Peak Rut and Moon Phase

While I generally run for the hills as soon as someone mentions the Quality Deer Management Association, they’re one of the few groups in the hunting industry that at least try and use sound science.  Every year, you hear people posturing about when the rut is coming although it always hits around the same time.  The folks at QDMA did a pretty interesting piece about the rut coinciding with the moon phase that dispels a pretty popular myth.  Check it out here.

Technical Difficulties

I’ve been working on the Kansas muzzleloader video since I’ve gotten home.  I’m having some issues getting it uploaded to Vimeo without sacrificing the quality or audio.  The problem is no longer with Vimeo so I think it’s my Macbook.  I’m in the process of getting the situation rectified so it shouldn’t be long.  Until then here’s a screenshot.
kansas deer video

Mathews Chill X Review

mathews chill xI want to start by saying that there is no such thing as a bad bow nowadays.  The technology gap has effectively been closed and just about every manufacturer makes a solid product.  People are fiercely brand loyal and just about any conversation about bows will quickly will devolve into an uneducated brand bashing.  Everyone is after the same thing.  That being a comfortable bow that they can shoot accurately and confidently.  By confining yourself to a certain brand of bow you rob yourself of offerings by other companies that might suit your style a little better.  The only way to truly get the right bow for you is to remove all preconceived notions and shoot everything out there.  I switched from a Hoyt this year and you’re about ready to find out why I’m glad I did.  That being said, let’s get down to business.

The Chill X is Mathews’ newest bow for 2014.  This dual cam offering is a longer version of the popular Chill R.  Sporting a 35 inch axle to axle length with a 7 inch brace height, the Chill X is a good choice for someone who wants a bow that pulls double duty as a hunting rig and something that can shoot 3d as well.

The biggest thing that sticks out about this bow is the 35 inch ATA length.  I’ve shot short bows for the past several years and really thought nothing of it.  It wasn’t until I shot the Chill X that I realized how much those extra inches make a difference.  It is noticeably more stable than the shorter bows and at long distance that makes the difference between a hit and a miss.  Having a rock solid hold on something increases accuracy as well as confidence.  As far as it being too long to hunt with, as I’ve heard some say, that is complete b.s.  Bows with an ATA of 32 inches and shorter didn’t come around in mass until a few years ago.  Before then, people didn’t have much trouble maneuvering longer bows and they still don’t.  I seriously doubt I will ever go back to a bow with an ATA shorter than 35 inches.

The draw cycle on the Chill X is smooth.  Very smooth.  Again the ATA length comes into play allowing for a smoother draw cycle than what you would get from a shorter bow.  Utilizing Mathews’ proprietary Rock Mod system the back wall is very solid due to a cam stop the previous versions of the McPhearson Monster didn’t have.  Allowing for either 75% or 85% let off, the Rock Mods also allow an easy change in draw length.

The DYAD AVS cam.  The counterweight contributes to the dead in hand feel.  The cam stop that gives the rock solid back wall can be seen about and inch and half below the axle.

The DYAD AVS cam. The counterweight contributes to the dead in hand feel. The cam stop that gives the rock solid back wall can be seen about and inch and half below the axle.

One thing that really set the Chill X apart from other bows I’ve shot recently is there is no shock upon pulling the trigger.  It is about as dead in hand as you can get.  This is partly due to the perimeter counter weight on the cams.  When the limbs fire forward, the counterweights go in the opposite direction and thus deaden the shot.  There is simply no shock when you pull the trigger of the release and it really makes a bow sling unnecessary.

Now comes the one thing I don’t really care for.  The grip.  The Chill X has a very thin, minimal grip.  It is basically like holding the riser where the grip should be.  There is nothing to fill up your hand.  The reasoning behind this is sound, however.  The fatter the grip, the more apt you are to torque the bow.  This is fine, but the thin rubber grip rubbed a blister on the inside of my thumb .  I’m starting to get used to it and I’ll just have to toughen up.

