Heads Up Decoy

Heads Up Decoy
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Miles of Stone

I apologize in advance for writing a lengthy blog message...

As I was emptying and rearranging the remnants of what's left of Heads Up Decoy in my garage, I couldn't help but reflect on what a big weekend of milestones it was.

On Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of spending the day with my wife as we watched a young lady don a "White Coat" symbolizing her commitment to herself, her fellow doctors, and patients she will serve, not only in the next four years of her medical school training, but in her professional years to follow. There were over 5,000 applications submitted to be a part of the 2012 class at the University of Kansas Medical School...211 were chosen. It started with..."I wonder if I should be a doctor?" to "I can be a doctor." to "Holy crap...I have the opportunity to be a doctor!"

It was a hard road traveled with miles of stone to get to this point that only this young lady can understand. Faith, perseverance, self reliance. Not why me or woe is me. There is certain difficulty ahead. There will be milestones alone the way and miles of stone to travel over to get there.

Thinking back as the stages of  the application process where unfolding, an email notifying many of us that a formal interview was awarded...a milestone in the application process. An interview invite means that there is a very real chance of acceptance. The initial email was filled with thank you's and prayers to all for the support and belief that brought a tear to the eye followed by smiles and laughter when advice for the interview began to roll in. I thought to myself...Who are we to be giving advice to a kid who works harder, is more worldly, more prepared for this moment, and smarter than any of us? I promptly replied, "You'll be great!" And she was.

Not to my surprise, this young lady willing and openly accepted the challenged ahead of her and I look from outside with great pride and emotion of the road traveled for this great accomplishment which is all her own. She worked hard to endure the next 4 years of pain. Monday at 9:00 I am confident she will be up to the challenges ahead. Her faith, work ethic, and conservative values will be more than enough.

So how do you top that? Well, you don't. Today was a day to reflect...and to clean. The garage was still a mess, it was only 800 degrees as the afternoon sun began to beat down into the opened door. I'd been at this for awhile. My thoughts, as they so often do, turn to Heads Up Decoy. The whole reason in the first place for the cleaning was due to Heads Up Decoy. I couldn't help but think about how I got to this point...and the people that have helped me along the way.

What's the big deal anyway. I'm cleaning my garage. What can be so important about that. Well, this week marks a milestone in Heads Up Decoy. I have turned over final assembly and shipping to an outside source to free up time to focus on marketing, sales, customer service, managing the products, and the company with the hopes of taking Heads Up Decoy to new milestones. My garage, like so many others, was the focal point of Heads Up Decoy.

It was early in 2006 that I made a phone call which spurred another phone call. It only takes one person, beside yourself, to believe in you. Let's face it, you can't do it alone. I set an appointment to meet with a gentleman I had never heard of to show him my "rendition" of a big game decoy. My sample consisted of a white sheet with green tracing of an elk head along with a frame that seriously took me weeks to make. I asked if he could sew the decoy around the frame, for which he graciously said. Yeah, we can do that. That was it. I had someone that could sew the decoys.

This photo I took of an elk in a pin was printed to cloth and before I knew it we had a prototype...which did not resemble the original frame, the white sheet, or an elk. But nonetheless it was off to Colorado to begin in September to be the next Primos. The blob, which I called the first decoy, needed some improvements, but it improved enough to spark the interest of the before mentioned gentleman on my next visit.

To this day, I look at Steve Arnsdorf as the signal biggest influence in the success of Heads Up Decoy...and he's never hunted with one. Steve and his company have sewn a couple thousand decoys and every step of the way, Steve has helped me build along the way. He knows that Heads Up Decoy is not going to be his big account, because he wants it to be big for me. Not for him. He works with me as if he's invested in them. Truly selfless and genuine. For Steve, I am truly indebted.

Other notable people are my friends at Employment Connections who work with me and design their workforce on demand for me. I don't know where I'd be without your flexibility and your willingness to morph your services into exactly what I need.

Man, I can remember the first internet sale I made. I almost deleted the notification because I didn't even know what it was. I think I recall saying, "HOLY Sh*T! I think I sold one!" I think it took me 2 hours to process that first order. Since then, I've done substantially better. Throughout all the miles of stones traveled over and milestones accomplished, the product continues to shine, gain ground, and pull me through my mistakes or bad decisions as well as validating my beliefs in its effectiveness. H.U.D is far from a success, but measuring success has been much easier when you see your name in magazines or when people in the industry take you seriously even when at times you doubt everything about yourself.

