We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way:
The 2017 Predator Challenge was another successful event. We had hunters from SC, NC, & VA competing this year with a total of 86 teams and 281 hunters. We had been preparing to both host and participate in the competition all year and looked forward to its arrival. Out of all the years we’ve hosted the event it seemed like this year saw the most activity and movement from coyotes. Everyone we talked to seemed to have enjoyed the event regardless of how many coyotes they ended up getting on the ground.
As many of you know and as we mentioned yesterday at the check-in we don’t charge a fee for the competition and we don’t make money from it. We are regular hunters just like you who hope to protect our deer, turkey, duck, and others species for future hunters. (Hunting coyotes also helps protect local farmer’s livestock).
We would not be able to host the competition without the generous donations from our sponsors. They donate their products and services for free for the winners. They don’t have to do this! We ask that you patronize the sponsors by buying your goods, products, and services from them. Be sure to be vocal about our appreciation for their sponsorships. Without the sponsors we would not have a competition.
Competition Volunteers Thanks
Hosting a competition is not an easy task. There are tons of details to consider, emails to be sent, sponsors to connect with, hunters to explain (and re-explain) rules to, etc. You get what I’m saying… a competition doesn’t just host itself. With that said I’d like to also thank Gavin Jackson and Adam Smith. Gavin and Adam are the main guys behind making the competition possible. They stalk and wrangle sponsors, handle the Facebook promotions, constantly talk with hunters, promote the competition to everyone, build the check-in setup, handle the weighing of coyotes, and handle all the details that you don’t see on the surface. If you all see, know, or communicate with these guys be sure to thank them.
Did Changing the Date Result in Better Numbers?
Based on feedback from last year’s competition participants we moved the competition from January to March. This was done for the sake of listening to our participant’s feedback. This change allowed for the use of night vision for hunting coyotes as SCDNR has implemented a night-hunting program where hunters can register their lands for night hunting and use infrared and/or thermal optics to hunt coyotes.
Moving the competition to March ran the risk of much warmer weather, but we lucked out this year as it was cool the entire weekend. We were interested to see how moving the competition would affect the numbers at the check-in. Of course, there are more variables than just the time of year, but we really can’t control the weather. We anticipated a good turnout at the check-in as we received messages during the competition of people seeing a lot of coyotes while they were hunting. It seemed they were moving well this past weekend. It would turn out that we had a total of 57 coyotes checked-in, which is more than all previous years combined. Whether it was changing the competition from January to March or just a lucky streak of movement we don’t know, but we were pleased with the outcome.
This years winners were:
First Place – Jim Shepherd, Concord, NC - 12 Coyotes
Second Place – Carolina Coyote Slayers, Denver, NC - 8 Coyotes
Third Place + Big Dawg (42.8 lbs) – Wind Walkers Kryptonite, Lucknow SC – 7 Coyotes
Sportsman's Warehouse Gun Give-Away Winner - Ben McAlister, Monroe NC
Thanks, Surveys, & Video
Thanks to everyone who hunted in the competition. We appreciate your support and hope you enjoyed the event. We’ll be sending out emails asking for feedback very soon. We’ll see you next year at the check-in.
There are a few fruitful ways you can hunt bears using dogs. Having a very much prepared pack of well-trained hunting dogs is certainly necessary. A large portion of local people who hunt here utilize Tree Plotts, Walkers, Black and Tans, and Red Bones and cross breeds between these sorts of pooches.
Preparing for the bear season, regardless of the possibility that you have a later opening date, is not under any condition. It is a basic stride in enhancing the chances that your season will be a decent one. While you still have sufficient time for planning and executing a decent technique, there's no opportunity to squander. Let us take a look at some hunting strategies that can assist in your bear hunting.
Study the Area
Try as much as possible to study your hunting territory. You can cross reference the particular territories with wildlife maps of the local division. This will assist you in determining the possible units you can hunt. There is a custom map showing an outline of hunting units in every state.
Scout for Bear Sign
The key is to scout for is a sign of the bear in the territory. Incorporated into this are zones where there are various rubs and possibly what are usually referred to as territory markings or line scratches. Taking a closer look and properly monitoring the signs gives you the assurance that the bears have a particular mission around that areas. Likewise, essentially searching for colossal tracks is a decent thing to do.
