pulled into the new area, you could immediately see the terrain/landscape difference.  20151022_burnPreviously we were hunting in elevations around 8,200′-8,700′ with deep canyons and dark timber.  This new area was arid, portions burned, and with very little vegetation except for thick oak brush.  We drove the winding roads up the mountain for several hours and the only fauna we saw was a few wild horses.  Several times on the drive up we had to stop to fill in deep washouts with rocks, sticks, branches just so we could pass by.  20151022_drainageWhen we finally made it out, we decided this wasn’t the type of area we wanted to hunt so we headed back to the camp spot we had stayed the last 2 nights.  By the time we made it back, another hunting group had ended up setting up camp where we had stayed previously.  We debated on moving to a brand new area, but decided to set up about 200 yards away instead and regroup in the morning.


20151022_cdspottingLike we had done every other morning, shortly after crawling out of our tents and throwing our Sitka Gear on, we were sitting on top of a ridge glassing and snacking on our breakfast.  For the 2nd morning in a row, we struck out glassing anything up besides a few mulies.  We decided we’d venture into another area that was only a few miles away and I’m glad we did.  After hiking in over 2 miles, we spotted up a cow and spike a few hours before sunset.  Dad and I decided we’d drop down into the canyon and try to come up beneath them since it was starting to get late and the thermals would soon be changing.  Calvin stayed up top with the spotting scope to try to direct us to them using hand signals.  20151022_HUNTLong story short, Dad and I covered over 1,500′ in elevation and never saw the elk.  We ended up losing track of Calvin and by the time we made it back up to the top of the ridge where we had begun, he was nowhere to be found!  Lesson #3…always have a game plan, and stick with it.  We were sitting up on a mountainside, miles from our truck, with no idea where he could have been.  Finally, my dad turns on his cellphone and surprisingly has service to make a phone call…after the 2nd ring Calvin picks up and is back at the truck already.  It was well after midnight before we finally all made it back to camp and Dad and I were exhausted.  We quickly fixed something to eat and hit the sack.  It was a relief Calvin was OK, but I think Dad and I both could have rung his neck for leaving us out there with no idea of where he’d be when we got back.


20151022_campAfter the long night last night, I decided I’d sleep in a bit.  After getting some breakfast, we broke camp and headed back to the area we were the day before.  We had come across a great camp spot, away from public roads, and we decided we would setup camp there for the remainder of the week.  Running low on water, and not wanting to climb back down in the canyon to fill up, we headed off the mountain to a nearby town to grab some water, lunch, and fill up the truck with gas.  We got back up in the mountain in the middle of the afternoon and still hunted the dark timber that evening until dark.  We followed trails the best we could on the way through the dark timber when we heard a branch break below us.  20151022_bc2We worked slowly that direction but never did see or hear anything else.  The place looked very elky, so I’m sure there was an elk in there.  We made our way down another 100′ in elevation and came across a rub next to a trail.  We decided we’d setup close to the rub and wait for darkness to fall as it was now getting close to 6:30.  Dad and I had a close encounter with a mule deer at ~5 yards, but the rest of the evening was a bust.


