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How To/Pro-Tips

How Far Have I Come

Knowing how far you've gone into the woods is necessary to know how far you have yet to go. It also is a clue to how long it will take to get back. If you know how far something (say your stand site) is and/or how long it will take you to cover some distance denoted on a map, you can plan your travel time well. Judging distance either by sight or by how long you've traveled is not easy and takes some practice. It also takes a watch. Elapsed time of travel can be a rough guide to the actual mileage. A healthy adult can walk about three miles per hour on level ground

Don't Choke Up

Federal waterfowl regulations require the use of non-toxic shot. For most of us that means the soft-iron shot commonly called "steel." Steel shot is different from lead. First, because steel pellets are lighter than lead, go at least one shot size larger than you used with lead. Also, since steel is harder than lead, the pellets don't deform and it shoots a tighter pattern. This means opening up the choke at least one degree. If you used "full" with lead; use "modified" with steel. In fact, some of the larger steel pellets, often used for goose shooting (sizes BBB and larger), often shoot better through an "improved cylinder" choke. Pattern your gun to be sure. Alternatives to steel include bismuth and the new tungsten pellets. Both are ballistically better than steel, though rather expensive. Bismuth most closely resembles lead, while tungsten pellets are so hard that they require special wads. However, both perform better with less choke that old-time lead shot.

Staying Warm And Dry

The key to keeping warm outdoors is layering clothing. Several layers of clothing are better than one heavy garment. Layers trap more insulating air and allow the wearer to put on and take off clothes as the temperature changes. You must manage moisture. If you get sweaty, soon you will get clammy and cold. Take off some clothing before exerting yourself and put it back on when you get still. Rain gear should "breathe." That is it should let out the vapors of bodily moisture but keep the larger liquid molecules of raindrops out. Some garments accomplish this with a waterproof/breathable membrane. Others impregnate the outer fabric with polyurethane. For best results wash the garments with a waterproof/breathable membrane regularly (but in a manufacturer-approved way). To refresh the waterproofing on the polyurethane-impregnated fabrics, spray with a high-grade silicone. Good insulation allows the outward transpiration ("breathing") of moisture, while trapping body heat. Pick compatible insulation to go with good waterproof-breathable qualities for great hunting garments.

Handgun Hunting

Today, handgun hunting for big game, and for white-tailed deer in particular, is a true sport. Some while back it was more of a stunt. Most traditional handgun cartridges simply were not powerful enough to reliably take a deer except at very short range. The .44 magnum changed that, and now with the .41 magnum, ..454 Casull and other powerful handgun cartridges, shots out to 100 yards are not unreasonable. Stretching handgun hunting ranges even farther are the handguns that use bottle-necked rifle cartridges. When chambered for the .243, 6mm, 7-30 Waters, 7mm-08, .30-30, .35 and others, handguns don't give up very much to rifles chambered for the same rounds. However, these highly specialized handguns are usually single-shot, long-barreled and scope-sighted to take advantage of the additional power. Because they have no buttstock, handguns are more difficult to shoot accurately under field conditions than rifles. Considerable practice in field-shooting positions is required to make a prospective handgun hunter proficient.

The Second Chance Rut

If you are fortunate enough to live where the deer season extends into December or January, you can take advantage of the secondary rut. All the adult does and some yearlings that were not impregnated during the primary rutting period come into heat again some 28 days later. This revival of rutting activity may pull some wary, old "survivor" bucks out of hiding. But they won't come out far. Remember, these are the survivors; the ones that took your best shot about a month ago and won. Secondary rut sign is subtle. Suddenly, a few old scrapes are freshened up or a few new ones are made. Just as suddenly, a fresh rub or two show up where you haven't noticed them before. The bucks are on the prowl but are keeping a low profile. The usual rut strategies, involving grunting, rattling and sex scents, are useful but should be used with equal subtlety. Keep your strategy low-key in the second half.

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