Follow the Food Source
Locate the bears by following the food sources. Bears are often capable of eating several food varieties including large calorie sources for gaining summer fat. Grizzly bears live in the higher country. You can find these on rock faces amid the summer months. They have the ability to peel rocks. They often do this when looking for insects and protein rich moths.
Black bears are cunning and often make use of a variety of food sources. They hunt game, forage for insects and plants, and also target human trash. Brown bears inhabit low elevations. They hunt forage or moose until salmon arrives. With these food sources, you should have an idea of where you can find your bear.
Hunt with a Companion
You can come with a buddy in your truck. Most of these trucks usually contain space for one or two more people, in case you will like a companion to come along during the hunt. One of the hunters can keep on tracking the most part tracks the bear race while the others attempt to take off the bear before it crosses another street in the region. It is not strange for people to have their own particular brilliant "mystery code" to transfer to their mates where the bear is going in order to deflect some other people in the range from turning on their bear.
Use hounds or hunting Dogs coupled with excellent driving skills
One technique which numerous hunters favor requires a decent, well-trained hunting dog and truck which is fixed with a platform in which the dog is able to ride upon. The strike pooch rides on the outside of the truck on a platform and the hunter drives here and there the hunting territory until the hunting dog begins yelping showing that it has scented the bear or hunt. The hunter can then discharge the dog and its pack to take the trail.
It requires seeing and listening to which way the pack is going and attempting to drive to the territory that the bear may cross and block it. This frequently requires a considerable amount of quick paced driving here and there across the hunting territory, or until the hunting dogs have been able to tree the bear.
Driving your truck on backwoods, rugged country roads requires magnificent driver abilities. As you keep on driving, try as much as possible to pay special attention to other dogs or vehicles on the road. You may have to drive fast and carefully, but not roughly. In case you admire a ton of excitement, this is a good bear hunting strategy for you.
In the event that you don't have a decent hunting dog, you can likewise drive all over the hunting area hoping to see where a bear has descended or moved up a bank. A talented hunter can differentiate between new sign and a track which is old. However, the mutts will alarm you to a new track.
Furthermore, time and travel length often vary on a decent bear race. The bear will attempt to make tracks in an opposite direction from the canines and will attempt to look for a decent cover territory. The bear will attempt to put however much distance between itself and the hunting dogs as could be expected. Yet, in the event that they're excessively hot on his trail, he may attempt to move up a tree or go down against a fallen log. The bear may also rock bluff challenging the dogs to a fight.
Equip your dogs with radar tracking collars
Many canines are outfitted with radar tracking collars and can be followed to see which way they are going in the event that they go far away from the hearing range. A few collars even come with a "tree switch" which fills the hunter in as to whether they are simply running or they are treed.
Another technique is driving a few decent trail mutts into a range where a bear has been located, goes to sleep or feeds and turning them towards a new track. This requires getting out and strolling in the forested areas in bumpy landscape and requires direct physical condition and stamina on the part of the hunter.
A large portion of the hunter often makes use of no less than 4 or 5 pooches to a pack. However, the chase is started with about two or three great lead mutts. A good hunting dog will promptly fill you in as to whether it's a crisp track and whatever is left of the pack can be turned free on the bear. The blood pumping, adrenalin hurrying race is then on and it's a matter of attempting to stay aware of the pack of hunting dogs until they either stop or tree the bear.
The bigger, more established bears tend to stroll along and battle the canines on the ground, though a more youthful, littler bear will climb a tree to get away from the mutts. Pursuing a pack of canines in lush rocky territory unquestionably requires wearing exceptionally agreeable boots. This is additionally an extremely effective approach to hunting the bears.
Still hunting, often referred to as spot and stalk hunting is another technique you can use for hunting bears in South Carolina. However, this usually proves to be quite difficult as a result of the range habits of the bears. The region is thickly lush, rugged and may have areas which have been clear cut in earlier years. Since hunting bear with bait is not allowed, the hunter is often required to get out into a region where bears are probably going to be found and begin glancing around for signs of fresh bear tracks.
Take a precise shot
Once you are sure of the target, place the shot directly behind the bear’s front shoulder. This location makes it possible for your bullet to penetrate through the skin, into the delicate organs. It is with this you can quickly kill the bear. You can hunt using a rifle, handgun, bow, or shotgun. Rifle scopes may not be required. You can take your shots from 40 – 50 yards.