20151022_sitkaWe followed the same morning routine this morning.  Get up, get dressed, grab our packs and head to the ridges.  We split up this morning heading in different directions with intentions of meeting back in camp around 9:00 AM.  I made it back shortly after 9:00, took care of a couple of blisters I had obtained a couple of nights ago and waited for my Dad and brother to get back.  Dad made it back first around 10:00 and Calvin didn’t get back until closer to noon.  He had glassed up a bull and had actually walked up on one bedded about 70 yards away as he worked his way through the timber.  20151022_blistersAfter giving us the down low of all the details, we treated our Sitka Gear in Carbon Synergy, grabbed a bite to eat and took a quick nap to refresh for the afternoon.  That afternoon we headed towards where Calvin had spotted the bull that morning.  We dropped Dad off on a little saddle along the ridge line, Calvin setup close to where he spotted the bedded bull, and I headed down the ridge to where Calvin had glassed the first bull that morning.  It took about an hour to make it to the point of the ridge, but once there I setup and started glassing the opposite canyon side.  It was probably an hour after getting setup when I hear a bugle.  I threw up my Vortex Razor HDs and spotted a nice 5×5 bull pretty close to where the cow and spike a couple of evenings before.  He wasn’t alone.  I spotted a cow, and he wasn’t too far behind her.  I dropped my pack and grabbed my bow and GPS and worked down the ridge a couple hundred feet until I was approximately the same elevation as the bull and cow on the other side of the canyon.  The bull bugled again, so I decided I’d try to give calling a shot.  I called 3-4 times and shortly after the bull looked across the canyon in my direction and bugled again!  He was obviously interested, but there was no way he was coming without his cow.  We traded calls back and forth a few times when I look down near the creek at the bottom of the canyon and see a spike poke out of the dark timber at the edge of the meadow.  20151022_spikeThe spike ran a short distance my direction, stopped for a while, then again worked his way my direction.  He crossed the meadow and started coming up my side of the canyon until he got to about 60 yards away.  About that time, I look to my right and a small mule deer doe is standing not 20 yards away.  I sat as still as I could but eventually she spooked…and when she did, so did the spike.  He took off back where he came from and worked up the canyon towards the bull and cow.  Had spikes been legal, I may have had my first elk.  I sat for a while longer and saw two more elk off to the north.  Around 7:45 PM the cow decided she was ready to head down to the meadow and the bull followed.  I watched them as darkness fell over the area.  He followed close behind bugling and chuckling every minute or so.  It was a beautiful sight as I watched under the moonlight as they worked off towards my left.  It was by far the most exciting hunt I have had yet!


20151022_rayOur last full day of hunting.  We followed our same routine again this morning and before I could even take a bite of my blueberry granola Mountain House breakfast, I had caught a glimpse of an elk on the mountain side where I had spotted the elk the night before.  It was getting late in the morning and I had no clue what to do next.  The elk was obviously heading to bed for the afternoon.  We reconvened at camp and checked out the map.  We noticed we could drive up the road about 2 miles and there was a short road that followed the ridge above the elk we were seeing.  We drove in as far as the road went before a downed log stopped us, grabbed all of our gear and hiked in the last 3/4 of a mile.  20151022_bc1Calvin slipped down the mountain and Dad and I continued another 1/4 mile or so and started our way down.  We came across a lot of sign, so Dad stayed and setup while I worked my way down to get closer to where the elk were yesterday evening.  I was in position with about 1 1/2 hours left of daylight but the elk weren’t anywhere to be seen and none were talking.  Finally, about a half hour before sunset I hear a bugle off the right down below me.  He was several hundred yards away at that time.  I gave a few calls and worked down the mountain side a bit more to try to get closer, stopping every so often when I had a good shooting lane.  I heard him bugle several more times that evening before dark, but from the sounds of them, he was already in the meadow at the bottom of the canyon.  Defeated, I scaled back up the mountain side and picked up my dad before meeting Calvin at the top of the ridge.  He had heard a different bull bugle, but didn’t make a visual.  We made it back to camp that evening, knowing our chance of killing an elk this trip was over.


With a 20+ hour drive a head of us, and Calvin having to be back by a set time on Sunday to get to on his flight back to Virginia, we decided we’d take the morning to organize our gear and pack up for the long drive East.  After making it down off the mountain, we stopped at a truck stop to take our first shower in over a week.  Feeling fresh, we continued on until we made it back to southern Indiana the following morning.

Although we came back empty-handed, it was still a successful trip.  We knew going in that the odds were going to be stacked against us.  Success rates for OTC archery in Colorado is below 15%, and with all 3 of us being greenhorns to elk hunting, it was going to take a lot of luck to get it done.  We made life long memories that week and now have a little extra motivation to succeed on our next trip.



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TightSpot Quivers – Made in the USA!

