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Monday, October 22, 2012

September Magic

Contributed by Prostaffer Ron Niziolek

The canyons and ridges in the rugged Wyoming backcountry remained silent during my early morning hike. On a morning this calm, bugles should have been echoing everywhere, making my bowhunt a little easier. I conceded that I would have to rely on my calling skills to create some action. I eased my way westward, still-hunting along ancient elk trails, slowly gaining more elevation. Suddenly, I heard some branches break ahead and slightly below me. I paused, listening to stirrings of elk moving through the forest.

I stepped forward to some small pines, quietly removed my pack and unbuckled my Heads Up Decoy. I clamped that likeness of a cow elk head to a chest-high branch, cleared an area to kneel in, nocked an arrow and then softly cow called. I patiently waited five minutes, and then sounded off with a locator bugle. A short, muffled grunt returned through the trees, definitely a bull elk. I estimated him to be about a hundred yards away. A slow 10 minutes went by before I bugled again. This one was met with silence. In fact, the next dozen were met with silence. The only sound was the occasional snap of branches or a hoof on a log. It was an agonizing wait.

Anxious for the long stalemate to end, I arranged the decoy a little differently and crawled forward for another 30 yards. The forest floor was covered with branches, pine cones and needles and sounded extremely crunchy. I felt if I went further, I’d push the bull out for sure. Finally I found a place where I could set up in front of a stump with some low brush for cover and once again I carefully cleared a place to kneel. When I was ready, this time I ripped the loudest, nastiest bugle, and that’s when the real excitement began…..

Brittle tree limbs cracked and shattered into pieces as the bull plowed his way toward me. He was mad as hell, huffing with every breath and coming in fast, trying to intimidate the bull that had just challenged him. I caught glimpses of chocolate colored legs and ivory tines as he snaked his way through the dense blowdown. He paused briefly and I could tell he was looking at the decoy. He screamed a challenge and continued toward the decoy. When he passed behind a large uprooted tree at 40 yards, I drew my Hoyt to full draw and prepared for the pending shot, but couldn’t stop the gentle shaking at the tip of my arrow.

I focused intently on my anchor point and kept my sight pins on him. He was close now and as he stepped broadside from behind a tree, my 30 yard pin was on him solid and I pulled through the release. Whack! The arrow hit a little high and rocked the bull to his knees. As he dropped and stumbled, I furiously nocked another arrow and sent a second one through him. He stumbled for another 60 yards, then was down for good. I usually like to spot and stalk, but now feel very confident when calling, especially while using my decoy.

The full story detailing Ron's hunt for his 2012 Wyoming bull will be featured in an upcoming issue of Extreme Elk Magazine.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Perfect Week

This has been the busiest September ever in regards to hunting. I have hunted elk in two states and managed to find a day to chase antelope in Kansas. Hunting elk is always fun, but prime rut usually conflicts with the early Kansas Antelope season. In preseason planning I didn’t expect to have time to chase antelope in western Kansas, but I went ahead and bought the tag anyways, just in case.
After eight days of pursuing elk in the high country of Colorado I had my fill and headed home to see the family before heading to Wyoming for my second elk hunt. After a day of rest and family time I headed out in search of antelope. With one day to hunt my expectations were very low, but a tip from a landowner allowed me to use my Heads Up Decoy to cross an open pasture and get into position near a water tank. I didn’t wait long before a buck came to the tank to drink. I did my part, capitalizing on the opportunity, and ending my Kansas antelope season in one morning of hunting.
After getting the antelope processed I had a few hours to get the pickup loaded to head north.  This was my second trip to Wyoming this fall so I hoped to ride the good luck train into Wyoming this time. We had a brief evening hunt with a little action, but no luck. The next morning was a different story though and my buddy Ron Niziolek and I were definitely in the right place at the right time. We had two satellite bulls come into range and I was able to kill the bigger of the two bulls, a nice 5 point, finally killing my first elk!
This is definitely a week I will never forget. I tagged a Kansas antelope on Monday and a Wyoming elk on Wednesday.   It can’t get much sweeter than this!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Whitetail Pre-Rut Tactics for Early Season Success

I generally have not written enough about tactics and/or observations on the blog, but now that fall is here and we are in the month of October I felt a quick article about a very overlooked month would be appropriate.

Typically, October marks the start of many archery seasons across the mid west...or at least the time when people get a chance to enjoy some cooler weather and "casual" deer hunting outings that hold them over until November. Don't overlook the early season month of October for wrapping your tag around a great whitetail buck.

At Heads Up Decoy, we certainly understand the whitetail protocol that has been the recipe for success for decades...treestand hunting. But, for a moment, think about your area and the opportunities that may be available for some exciting hunting using rattling, calling, and yes...decoying. Calling sequences always work better if you have a decoy involved and in the month of October, many calling and rattling techniques can work better than during the peak of the rut.

Choose some areas on your property that offer access to some prime bedding locations or at the edge of uncut corn/milo...but don't necessarily interfere with a treestand or other stand location. Always use the wind to help you slip into these locations to lay down some subtle calling, rattling, or tree rubbing sequences. Have the decoy available either clamped to a tree or stationary object or held in your hand or a partners.

The reason I enjoy this tactic is simply because you can work an area well and often roust out a good buck that goes to bed early...often before shooting light. Bucks in October spend a substantial amount of time hanging out together, rubbing trees, and sparring. So these types of noises will peak the interest of a nearby bedded buck to come and investigate. Having the decoy available and easily seen will draw that animal out of the thick cover to present a close shot.

Morning or evenings work well...but if I had to choose, the afternoon and evenings of nights during the full moon are the best. We all get frustrated to a degree with the full moon and the morning hunts. But, as deer go to bed early, the dinner bell will ring earlier in the day and I also believe they get bored. Late afternoon and early evening during nights with a full moon can be full of deer movement and action in and around their bedding area. Take advantage of it. Remember, our midwestern whitetails are aggressive animals and we can exploit that characteristic by hunting them aggressively. As far as the fear of "bumping" them...in my opinion deer reset quickly with little effect. It takes repeated and often daily "bumps" to push them out of the area. It's also interesting that to note that if you do "bump" an animal from his bed...it is not unlikely for him to return later in the day after the buck thinks enough time for the danger has passed. This is exactly the scenerio that happened to me last fall. I bumped a good buck from his bed only for him to return a couple hours later...with me waiting for his return. As embarassing as it is to admit...I missed this buck clean at 25 yards.

Heads Up Decoys are the only decoy on the market that can help you get in quietly, hunt aggressively, and keep you mobile for this type of hunting technique. Hunting the pre-rut with decoying and calling set ups are a great way to score early season success. Good luck and Be Mobile...Stay Mobile.