I have managed to developed and acquired an excellent prostaff. A phenomenal website to highlight my product. Great success in the field with the decoys. Great advertising partners who believe in the products. A US Patent. It has been a great ride up to this point. It has taken tons of help from people from all over the country and world. What continues to drive myself are the people who invest their money in my products and the success they have in the field with them.

I can remember in the beginning, I often said, it's way easier to convince an animal my decoy is real than convincing a person that it works. And with all the success of Heads Up Decoy, we still have our skeptics.

My wife has been and continues to be my hardest sell. Morale victories and recognition has yet to convince her the sacrifices in time, money, the distractions, the irritability, time away, absence even when I physically present..and whatever else I've made her and our family go through, that it's worth it. But as I ease towards new milestones, I can feel what others tell me they feel...great things are coming so I'll keep trekking with a steady pace through the miles of stone building the best decoys on the market one at a time.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts for the day.

Be Mobile...Stay Mobile

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Click on pics to enlarge and scroll
The spring and summer months find many preparing and gearing up for the coming fall. I find myself thinking and wishing I could spend more time trekking the mountains or scouring the plains for potential Heads Up Decoy victims. Scouting and preparing is an integral part of "today's" hunt. I sometimes hang my pending successes or failures on my summer preparations...which really isn't necessary. But, I'm a competitor and I compete against myself...and in some ways against my fellow bowhunters. Just as I hope everyone arrows the buck or bull of their dreams...I want the same for me. To do that, you have to get yourself ready for the 30 seconds.

The last 2 weekends I've been to the high country of Colorado, buzzed the open country of Kansas, and to the bow doctor to spin test my arrows. Let's face it, scouting and preparation builds confidence...or it can freak you out if you don't find what you want or when your broadhead tipped arrows fly down range all jabberwaulky.

It is certainly rewarding when you've identified a buck or high country basin to later have that animal on the ground or find that basin echoing with rut crazed bugling bulls. Scouting paid off. But, when the hunt turns tough, the buck disappears or that basin is empty, preparation, mental toughness, and drive will ultimately test your true hunting skills and grit. I can think of two seasons where this was never more evident. The 2004 and 2011 archery deer season.

In 2004 was the first year I took my scouting to new levels...and they have never reached that point since. The pending KS whitetail season found me glassing a beautiful velvet 11 point the entire month of July. When the season came upon me, I never saw the buck. I hung 17 different stands. I was anxious, irritable, and basically a basket case. I was questioning my bowhunting ability. Then on Nov 12th, his head appeared over the reeds of the marsh. When I hung the treestand in Sept, I weaved small limbs through the expanded metal. When you do this,  they retain their leaves. I grunted and kicked the limbs to simulate a rutting buck rubbing a tree. It worked just as I envisioned. He closed the distance from 200 yds to 8.

The 2004 bow season wasn't particularly fun for me. Had the season not ended up like that, I am not sure what impression it would have left behind, but I vowed not get too anxious or uptight again...when it happens it happens.

The 2011 season, now well into the Heads Up Decoy era, I found a great rolling pasture peppered with large yuccas secluded from the road and 1/2 mile from the river bottom. I didn't have to scout to know that this pasture would house a mature buck tending a doe in November. The Sunday morning before Thanksgiving week found a large mature whitetail materialize upwind of me as the morning light brightened enough to see movement through the binos. He was obviously preoccupied with a hot doe. It was the first big buck of 2011 that got me fired up. After 90 minutes of crawling, positioning, calling and ultimately decoying that buck in, all that was left was a small pile of hair from the chest of the great buck and a sick feeling in my gut.

I later arrowed a small buck the day after Thanksgiving. I looked back on 2011 as one of my most rewarding. I had never hunted harder or longer. 2011 tested my hunting grit and mental toughness to its limits. The antlers of the buck I killed did not reflect the size of the hunt.

For me, as I anxiously wait in anticipation the opportunity to arrow that big buck or bull, preparation goes beyond scouting. It's getting my mind right. Remembering that it's hunting and that anything can happen.