TightSpot Logo1aI’ll be honest, I have always struggled with the idea of breaking the bank on a quiver.  Not to mention, I could never find one that I really liked. In my mind, it is simply a piece of equipment designed to hold arrows and transport broadheads to the treestand.  With the hundreds of different quivers on the market, there always seemed to be something that drove me crazy about them. Whether it be excessive noise, cheap construction, an overly large quiver mount, or you name it. For a piece of equipment that seemed in my mind to be so simple, I certainly struggled to find satisfaction with any prior quiver purchase I made.

Tight-Spott-3At the recommendation of good friend, and SELFILMED Owner, Brett Bueltel I purchased my first TightSpot Quiver. I elected to go with the 5 arrow version (both a 5 and a 3 arrow version are currently available) as I typically carry a small game head with me in the fall.  I like to make sure I have enough “ammunition” with me in case I see multiple does, or miss…(which, unfortunately, would not be a first for me).

As soon as I received my new TightSpot quiver in the mail, I could immediately tell it was not like the other quivers I had used in the past. This quiver is rock solid! It weighs a mere 9.9 ounces, which is very light, but has a feel to it that makes it seem like it should weigh more than it does. The construction is top-notch, and everything fits together very snug.  I typically prefer to shoot with my quiver off of my bow, but the built-in adjustability of the quiver makes it very easy to fit it to my setup if I decide to shoot with my quiver on.  The quiver can be adjusted to slide higher or lower on the bow, be made to sit further away from the riser of your bow, or it can be adjusted to mount extremely tight to your riser.  You can also adjust the angle the quiver to cant the quiver hood forward towards your sight or back towards your string.  All of these adjustments allow you to more easily balance your Tight-Spott-2bow, which helps to minimize torque.  Another great feature of this quiver is that the insert inside of the hood of the quiver is already pre-cut for broadheads.  This is a great solution to help keep your Grim Reaper broadheads sharp as you take put them in/out of your quiver. There is also nothing worse than fumbling around at last light trying to get your arrow back in the quiver while trying to keep the blades closed on quivers with solid foam hood inserts.

I love the fact that unlike many of the newer quiver designs on the market, TightSpot was able to provide a longer, more stable quiver, without adding unnecessary weight.  Arrows are typically pretty close to the length of most modern hunting bows (or longer), and I found that all too often shorter quiver designs cause the nocks to stick well below the bottom cam and limb of your bow. Often times, this results in getting mud and other debris stuck in you nocks or causing you to knock arrows out of your quiver as the ends catch on brush. Dirty nocks are a simple thing to clean out, but on the rare occasion I get a shot a deer or turkey while walking to or from my hunting spot, cleaning out my knocks is the last thing I want to worry about.

Tight-Spott-1The next thing about TightSpot quivers, and quite honestly the most important thing to me, the bracket that mounts to your bow is extremely small and light weight!  As I previously mentioned, I usually only shoot with a quiver on my bow in rare circumstances (such as a rush shot while walking to or from my treestand), and I don’t like the big clunky brackets that many of the other quiver manufacturers use. Moreover, I don’t like the noise and effort required to attach/detach many of the removable quivers on the market. The single large lever on the TightSpot quiver makes it quick, and more importantly super quiet to remove and put the quiver back on the bow…all with one hand. Once your TightSpot quiver is on your bow, it is on, and I mean to tell you, it is solid. There is no vibration or movement whatsoever.

imageAnother downfall of most quivers on the market is the lack of adjustability in the arrow gripper.  The TightSpot quiver has the ability to hold your arrows better than any other quiver on the market.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, there are two things.  First, every TightSpot quiver has their patented BullDog Gripper system.  This allows the user to individually adjustable each individual arrow grippers (Arrow Wedge) so that no matter what diameter arrow you shoot, you can get the perfect fit/tension on your arrow shaft. Secondly, every TightSpot quiver comes equipped with their Quick Draw system which keeps one arrow conveniently facing backwards towards you at all times for quick accessibility.

Finally, lets not forget the TightSpot’s Ironclad Guarantee.  Simply put, if your TightSpot quiver (original owner only) ever breaks, TightSpot will repair or replace it no questions asked!  Warranties like that are hard to find these days, and so are products that can match the quality TightSpot is known for.


