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How To/Pro-Tips

Bow Basics

By now you should have started your archery practice routine to get ready for bow season. Start out with frequent but short sessions. You have to get your muscles re-toned just like your reflexes. Some archers reduce their bows draw weight for early practice sessions but I try to avoid that because it means at some point I will have bring it back to full hunting weight, re-sight and re-adjust my thinking
Just a few shots a day, several days a week is the best approach. Don't be too quick to re-tune or re-sight your bow unless something is obviously wrong. Minor flaws may indicate that it's your shooting form that's off. Wait until you are back in form before re-sighting or fine-tuning your bow.
Remember to finish off by shooting from realistic hunting positions and angles, preferably at 3-D targets. If you hunt from tree stands, you should certainly practice your down-angle shooting. Your final practice sessions should match real hunting situations as accurately as possible.

Getting It Out

If you think an elk is big on the hoof, wait until you try to deal with one on the ground. Particularly in warm weather, the carcass should be gutted and opened to allow air circulation and the start of the cooling process as soon as possible. It's just like field-dressing a deer on a really big scale.
If you are hunting with friends and are real lucky, your elk fell where a vehicle or a horse can get to the carcass. If not, you are going to have to do some serious heaving and rolling to get the job done. I carry a small block and tackle to help with this. I also carry a meat and bone saw. An elk can be disjointed with a big hunting knife but the saw is much easier.

The final step is cutting the elk up into transportable hunks to haul out. Again, vehicle, horse or backpack transport are the options that dictate how big the hunks should be.

Duck Calling Tune-Up

I didn't win any of my duck-calling championships by showing up at the contest with no practice and otherwise unprepared to compete. Neither do I go to the blind unready to do my best calling job to waterfowl. Neither should you.
If you get a new call, it is a very wise idea to get the instructional tape or video that goes with it. Calls from different makers often blow a bit differently. Listening to the guy who made the call tell you how to blow it best is a far shorter learning curve than trial and error.
If you are using an older call, clean it up. All calls perform better when the crumbs of last season's sandwiches, weed seeds and pocket lint are removed. A thorough cleaning requires removing the reed or reeds. Study their original position before removing them and replace them properly.
For a quick clean-up in the field, carry some dental floss or use a dollar bill to clean between and under reeds without disassembly.

Plinking Around

We should all strive to become better shots, either with bow or gun. Most of us can still shoot bows in the backyard. However, in this crowded world, gunshots ringing through the neighborhood are severely frowned upon. This is particularly so with centerfire deer rifles, which produce a lot of bang.

Yet there are still many places where .22 rimfires create no problem. This, plus the fact that .22 ammo is quite cheap, is a boon to shooters. Shooting 500 to 1000 rounds of rimfire ammunition over a summer will do wonders for your marksmanship. It's best to duplicate your deer rifle with a .22 with the same action type and sights.

Punching holes in paper can get boring. "Active" targets are more fun. Tin cans are fine if you clean up your mess. Glass is a no-no. Shotgun clay targets leave many fragments that are hard to clean up. I like charcoal briquettes. They are cheap, available, biodegradable and make a nice puff of dust when hit.

Blind Stands

We aren't talking about stands where you can't see anything; we are talking about stands where the deer can't see you. This has become more important as deer have responded to hunting pressure by becoming more wary. Nowadays, deer look up and if they see you sitting on an open platform, they don't much like it. If you hunt from a ground blind, camouflage is critical.

Camouflaged and covered stands are the answer. Many modern deer stands are equipped to accept an optional camouflage screen that can be wrapped around the stand. Any stand that has a box-like construction or a shooting rail can be draped with camouflage cloth with a few simple ties or connections.

Natural camouflage is good. When preparing your stand site and cutting shooting lanes, leave a bit of natural vegetation around your actual stand. However, it must be open enough to allow a variety of shots. The ideal combo is a bit of natural growth backed up with a camouflage-covered stand.

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