Knowing more about bears, habits, the hunting territory, what they eat, and lots more is an essential to an effective bear hunt. Pre-scouting a region to search for the bear sign is additionally essential. Perfect natural surroundings comprise of old woods with hardwoods containing an assortment of bushes and trees. Bears require broad, tough territories with thick bushes, for example, rhododendron, mountain shrub, and rock outcroppings. Bears also like swampy areas having lots of space to widely travel.
Bears are omnivorous. Their eating routine essentially comprises of insects, hard and delicate mast, animal waste, as well as succulent plants. The quantity and types of food bears eat usually differ from season to season. It is often determined by the availability of food and seasonal activities. It is not bizarre to see bears move to territories of lower elevations in search of food when the quantity of food or crops available in the region of higher elevation is not adequate enough.
My family really loves the outdoors. With several young children around we always have our deerstands filled and we really enjoy deer hunting season. Probably just like you we suffer from the “deer-pression” that comes about once the season ends. Well, this year I decided to figure out a way for our family to continue being active in the outdoors in the off season!
The first idea that came to mind was to build a deer antler catcher! The timing was perfect to start trying to catch horns as the bucks in our area usually start shedding their antlers in January to early February. There is no exact date when this happens, but if you pay attention to your game cameras you may notice bucks starting to drop horns. This is a good sign that deer are starting to lose their antlers.
Generally speaking, in South Carolina antlers will be dropping from mid-December (though that is early) to early April (though that is late). One thing we do know is that after the rut, a buck’s testosterone levels begin to decrease and when they drop to a certain level, antlers will shed. Since testosterone levels to vary from area to area and winter to winter, antlers can shed at various times.
There are a few different ways people go about shed hunting. Some people train dogs to track the smell of antlers, some just go for walks in the woods, and some construct antler traps/catchers. In our case we are opting for the third way, the antler catcher.
You can imagine that my kids were excited for our first family project to be underway! I have 3 sons (Caiden, Bryson, and Kingston), one daughter (Adrianna), and we even got my wife Brandy involved too! With this many young outdoorsmen and women around I have to frequently come up with ideas that they will all enjoy, which is sometimes harder than you think!
Building the Antler Catcher
As a family went out Sunday Jan 8th, 2017, the day after the first 2017 snow, and built our first antler catcher! As you would imagine there are many different styles of antler catchers and there is no official or standard way to build these traps. In our case we are opting for building one using “chicken wire.
Also important is the location of your antler trap. Since hunting season had just ended we have a good understanding of the general trails that deer in our area use to travel. We went out to an active trail near a feeding area and found two trees that were a few feet apart. This was the perfect location for our antler trap.
Once you find the perfect spot you take the chicken wire and wrap it around the trees so that there is wire on both sides of the trees. Pull the wire as tight as possible and staple it to the trees, cut your extra wire off. Take zip ties and run it around the trees and through the wire so that when you tighten the zip tie down it pulls the wire even tighter!
Important: You want to make sure that the wire is tight so that if the bucks aren't ready to drop their horns the tightness will allow them to easily pull their antlers out of the wire and not get hung up!
Then take the fresh corn and pour between the wires so that the deer must stick their heads down close to the wire to get the corn. Havin the wire so close to the corn allows the horns to catch the wire! The idea is that one antler will hit the chicken wire and if the horns are ready to drop the resistance from the wire will help give the antler(s) the final nudge to release and drop. This is like a child pulling their baby teeth out when a tooth is just about to fall. If the horns are ready to come off the resistance in the chicken wire will help them pull off and you should have antlers piled up at the site or close by around it.
This project was a great project for our family. It helps teach the kids and it gives them something to look forward to in the outdoors during the off-season. We hope to collect a lot of sheds this year. We will use the bigger antlers for rattling next season and take the small ones and add them to our collection. We will also have some creative projects for the kids. We will make knife handles, house decorations, and hopefully one day have enough to make a lamp or Christmas tree!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our project and I hope you can take this and use it with your family also! I will post another blog at the end of shed season and give the results! Happy Shed Hunting!
Brace yourself, long winded blog ahead
Setting the Stage… Last Christmas
Last year I had been seeing a few nice bucks on camera and when Christmas day came around I figured I better sleep in and not get in trouble with the family for potentially shooting, tracking, and handling a deer on Christmas morning. I slept in and a few days later I checked the game camera and one of the biggest bucks I had been seeing came in during shooting light. The one day I didn’t hunt I missed my chance. I didn’t forget that that this year.