Visit TightSpot to order yours today!


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Vortex Razor HD 10×42 Binoculars – Optical Excellence Without the High Price Tag

20150813_SFVortexRazorHDIf you’ve spent time in your local Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, or any other local favorite sporting good store looking at optics under the glass counters, you know there can be a wide array of options and with that a wide array of prices.  There’s an old saying when picking out optics.  “Decide what your budget is, then double it.”  Optics are one item you do not want to skimp on.  Before you go and drop $2,000+ on a brand new pair of 10×42 Swaros, I recommend you take a long hard look at the Vortex Razor HD 10×42’s.


The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a pair of the Vortex Razor HD 10×42’s is that they are built like a tank. ROCK SOLID.  The open “H” hinge design and magnesium chassis melts right into your hands, and the Rubber Armor coating provides a very comfortable and durable non-slip texture for added protection of your high dollar optics.  Coming in at only 24.8 ounces, they are on the lower end in weight versus other high-end roof prism binoculars (Swaro EL’s – 28.2 oz, Zeiss Conquest HD – 28 oz, Zeiss Victory HT – 28.4 oz, Leica Ultravid – 26.98 oz.).  20150813_SFDiopterThe “H” hinge design Razor HDs feature a large and easy to reach center focus wheel, multi-position adjustable eye cups, and locking diopter adjustment to help fine tune the focus for your eyes.  The objective lens side of the “H” hinge also includes a threaded tripod adapter socket allowing you to mount your binos to a tripod using just about any tripod adapter (Vortex sells one for $24.00,

20150813_SFTripodSurrounded by the tough outer magnesium shell are premium extra-low dispersion high-definition (HD) lenses.  The optical quality of binoculars is one feature you cannot dismiss.  All exterior lenses are coated with multiple coatings of Vortex’s proprietary anti-reflective “XRPlus” coating and an “ArmorTek” coating.  The XRPlus multi-coating allows for maximum light transmission and helps to enhance overall brightness while the ArmorTek coating is a hard, scratch resistant coating which helps to resist scratches caused by dirt and oil. The interior roof prisms are also coated with a multi-layer coating to help increase contrast and clarity.  Argon purging and o-ring seals make the internals of the Vortex Razor HDs completely waterproof and fogproof.  20150813_SFEyecupThis helps protect internal mechanisms from corrosion by keeping all of the exterior environmental moisture out.  Mother nature is one (of the many) things we as hunters can’t control, so having a completely sealed pair of binoculars is a must for every hunting situation.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the warranty.  Vortex is probably best known for their no questions asked VIP Warranty.  You can read all the details here:  I’ve not had to use it yet, but it is comforting to know that if something were to happen to my high dollar optics, I’d be taken care of.20150813_SFFocus

The Vortex Razor HDs retail for $1499 on the Vortex website, and can be purchased online from one of the many Vortex online dealers for approximately $1,199.

In the box:

  • Vortex Razor HD 10×42
  • Deluxe padded carry case
  • Comfort neck strap
  • Objective Lens Covers
  • Ocular Lens Cover
  • VIP Unconditional Lifetime Warranty


Magnificaiton 10x
Objective Lens 42mm
Eye Relief 16.5mm
Exit Pupil 4.2mm
FOV – Linear 362’/1,000 yds.
FOV – Angular 6.9°
Close Focus 6′
Interpupillary Distance 55-75mm
Height 5.9″
Width 5.1″
Weight 24.8 oz.


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Grim Reaper Broadheads = Wild Turkey Devastation

sfgr-1  One of the largest debates among bowhunters today is broadheads. With a growing number of broadhead manufacturers in the outdoor industry always changing and adding products to better suit each individual hunting situation, it can be overwhelmingsfgr-2 choosing the best broadhead to suit your needs. With the spring turkey season behind us, I’m sure some of you are thinking of ways to improve your set up for next season, or maybe just thinking about trying something different.