Good luck this season and Be Mobile...Stay Mobile

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bowhunting with HUD, Mathews, and Hunter

May 2nd-8th turkey season was my second hunt of the year here in WI. With a heavy Personal Training workload, a regular job and crappy weather my time was bound to be limited.
I literally had only 1.5 hours on each of the week-day mornings and a couple of half days open on the week-end. With our bird numbers really being hit hard the last few winters I knew my work was cut out for me!
Wednesday morning found rain, wind, and storms going strong….back to bed!
Thursday morning I headed to an area that was a small chunk of private land, close to home. I heard one Tom, several properties away but there was just no way to close the distance with all the private ownership between us.
Friday morning brought more wind, rain and fog and zero gobbles.
3:30 am Saturday morning I put on my Sitka Gear and woke my 9 year old son, Hunter. The truck was already loaded to go and 15 minutes later we were headed north on the 45 minute drive to a large tract of public land. Years past this had been a great area. The last couple of years however have been really tough on turkeys in this area so we weren’t sure what it would be like. Not having any MRI (most recent information) I decided to head in about 5/8 of a mile from the road to a transition area about 400 yards from a roosting area. Our timing was right and just as daylight was breaking; we were getting settled into our Double Bull blind. Within a couple of minutes we heard a Tom gobble in the typical roosting area. With no other birds gobbling, had I been solo, I would have immediately closed the distance with just the bow and the HUD decoy. Having Hunter along, I knew we would need the blind. 3 gobbles and 10 minutes later I made the decision to cut the distance. We quickly broke down our set-up and quietly tried to get closer.
After cutting the distance about 125 yards he gobbled again. At this point, not knowing whether he was on the ground or in the tree, I knew we had to get reset and quickly. Unfortunately even though the whole move took less than 7 minutes we never heard another gobble. I was wondering if we had spooked him or if he had just hit the ground and shut-up.
About 5:45 we spotted a hen feeding about 50 yards out. She spent the next hour within 50 yards just preening and eating. No suitors joined her and she eventually just worked off. By 6:30 Hunter was getting tired and ready to go. It wasn’t long after that he nodded off. Although we weren’t having much action I was confident because I knew there was at least one Tom in the area, plus I knew we were set in a great transition area. With my little man sleeping I knew we had bought a little more time!
About 7:25 I thought I heard two gobbles. I wasn’t sure but if they were gobbles this bird was a long ways off, at least a 1/2 mile to the SE. I still wasn’t sure whether I had heard actual gobbles or just ‘hopeful hearing’. A few minutes later I spotted the second hen of the morning coming from the NE. She was also taking her time preening and feeding, although she did keep moving at a steady pace.
Shortly thereafter a crow-flying overhead a few hundred yards to the NE elicited a shock gobble from a Tom. Pulling out my box call, I gave a few LOUD yelps. As still as the morning was, it allowed the sound to travel and I quickly got a response gobble from him. It was time to wake up Hunter and get this show going!
As Hunter cleared his head, I proceeded to close all the unneeded windows and arrange the blind space to prepare for the encounter! Knowing how the birds worked in this area had really been the key to our success over the last 7-8 years. Hopefully it would play into our hunt again this time.
With things in order it was time to start working him. Every time I yelped, cutt, or purred we got a response that was closer than the prior response. Within minutes of the original gobble he popped over the ridge into view at about 90 yards already strutting. He continued coming slightly SW, strutting in to around 65 yards which is where he hung up. For bowhunting turkeys I always set my decoys within 2-3 yards of the blind. This helps bring them in as close as possible. This is good for gun hunters and great for the bowhunter.
For the next 25 minutes he strutted back and forth, unknowingly keeping the blind between himself and the decoys. Every time I yelped, purred, cut, or scratched the leaves he would gobble or double gobble. It was an amazing show to watch. Unfortunately this area is rather open with all mature trees. It was great for strutting and vision, but he just wasn’t coming any closer without being able to see the counter parts that should be in sight.
There was a big blow down poplar tree obstructing his view some and also holding him up. At this point I knew there were only two options. I could either go silent and hope his curiosity got the best of him or crank it way up and hope he would get fired up and commit. I like to be in control of what the animal is going to do so I decided to go the ‘hot’ route. I knew if this didn’t work he would most likely slow down some and head out to the NW. Hopefully this would still allow us to cut out and circle around and get ahead of him and allow us to work him again.

I started with the box call, then worked in the Imperial Primos plate. (Yep elk call) I was calling hard, loud and frequently. He was going nuts and I could see he was starting to move, still fanning, to the west. When he finally cleared the blind and spotted the hen decoy he stayed in strut but starting doing small circles and finally started moving forward. Before he moved clear of the big dead fall it was plain to see the moment when he spotted the HUD. He locked on, came out of full strut and instantly went into a beard shaking side to side run. Hunter says in a not so quiet tone "Get ready dad, he’s running". I drew my Mathews Heli-m and by the time I was getting locked in he was wide open at 10 yards. I had to squeak out a yelp on the reed and by when he was at 3 yards I released. I had my bird down after some breath holding, a fantastic show and the knowledge that this hunt could not have happened without the HUD Decoy. What an amazing hunt made perfect because I got to share it all with my son.