A Roller Coaster Season
This year I’ve hunted pretty hard. If I had a chance to go hunting, I went. Even though I’ve hunted hard it’s been a difficult season. This season has been unlike any others for me in that it’s been full of curveballs and change. I mainly hunt two tracks of land and both tracks have portions of them that have been getting logged for what seems like forever.
Logging started at the end of last season and the management continues throughout this season. By that I mean that the timber crews started cutting wood during the middle of last season and worked throughout the summer. They stopped logging a little bit before deer season and when they moved out my game-planning, strategizing, and stand relocating moved in. I was able to put out some game cams and was even getting nice bucks on a decent pattern. I looked forward to the opening of the season.
As the season approached I got word that the forestry management team was fixing to spray the new cutover to kill everything in preparation for a burn that would be followed up by re-planting. Two weeks before the season started the area where I was getting good game-cam pics went from all green to brown and dry after being sprayed. Needless to say, this affected things and the big bucks seemed to vacate the area. I had to drop back and punt with my previous strategy and adjust accordingly.
After a while big bucks slowly started appearing back on camera and the rut was approaching. I was excited to see deer back in the area and was hopeful to catch one coming through chasing does during the peak of the rut. As rut sign increased so did my anticipation… until I learned that the area that had been sprayed was going to then be burned! Burning during the rut, just my luck. Here again burning the area really changed the deer’s pattern and consequently my hunting strategy. Big bucks fled the immediate area again and adapted.
My whole season this year has been “on the move”…
Hunting a Specific Deer
I’ve hunted deer since I was 12, but I have never really hunted specific deer until this year. I told my friends that hunting deer is one thing, hunting big deer is another thing, and hunting a specific deer is a completely different ball game. To me, it is more fun because it’s more challenging and as imagined the rewards are less frequent. It’s like a chess match with nature. I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, but big bucks think, behave, act, & react differently than younger bucks and does do and that takes a little getting used to when planning. They don’t get big by being dumb. Learning how to target and go after specific deer has been my quest this season… and I don’t have it figured out and am still learning.
In my case I’ve been hunting 2 specific deer all season. Sometimes I thought these deer were ghosts of my imagination that merely taunt me on game camera every so often just to keep me interested. They have been running me in circles so much it has been frustrating. My wife even once told me this season “I’ll be glad when you kill that deer because he’s driving me crazy and I don’t even hunt!” As you can see, in the moments of frustration I tried to turn the quest into a family journey in hopes of getting more input or some type of perceived edge. If showing game cam pics and pleading my case to my buddies and wife would help kill deer I’d have both of the big ones on the wall already. Unfortunately talking about it doesn’t help too much. If you’ve hunted a big deer before I’m sure you feel my pain.
The Big Boys
All season long I’ve been focusing in on these specific deer that I would randomly get on camera. When you hunt specific deer you tend to give them names. My 2 are named “Big Dook” and “Big Dook’s Brother” as we affectionately refer to them. As I closed down on their territories this season something would always happen (as mentioned above) to mess my strategy up.
As the season continued I started losing hope. Then in early December Big Dook and Big Dook’s Brother started showing back up on game camera, but in different areas. Their reappearance on game camera was most likely due to their food sources getting lower as the season progresses
I noticed that on one of my stands Big Dook’s Brother was coming in every other day or so. The frequency of his appearances was exciting, but the unexciting part was that he only showed up in the dark. For that matter, Big Dook and his brother only show up at night. However, Big Dook’s Brother was starting to show up closer and closer to shooting light. For example… if you can see around 6:45am he was coming in around 6:15 or so… and he did the same thing in the evening.
As time passed he started cutting it closer and closer to shooting light. Of course he would also be there in the middle of the night too, but the times when he did come in at dawn and dusk made it seem like he was starting to getting risky with his movements. Maybe he was hungry or maybe he hadn’t heard any guns go off all season in his area and was relaxing a bit. And to that point, I’ve let a lot of deer walk this season waiting on these 2 specific deer.
With the Big Dook’s Brother coming in frequently and starting to take risks with his timing I really was looking forward to the Christmas/New Year’s holiday time frame because I felt like I may be able to catch him slipping. I was sure to keep the stand “corned” up and made note of the timing of his movements based on game camera data.