Thin rubber grip on the Chill X

Thin rubber grip on the Chill X

I almost neglected to put anything about speed in this write up.  All bows are fast.  It’s just that simple.  But I did get to shoot this one through a chronograph so it’s worth mentioning.  The bow is rated at up to 336 fps with 75% let off.  It is worth mentioning here how bow manufacturers come up with their speed figures.  They use a 30 inch draw length and shoot the lightest arrow out of the heaviest draw weight available.  Shooting a 380 grain hunting set up I normally use, I was able to get an average of 284 fps with a 29 inch draw length at 70 pounds with 85% let off.  That is plenty fast enough.

So in summary, what is the Chill X boiled down to bare bones?  It is a bow that veers away from the popular trends now seen in the archery industry.  A 35 inch ATA with a 7 inch brace height make it very stable and very forgiving.  The Rock Mod system gives an incredibly solid back wall and the ability to easily change draw lengths.  It has a really dead in hand feel with no jump upon pulling the release trigger.  Most importantly, it is butter smooth and easy to shoot.  That’s really all we’re after and why I’ll be shooting the Chill X for the foreseeable future. They’re available in Lost Camo, Black, and my personal favorite, Desert Tan.  $1099 Retail.  Check out Mathewsinc.com to find a dealer and go shoot one to see for yourself.

Kansas Paydirt

Kansas WhitetailI just got home from a week of muzzleloader hunting in Southeast Kansas and as usual, it did not disappoint.  My wife was nice enough to let me leave to go hunting on our first wedding anniversary too so I feel confident in saying that I’ve found myself a keeper.

The early muzzleloader season in Kansas is a unique hunt.  Bucks are still coming out in the crops every evening to feed before the cold weather sets in and there is a good opportunity to kill a good deer out in the open.  The bucks are still in their bachelor groups for the most part, and it is very cool to get to see a bunch of deer filter out into the bean fields.  Weather is the deciding factor of this hunt and if it is hot, as Kansas sometimes is this time of year, the good bucks will stay bedded and will not come to feed until it gets dark.  This was one of the big issues on this trip.  One evening when we went to our stand, it was 94 degrees.

My buddy Rob Stone did me a solid and came with me to run a camera to document the trip.  I’m working on getting the footage together now and will post the final edit as soon as I get it finished.

We hunted a bean field that I’ve killed 2 bucks out of before and sat in a box blind overlooking the east edge with a half section of bedding area behind us.  I’m not much on playing musical stands if I know there’s good deer around, so we made the decision to sit tight all week and see how it played out.

Our view to the north.

Our view to the north.

The weather was hotter than normal and the deer movement was definitely impacted somewhat negatively but we dutifully stood our post seeing a few small bucks and several does.  The second evening right before dark, two big bucks (150 inches or bigger) appeared on the south end of the bean field.  At 250 yards with the shooting light quickly disappearing, they were beyond my comfortable range with the Encore .50 so we watched darkness swallow them up, hoping they would reappear later in the week.

As the week progressed, we faced several challenges from 100 degree box blinds, ravenous mosquitos, and shifting unfavorable wind.   Worst of all, the two giants we saw early in the week never appeared and the biggest buck we encountered was a 60 inch 8 point.  But we were having fun and that’s why we were there.

With darkness coming fast on the final evening of the hunt I had come to the realization that I might be eating a tag sandwich, but around 7:30 Rob said the words I’d waited to hear all week.  “A deer just walked out.  Good buck.”  Standing where the two big bucks were a few evenings before, we swapped seats giving me a better shooting position.  Knowing I had about 20 minutes of shooting light left, I opted to wait and see if he ventured our way.  If he got to 200 yards and wouldn’t come any closer, I was going to send one at him, but for once in the week, luck was on our side.  We had the wind in our face and after a few minutes, the buck started working his way toward us.  It soon became apparent, that he was coming quick and would be on top us in minutes.

When he got to 100 yards, I went to cock the rifle when disaster struck.  The hammer would not move.  At all.  Panic stuck.  Here I am with my gun out the window of a box blind with a buck facing me and closing fast and I can’t shoot him.  I tried everything.  I had adrenaline enhanced strength and still couldn’t budge the hammer.  All those hours of getting toasted in that oven of a box blind and getting devoured by mosquitos only to have a shooter buck walk within feet of us with a gun that wouldn’t work conjured up one of the sickest feelings I’ve ever felt.  Calm as could be, Rob told me to slide the rifle back through the window.  He fiddled with it for a little bit and after opening it and slamming it shut a couple times, he got the hammer cocked.  I got the gun back out the window somehow without being spotted.  I found the deer in the scope at 40 yards, and Rob got the camera back on him.  “Kill him,” he said.  The Encore roared, and the buck dropped stone dead at 33 yards.