After losing a turkey 3 years ago with my arrow still in him, I’ve spent the last 2 years shooting several different broadheads, focusing on what will be best for my set up on turkeys. After talking to the guys at Grim Reaper, they recommended that I try shooting their razor cut whitetail special expandable heads for a change. While they are referred to as their sfgr-4“whitetail special” heads, their expandable 3 blades with a true 2″ cut diameter are the most lethal to turkeys I have experienced. Like all of Grim Reapers heads, they fly like a field tips which was important for me as I prefer spotting and stalking where your shots will be slightly further in distance.

This year I was fortunate enough to stalk into a group fairly early in the season and get a 32 yard shot on a tom that was walking straight away from me feeding. After running turkeyanother 30 yards with my arrow in him he piled up. After recovering and removing the arrow I could see the damage it had done and confirmed my hopes with this broadhead. The head had entered right above his right hip and angled through the body, cutting into the backside of the breasts. I was truly impressed at the penetration this head achieved on the tom, and I encourage everyone to pick up a pack of these heads and give them a try. They are devastating on turkeys and they are also a great head for use on whitetail, antelope, and similar sized game.

For your next big game adventure check out the entire line of Grim Reaper Broadheads at



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Firenock Aerovane III – Advancement in Arrow Fletching Technology

logoWhen it comes to developing the most technically advanced products for the archery industry, it’s hard to beat the brilliant mind of Firenock’s Owner, Dorge Huang.  Anyone that has had the opportunity to talk to Dorge in person at one of the many local hunting shows he attends, the ATA Show, or even over the phone knows he is adamant in redefining the limits of modern archery equipment.  If improvements can be made to an existing product to squeeze out better performance, or if there simply isn’t a product on the market to solve the problem you didn’t even know you had, there is a good chance the idea has already been rattling around in Dorge’s brain.

20150717_3Gen_SFIn the spring of 2008, the original Aerovane was introduced in an effort to provide a much quieter, and more efficient arrow vane.  Every other vane on the market at the time utilized drag (friction) as a way to develop rotation of the arrow.  This typically required fletching the vanes at severe angles to produce enough drag on the arrow to induce rotation quicker, thereby stabilizing your broadhead-tipped arrow.  With the concept of airfoil technology, less drag was induced on the vane which results in less velocity lost in flight and more kinetic energy being delivered downrange where it is needed.  The lower drag also produces much quieter arrow flight.  The rounded front (closely resembling an owls wing) and thickness of the Aerovane also helps to reduce noise as the typical vane will “flutter” while in flight as it has no rigidity.

20150717_JigFletching_SFAfter extensive testing of the original Aerovane concept/design, and after consulting with low-speed airfoil experts, the original Aerovane was refined into a newer/improved (and shorter overall length) Aerovane II shortly thereafter.  If you want to read up more on the technical aspects of the Aerovane II, click here: Aerovane II Info Page.

20150717_A2A3SideProfile_SFThe introduction of a precision fletching jig in 2010 (Aerovane Jig) allowed for further improvements to the Aerovane design.  The most noticeable difference between the Aerovane II and Aerovane III is the winglet on the top of the Aerovane III.  The addition of the winglet, and the addition of a 4th micro-texturing zone to the Aerovane III increased the crosswind stability and aerodynamic efficiency of the 3rd generation Aerovane over the Aerovane II.  The overall height and weight of the Aerovane was also reduced between Aerovane II and Aerovane III providing more cable clearance and greater FOC (front of center).

20150717_A2A3FrontProfile_SFOne might ask, “If the Aerovane III has all these improvements over the Aerovane II, then why even consider using the Aerovane II?”  Well this is where it gets a little tricky.  Like any high performance “machine”, having finely tuned equipment is of the utmost importance.  The broadhead you choose to put on the tip of your arrow can also affect the performance of the Aerovane III.  We use and trust Grim Reaper expandable broadheads and have had great success with this combination in the past.  20150717_FletchedOffset_SFPer Firenock, it is recommended that you fletch Aerovane III straight (0° offset) to gain optimum performance with arrows shooting over 280 ft/sec; It can be fletched up to a 1.5° offset for arrows shooting as slow as 150 ft/sec and still have excellent performance.