As I mentioned above, last year on Christmas morning I slept in… and regretted it because the big buck showed up in shooting light. With this buck coming in frequently I wasn’t going to sleep in this year, I had learned my lesson. To answer the question some of you may be thinking right now… I don’t have any kids that would be getting up early to open presents and we didn’t have anything scheduled for early Christmas morning so I was free to hunt.
I climbed into the stand and sat in the dark waiting on the sun to rise. It was a little cool, but not as cold as it usually is in late December. I anticipated the direction that he would come from as well as anticipating that it would happen as soon as I could barely see. After all, that’s what the game camera footage indicated.
I sat and waited and the sun started rising. Nothing but squirrels were running around everywhere. The “prime time” as I envisioned it had passed and I could see clearly through the woods. I thought to myself that it simply wasn’t the day that it was meant to be because the big boy never showed up when once visibility was good. As it was Christmas day I was upbeat so not all was lost. Then I saw a flicker.
You know how you sit in a stand and see a flicker and it catches your eye, that’s what happened to me. Usually the flickers are leaves falling, squirrels moving, but sometimes they are the flicker of a deer’s tail. And that’s exactly what this was. However, the deer wasn’t coming in from the direction I anticipated. I was wrong on both my time and directional anticipations.
I was hunting in some oak woods that deer pass through on the way to their bedding areas. I was up on a hill overlooking a valley with a dried up creek that only fills when it rains hard. I had corn down in the valley near the dried up creek bed. When deer come through that “holler”, as they say, they usually pause at the corn pile as they are naturally funneled toward it by the lay of the land.
The flicker I saw was directly in front of me on top of the hill across the valley and it was about 90 yards out. When I saw the flicker I didn’t instantly know what it was. I raised my scope up and could tell it was a deer. Though, I only saw the deer’s body as his head was behind some brush. I continued watching. Then he stepped forward and I could tell that it was a buck because I saw antlers, but I couldn’t see exactly how many points or denote the size of the deer because he was walking and going behind several trees and tree limbs. When I saw antlers I bumped the safety off on my gun.
The good part was that the deer was heading directly towards me. He was walking through the valley and I believed / hoped he was heading toward the corn pile. As he made his way through the woods he would walk 5 or 10 yards then pause and look around. He wasn’t in a hurry and he was being cautious. He started getting closer to me. At 60 yards I could tell he was a good buck. At 50 yards I zoomed in the scope and saw a specific “crab claw” point on one side which indicated to me that he was indeed Big Dook’s Brother. Our showdown was upon us, the chess match was hopefully coming to an end if I could execute.
When I saw that unique point on the right side of his rack my heart started pounding. I was staring at a deer through my scope in broad daylight at 50 yards that I’d been hunting for a long time. He looked up in my direction from behind a bunch of limbs. I could see him, but taking a shot through all that brush was too risky. If he would have run off I would have beat myself up for not shooting, but I felt he would eventually head to the corn and give me a clearer shot and even though it tore my nerves up, I held off on forcing the shot.
Check out the screenshot of my heart rate from my FitBit as the deer approached
While my heart was in my throat and the knot was in my stomach I tried to take deep breaths to calm myself down. I was shaking and trying to maintain steadiness. When I took those deep breaths, they fogged up my scope. Even worse I thought the fog from my deep breaths would be visible to the deer I feared. I could easily see the cloud of fog that I just exhaled so I’m sure he could have. I thought to myself that the deer was going to see my cloud of air and run off. I stopped the deep breaths and the deer held still for what seemed like forever. I wondered if he saw me because he was moving his head around from right to left.
I was in mid-freak out when he started moving again. He jumped the dried creek bed and got into a clearer view for me. When his feet landed on this side of the creek bed I could “hear” how heavy he was. It was a deep thud when his back legs hit. I knew he was a big one. As he stepped through the brush I again saw the unique point on the right side of his rack which re-confirmed that he was the deer I was chasing.
I had him in the scope and knew I was going to shoot. He was 15 yards from the corn pile and I had another opportunity to shoot through some brush. Again, I held off hoping for an open shot. I didn’t want to force the shot while he was heading in the direction I wanted him to. It was tearing me up on the inside. He progressed ahead a few more yards and paused just 5 yards from the corn. Why would he stop before the corn? I was wigging out. When he stopped, his head was behind a big oak tree and the back end of his body was behind a smaller tree. I had a clear shot on the base of his neck and I couldn’t wait any longer. He held still observing his surroundings and I was focused on not flinching on my trigger pull, a mistake I made years back that still haunts me. I focused on making a smooth trigger pull…well as smooth as you can get with your heart racing and whole body shaking. I pulled on the trigger as steady as I could and at 7:17am on Christmas morning the hammer dropped!