I’ve been on some exciting hunts over the years, but I’ve never had something like this happen.  The feeling of utter despair being replaced by absolute elation was almost too much to handle.  I got extremely lucky that night and it’s a hunting memory I won’t soon forget.  We were patient that week and while it almost got screwed up by my rifle, we got rewarded.  I’ve already got the Encore receiver stripped and I’m going to tear into it this week to make sure this won’t happen again.  Check back later in the week to see the video of how it all went down.  I don’t have a whole lot of editing to do, but it’s safe to say I have a lot of four letter words to bleep out.

 

 

Gettin’ Stickbow Close

I’ve been considering getting into traditional archery for some time.  I’m not ready to drop my compound and go all trad but I think it would be fun to occasionally break out a recurve and shoot a doe or two.  It’s simple and I like simplicity.  The guys over at gettinstickbowclose.com are some amazing archers and are pretty good at stabbing big bucks with the old stick and string.  While I don’t think I could every completely ditch my compound, these guys’ videos definitely make me want to try it out.

A Few Words on Ozonics

Just about everyone in the bowhunting world has heard about Ozonics.  If you haven’t, it’s a little portable ozone generator that renders your human scent inert.  Deer supposedly can’t wind you and it will turn you into the epitome of stealth in the deer woods.  It’s a popular product and has a legion of  dedicated users that swear by it, but before you go plunking down $400 on one of these units, there are a few things you should probably know.

What is Ozone?  Ozone is an allotrope of oxygen that is very unstable.  The oxygen we breathe exists in nature as two oxygen molecules that are double bonded.  This is how oxygen wants to exist.  It’s happy this way.  Ozone is the normal double bonded pair of oxygen atoms with an extra oxygen atom stuck on it.  Oxygen is not happy in this state and is very unstable.  It wants to revert to its normal state of two molecules instead of three so it will readily give the extra oxygen molecule away.  What does this mean to us as hunters?   In very, very, simplified terms, when ozone encounters a molecular compound of human smell (or any smell), it gives away its extra oxygen.  This changes the human smell to something different that is non threatening to deer.  This is oxidation and what makes ozone effective at destroying scent, mold, bacteria, and viruses.

Ozone has a variety of commercial applications, from sanitizing laundry in hospitals, to treating water in wastewater treatment plants.  Ozone generators are used in fire and water damage restorations to remove weird smells like mildew or smoke.  It is a very useful industrial tool, and like most industrial tools, it can also kill you deader than Custer’s nuts.  OZONE IS TOXIC GAS!  Ozone is listed as a primary irritant and will go to work on your respiratory system and eyes even in low concentrations.  The EPA has set regulatory guidelines on how much exposure is safe, however, and the Ozonics system “meets or exceeds” these safe levels.   Herein lies the problem.  The EPA states there is “evidence to show that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is not effective at removing many odor-causing chemicals, viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants.”   So there you have it.  Ozonics is meets or exceeds safety guidelines, but according to the EPA, anything under the limit isn’t effective at at destroying odor causes. Even more, the EPA is talking about these things in closed environments.  Trying to use an ozone generator outside to kill your scent is like trying to raise the level of the ocean by peeing in it. Further, the Ozonics company doesn’t release how much ozone the thing generates because it is “business confidential.”  You better get an industrial grade ozone generator cranked up because I smell bullshit.

The second biggest thing that makes me a non believer is there are no scientific studies to back the product up.  Yeah, there are a lot of “tests” on the internet, but there are no true scientific tests.  It is all based off of anecdotal evidence and tests that don’t utilize the scientific method.  It’s conjecture at best, bullshit at worst.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and there simply is none.  For every person who swears an Ozonics unit saved their hunt, there is another person who has had a deer walk 5 feet from them downwind with no Ozonics while smoking a cigarette and not spook.  People believe what they want to believe, hard facts and evidence be damned.