The Aerovane III weighs in at 5.18 grains, has an overall length of 1.967″, and an overall height of 0.39″.  The Aerovane III is available in 10 colors, and is available by ordering direct from Firenock’s website here: Aerovane III 18 pc / 100 pc pack

If for some reason you aren’t as comfortable with the tuning of your setup, or if you are shooting a whisker biscuit type rest, take a good look at upgrading your current fletching to the Aerovane II.  You will notice a big difference in your arrow’s flight and broadhead control after switching from the older flimsy plastic vanes to the Aerovane II.

I have personally been using the Aerovane III vanes for the past 2 years and have had great success with them through turkey and whitetail season here in the Midwest.  I20150428_Firenock‘ve never been more confident in taking a shot at 50-60 yards in actual hunting conditions (and much further during practice sessions) than I have since making the switch to the Aerovane III.  I’m looking forward to testing them in the wide open western terrain this fall as I chase after Elk for the first time this September.


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SELFILMED Struggles: Left Handed Hunters

SF-BLOG-LEFTY-6As a left-handed hunter, you learn to be patient well before ever hitting the woods. A left-handed hunter is definitely a minority in the hunting industry. If I want a new flagship bow for example, I can guarantee you that it will be 6-8 months after my buddies (right-handed) receive their bow before a lefty will be available. What’s even worse is that if I want to go shoot the new bows, that usually means I have to shoot a RH model.  I realize you must cater to the majority to make money in this industry, but I digress.  Now that I’m off my soapbox, let’s take this struggle past equipment and apply it to how I SELFILM my hunts.

SELFILMED hunting is a struggle in itself, but lets dig into how one sets up to film a whitetail hunt from a tree. SF-BLOG-LEFT3You never know the exact location where you are going to get to take a shot, so you must set up where the highest percentage of shots will take place.  To successfully SELFILM your archery hunts, you must be setup so that you can have your bow in one hand and move your camera with the other to follow the animal. Once your target is in frame and your shot presents itself, you must come to full draw and take the shot, then quickly back to the camera to film the retreat and post shot interview.  Lets go over the configuration of a majority of consumer and professional video cameras on the market today. Most of these cameras have a flip out LCD display to give you a clear view of what you are filming. SF-BLOG-LEFTY2However, these displays tend to be on the left side. This works great for right-handed SELFILMED bow hunters. You have the camera and camera arm on your right hand side facing the woods, and have your bow in your left hand.  The LCD display of the camera is in plan view to follow game and capture good footage. For a left-handed hunter, you still need to place the camera on your right side so you can see the display and capture good footage. This is where you now have to be creative.  I rest my bow cam on my left leg with the bow canted forward and left hand fingers holding the string. When a shot presents itself I can go from operating my camera with my right hand straight to my bow’s grip, reposition left hand to my Carter release and come to full draw….and pray the animal stays in frame and you don’t need to move/reposition the camera to get it back in frame.SF-BLOG-LEFTY-4

Another more costly solution I have debated is to attach an external, battery-powered LCD display on top of your camera and place the camera on your left side.  This would allow me to operate the camera with my dominant hand and still see what I’m filming…problem solved, right?  Well sort of.  This leads me into the next SELFILMED Struggle: “Packing In all your gear” which will be posted soon.

I’m sure there are a few of you rolling your eyes and wondering what the big deal is….I’d be willing to bet you’re probably right-handed. Give it a try sometime and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  For you lefties out there…I hope this has helped you come up with a workable solution to help you SELFILM your next hunt.  Good luck!

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2015 Sitka Gear – Stratus Pants – What’s New?

20150706_ProductImagesIf you spend any amount of time on a hunting forum, you probably are aware of the buzz with the release of the all new 2015 Sitka Gear pattern, OptiFade™ Concealment Elevated II.  Along with introducing an all new camouflage pattern, Sitka Gear has released several new innovative items as well as making some updates to several of the old tried and true pieces in their lineup.

