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How To/Pro-Tips

Long Shots

These days there is much fuss about shooting whitetails at extreme ranges of 400 yards plus. Truth is, the technology is available to do this. Another truth is that most of us don't have that technology or the requisite skill to use it if we did.
It takes more than a super-fast cartridge clocking 3,000 feet per second plus. It also takes a super-accurate rifle that shoots one-inch or less groups at 100 yards. Every once in awhile we luck on to a from-the-factory rifle that shoots that well but usually such accuracy is the result of some fairly expensive tweaking by a professional gunsmith.

It also requires the best scope money can buy and we are talking pretty big money. Absolutely precise range-finding ability is another requirement. This is beyond "eye-ball it and guesstimate" range and requires a laser rangefinder accurate to within a few yards at a quarter mile.

Combine all this technology with well-honed shooting and wind-doping skills before dialing for long-distance bucks.

Reading the Rut

As with the pre-rut, watch the progression of the rut itself to make the right moves. Conventional wisdom says that bucks are all chasing does and all bets are off. Well, a buck that has just successfully bred a doe or lost her to a more dominant buck will often return to his old haunts and freshen up his scrapes.

This is more often the case in areas where the rut is a long, drawn-out affair. When previously neglected scrapes suddenly look fresh again, you are in the neighborhood with a lonely buck.

All during the rut, watch where does travel and concentrate. Bucks are looking for does and tend to hang out, usually in heavy cover, near areas of high doe use.

When a buck is actually on a hot doe's trail, he will follow her and very well may be caught on main trails, away from heavy cover and in unfamiliar territories. Keep your eyes open during the rut because a buck may turn up anywhere.

Timing the Thermals

It's not just wind that can betray the hunter's scent to deer. Normal air currents called thermals can also do you in. These are caused by the air warming and cooling during the day. It's a simple fact of basic physics; warm air rises and cool air falls. If one of these thermals carries your scent to a wary buck, he'll be gone.
Thermals are particularly pronounced in mountainous country. Typically, as the day warms up, the thermals rise. In the evening, the cooling air "falls" into the valleys. It is usually recommended that you place your stand site higher on the mountain or ridgeline for morning hunting and at lower elevations in the evenings.
Another quirk of mountain air currents is that the steep topography often causes the wind to swirl. Even if the prevailing wind is from one direction, the air around you may be going in another. Keep your eye on wind direction and thermals when hunting in the mountains.

Reflections on Rattling

The tactic of clashing deer antlers together to lure in a competitive buck has enjoyed mixed success across the country. Rattling started in Texas and was soon tried in other areas.

Different areas showed different degrees of effectiveness. The key words are "competitive buck." In well-managed areas with a low doe-to-buck ratio, the bucks must truly compete for the available does and both rattling and other forms of deer calling are more effective. In areas where there are too many does there is usually a strung-out rut and both rattling and calling are less effective because the bucks are less competitive. Basically, with plenty of does to go around, the bucks don't have to be so aggressive.

Timing also has an influence. The most competitive periods associated with the rut are the immediate pre- and post-rut periods. Both rattling and calling work best at this time. However, even at the peak of rut, a buck without a doe can be vulnerable to rattling and calling.

Be a Duck Locator

The easiest way to successfully call ducks and geese is to set up where they want to land. This requires scouting. Spending lots of time watching birds with binoculars pays dividends when you go to shoot.
In every marsh or swamp there are favored "duck holes." Some remain the same all season long and sometimes year after year. Others may change as the season progresses. For consistent success you should know which is which and where they are. Having several promising areas is good insurance.
Field feeding geese can be troublesome because they follow the abundance of fresh food. Snow geese are particularly bad about changing feeding locations on short notice. When you find a favored feeding spot, get on it quickly, while it is still hot.
I have several portable blinds that I use to keep up with current waterfowl usage patterns and to avoid over-shooting a good spot. Even a perennial hot spot can be cooled off by constant shooting.

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