When the gun went off I thought I saw the deer fall down on the spot, but in the commotion of things I wasn’t sure. Suddenly I saw a deer take off running to the right. I didn’t even put another shell in, but I raised my gun up and looked at the deer that was running. I didn’t see any antlers and all that math wasn’t adding up to me in that moment as I was somewhat flustered. I thought I saw the deer fall, but what was running away? Turns out that there was another with the deer I shot, but I was so focused in on the big boy that I didn’t even see the other deer. I wondered to myself what had happened. I was sure I saw the deer fall, but I couldn’t see him on the ground anywhere, which made me a little nervous. Then I heard the sound of a deer thrashing and when I heard that I knew that I’d made a good shot and that he had indeed fallen on the spot.
I sat in the stand shaking and tried to calm myself down at what had just taken place. I literally couldn’t believe it. I ensured my gun was on safe and got out of the stand and headed down the hill. When I got there, I could not believe I actually saw the deer and how big he was! He fell on the spot and he was definitely the shooter I’d been chasing. I started taking pics and texting everybody who would be interested. I texted my mom and told her I needed her help taking pictures. I was pumped up, excited, thankful, emotional, and still not believing that this deer came through in good shooting light on Christmas morning. It was a story too good to be true, but it happened!
The below pics are pics my mother took right before she helped me drag the deer! Yes, she loves me (and it’s not her first time dragging a deer with me either) :-)
Being able to get this deer on the ground was a great Christmas present for me! I still can’t believe it happened, how it happened, and how the hunt unfolded was just as any hunter would script a hunt. I’d put in hours and hours of scouting, moving cameras, carrying corn through woods, cutting shooting lanes, and numerous hunts sitting in the stand waiting for that very deer to come through. It was a great reward for the time and energy invested and made it all worth it. In my case it was persistence that paid off more than anything.
Also, many of you know I lost my dad this past year to Alzheimer’s disease and sitting in the woods has been somewhat of a therapy for me throughout the season. When I got my mom to help me take some pictures of the deer she was sending out text messages telling people that “Clint got a Christmas present from Frank today”. In that moment, I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective, but it did make me think. I can imagine my dad up there in heaven saying “Come on God, let’s send the boy a big deer, he’s been hunting hard this year” lol. Hey, whatever it was that caused the deer to move I am not mad about it one bit! I am thankful and praise God for it regardless! With this Christmas being somewhat of a potentially somber one being able to get this big deer did bring about an unexpected excitement for us and a lingering thought of a higher power making everything line up like it did. I think my dad would have been proud, I know that I am. It was a hunt that I will never forget
Now, we still have a few more days to hunt in this season and Big Dook is still out there and I’m hoping he will make a similar mistake like his brother did. It only takes a matter of seconds to turn your whole season around…
We've been hosting the Predator Challenge for 6 years now and we've seen it constantly grow in numbers and popularity. The awareness of what coyotes are doing across the state to both game & livestock populations is spreading quickly and as a result so is the sport of predator hunting. We're happy to continue hosting the competition and we hope you'll join us this year.
SCDNR Coyote Incentive Program
Since last year SC DNR has implemented a Coyote Harvest Incentive Program! If you are not aware of this (and registered in it) please take a look at SC DNR's site. You could win some cool stuff from SC DNR simply by shooting coyotes! Visit the Coyote Harvest Incentive Program page.
Learn more about the competition and register your team for the WeHuntSC.com 2017 Predator Challenge
See you at the check-in!
I’ve got a friend who lives in the Myrtle Beach area named Justin Brooks. Justin is part of the WeHuntSC.com crew and he’s been telling us he had some turkeys down there and we’ve been promising to go down and hunt with him for a while. Well this past weekend we finally made it happen.
Jason Love and I traveled to the coast last Friday evening. We made a road trip and told hunting stories the whole way. We were excited about the upcoming weekend hunts and we both looked forward to catching up with Justin.
After reconnecting Friday night we went to bed early so as to be able to go hard on Saturday. We left our around 4:45 because we had to drive a little while to get to the hunting lease. Justin had been scouting and seeing birds in several areas and we set up overlooking a wheat field for the first set of the day.