20150701_Sitka16I just received my first order of the new 2015 Sitka Gear in the mail this week, and in the box was the newly updated Stratus Pant.  The Stratus Pant has always been one of my go-to pieces for mid-season whitetail hunting.  I’ve found it to be a very versatile piece of my whitetail arsenal.  Depending on how you layer, the Stratus “suit” can be worn in temps ranging from the upper 50’s down to the lower 30’s (Fahrenheit).  I wanted to take a couple of minutes to show you some of the differences and similarities between the new 2015 Elevated II version and the older version of the Stratus Pant with the now obsoleted Optifade™ Concealment Forest pattern.

20150701_Sitka15Before we touch on the differences between the two versions, lets touch on what hasn’t changed.  For starters, the Stratus Pants are still a 100% windproof pant with the familiar GORE WINDSTOPPER® laminate sandwiched between an outer shell and a micro-grid fleece backer interior.  However, the outer shell of the Stratus series has changed this year.  I’ll go into more detail on that later on.  The WINDSTOPPER® laminate is great at keeping bone-chilling wind from penetrating your outer layer, yet allows moisture vapor to easily escape which keeps the wearer more comfortable in a wider range of temperatures.  20150701_Sitka4The pants feature the familiar thigh cargo pockets with quiet snap closures for storing gloves, cell phones, GPS, etc. when on the hunt.  Along with the grippy inner waist material to help keep shirts from untucking, the built-in belt also remains in the newer version of the Stratus Pant to provide the wearer with a custom fit around the waist.


Now let’s see what has been updated/changed this year besides the obvious change in camo pattern.  Once you get your hands on the new pant, the first and probably most noticeable difference is the overall weight of the pants.  The newer version comes in at a slender 28 ounces which is quite a bit lighter than the older version.  To achieve the weight savings, Sitka Gear changed the outer layer of the garment from its durable water-repellent (DWR) polyester shell to a lighter wet-printed micro-fleece polyester shell.  20150701_Sitka13Not only has this helped reduce the weight of the pant, but it has also helped quiet the pants considerably.  Drawing your bow on a world-class whitetail, stalking on unsuspecting prey, or brushing up against the tree you are sitting in is now much stealthier than it was before.


In addition to the change in outer shell material, Sitka removed the grunt tube pocket from the exterior of the thigh cargo pocket on the right leg, as well as both boot gaskets to help trim away even more weight.  In removing the boot gaskets (used to keep debris out of your boot if you tucked your pant legs into them), 20150701_Sitka10the small pocket on the inside of the left leg, which was designed to hold the tip of a longbow or recurve, is also gone.  A bit of fabric holding the built-in belt on the back of the waist was also removed, although I really don’t think this helps much in terms of reducing the overall weight of the pant.

20150701_Sitka8The last change was made to the entire Whitetail lineup.  The new OptiFade™ Elevated II pattern.  In my opinion, one of the downfalls of the previous whitetail pattern, OptiFade™ Elevated Forest, was the dark green/black color palette.  Here in Ohio, early whitetail archery season begins in mid-September with the woods being filled with lush green vegetation.  20150701_Sitka9The all green foliage changes to bright oranges, browns, reds through Fall and by the time late season rolls around, many hardwoods have little to no leaves left.  Many whitetail hunters yearned for a pattern with a more neutral color palette to help conceal them throughout the entire season.  The Elevated II pattern also “helps to extend the range of engagement” as Sitka explains by opening up the pattern to help you better blend into the more open skies of late season.

20150701_Sitka2My honest opinion on the updated 2015 version of the Stratus Pant?  If you already have the pre-2015 version of the Stratus Pant, I’d highly recommend you look at “upgrading” your old pair to the newer version.  While you may lose a few of the small features of the older version (grunt tube pocket, boot gaskets, etc.), the newer/updated version has so much more to offer the serious whitetail hunter (lighter weight, much quieter outer shell, more versatile all season camo pattern).  If you don’t already own a pair of the Stratus Pants, what are you waiting for?

The Stratus Pant retails for $299 and is available in size Small and up to size 3XL with tall sizes available from size Medium thru XL.  Get yours today at

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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!


Bird Stats:

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

Brett’s Gear:

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