Hunters are a predictable bunch.

Hunters are a predictable bunch.

People are predictable, especially hunters.   They seem to always be looking for shortcuts or instant gratification.  The beauty of a product like the Ozonics is that it doesn’t even have to work, just give the illusion it is.  You don’t need  scientific backup or proof, just anecdotal evidence.  Couple this with some savvy marketing and you’ve got yourself a million dollar business.  I don’t fault the Ozonics people one bit for doing what they do; get that cash.  I fault hunters for being so damn desperate.  Put in your work, be patient, and you will be successful.  Drop all the extraneous gadgetry and just go hunt.  It’s more fun that way.  There’s a level uncertainty that makes hunting fun and exciting, and unlike the effectiveness of an ozone generator,  that much I can guarantee.

 

Just When You Thought it Couldn’t Get Any Worse

I haven’t really hidden my overall distaste for hunting television shows.  There are a handful of decent ones, however, but they’re few and far between.  I stumbled on American Rebel with Andy Ross on the Sportsman Chanel and I can confidently say this is not one of the good ones.  In fact, it’s probably the most absurdly terrible hunting show I’ve ever seen.  Check out the intro below.  It looks like the only thing Andy Ross is rebelling against is wearing shirts with sleeves.

Muzzleloader Zero

With Kansas early muzzleloader season fast approaching, it was time to check the zero on my muzzleloader.  It hadn’t been shot since last season and has spent the last 9 months gathering dust.  I’m shooting a T/C Encore Pro Hunter for the third year in a row and I’m really pleased with it.

T/C Encore

It’s got a Nikon Omega 3×9 scope locked down with a really cool one piece mount from DeadNutz.  The scope has the bullet drop compensator reticle but to be perfectly honest, this gun shoots so flat, I don’t really use it.  Nice touch though.  The glass is good and clear and it picks up plenty of light at dusk.  The one piece scope mount is machined from aluminum and really tough.  It also really saves on weight.

I’ve experimented with all different types of powder charges and bullet weights.  Last year I spent a lot of time shooting a 200 grain bullet with different grain powder charges hoping to achieve superior accuracy with a lighter bullet that might be more prone to expansion.  Long story short, I could never get consistent groups out of any combo that involved a 200 grain bullet.  I went back to the old standby 250 grain T/C Shockwave with 150 grains of Pyrodex pellets and the results speak for themselves.  That powder bullet combo hits what you point it at. I started with this load in a cold, clean bore at 50 yards.  When the smoke cleared, I was 0.5 inches low and slightly right. I couldn’t remember the last time I shot this rifle but apparently I put it away zeroed.  I moved the target back to 100 yards, loaded another and shot at the same target.  This shot landed .25 inches low and slightly left.

encore target

Satisfied with those two shots I set a target at 150 yards.  The last deer I killed in Kansas was shot at this distance so I know it might be a possibility on this upcoming trip. Centering the main crosshair on the orange dot, the 250 grain bullet hit about 1 .25 inches low and slightly left.  That’s close enough for me.

encore target 2

If I see a buck at 150 yards in a bean field, I feel pretty certain I have a good chance of making a good shot on him.  I might even stretch it out to 200 yards if I can find a spot to do it.   I’ve got my muzzleloading supplies organized and my Kansas bags are packed.  Only 25 days before the season opener and it can’t come soon enough.

Whitetail Wednesday

Here’s a few Northern Missouri bucks from a couple years ago just because

 

MissouriBuck

MissouriBuck4

Missouri 12

Flashback Friday

Here’s a Preston County West Virginia public land buck that gave me fits in the fall of 2012.  I saw him three times that fall but never got a shot.  I’m not a fan of hunting a specific deer because I think that’s impossible in the big timber, but this guy was definitely one of the reasons I made the 1.5 mile hike into this area 39 times over the course of that archery season.  He wasn’t a monster by most people’s standards, but anyone that has hunted public land in northern West Virginia can attest to his status as a great buck.  West Virginia Buck