Unfortunately it was very foggy on Saturday morning and we didn’t have much action right as the sun was rising. We stayed in this area until around 9am at which point we decided to move to a different field. However, as we drove off we saw 2 hens and a small tom on the edge of an adjacent field. We knew the turkeys were starting to move.
Move to the Big Field
Justin’s lease is segmented off into quadrants of logging roads, rows of trees, and fields. This makes moving around more feasible than in the area where we typically hunt. So we drove around the edge of the property and walked through the woods to a large field. When we got there we saw the field was full of turkeys. It was a beautiful sight. The only problem was that the turkeys were out in the middle of this huge field and there were Toms, Jakes, and Hens there so not much responded to our calling.
While we sat on the edge of the pines overlooking the field we noticed a water snake in the creek right beside us. It was interesting to be just feet away from the snake.
pic.twitter.com/aIL845pHO4— Clint Patterson (@CBPSC) April 30, 2016
The Frustrated Tom & Frustrated Hunters
We watched these turkeys feed for a long time. They moved all around the field feeding. We had 4 turkeys (2 hens and 2 jakes) that kind of stayed near us… just to our right. We really wanted to shoot a nice tom since there were some nice ones out there. Though the Toms were running back and forth across the ditch trying to run some other jakes off. It was indeed frustrating to have them move closer to us then to have them turn right back around and run across the field.
At one point one of the nice toms started working his way down the field on our side. We thought this was going to be it, but after closing over 150 yards the tom crossed the ditch heading to our right. He was too far out to shoot (even though in the video he looks really close because I was zoomed in). So the toms were frustrated by the presence of the jakes and we were frustrated that we couldn’t get any closer to the toms.
Retreating to the Point
After we had sat there for a while watching these turkeys Justin said he thought we could move and be closer to where some of the turkeys were heading. So we went back to the truck and rode down the old logging road through the woods toward the area where at least one big tom was headed. When we got there we parked the truck and started walking the logging road.
Justin grabbed one of his decoys that he called “Tommy” and kept it in front of him the whole time. Jason and I had not experienced this style of hunting before and usually when we try to chase birds we don’t have much success. However, Justin has obviously hunted that area and in that style way more than we had. He told us about how he went down to Georgetown and used the same technique and was successful with it there too. Jason and I were up for anything and we followed Justin’s lead.
Once we got closer to the field Justin brought up his binoculars and said he saw a tom out in the field heading toward the tree line. So we made a hard right into the woods in order to center ourselves in the tree line on the edge of the field. We just had to go through the woods in order to get there without bumping the tom. So we made our way through the woods (and caught red bugs along the way, an occurrence we would later not be pleased with) and started working toward the edge of the field where the planted pines stopped.
When we got to the edge Justin crawled up and quietly put the Tommy decoy on the edge. Since we were stalk hunting this turkey I did not try to move into the optimal videoing location because that could have potentially ruined the hunt. So I had to video from behind the guys and we needed to leave a little brush in front of us to camouflage us.
Sure enough the tom in the field started working his way toward the decoy. I couldn’t get him really clear in the camera, but when we went full-screen later on you could barely see him moving between the leaves. Onces the turkey got within shooting distance Jason dropped the hammer on him. The decoy and the trees both moved forward and backward with the repercussion of the shot. The turkey flopped to the ground and Justin instantly popped up and started running out there. I’m not sure why he did that, but Jason followed suit and I picked up the camera and headed out too. When Justin got near the bird the turkey jumped up and started flying off. Both Justin and Jason then stopped and went into battle mode and unleased the fury on the turkey. It seemed almost like a pheasant hunt because they were trying to down the bird as he flew off. I think on shot #3 or #4 one of them finally connected with the turkey and got him on the ground. And I got it all on camera too!
After the shot we all continued walking out to the bird, got some post game pics and video quotes and then tagged him and headed out. We were a happy crew!
Check out the video of the hunt…
The Saturday morning hunt was one I won’t be soon forgetting… especially as long as these red bugs keep me itching! It was really neat to see all the turkeys out in the field just strutting and feeding. It was a beautiful sight and we enjoyed spending time with each other in God’s creation and observing nature. We also learned a thing or two about stalk hunting from Justin. We may have to give it a shot at some point and see what we can do. All in all it was a great day in the woods with a very interesting end to the hunt!
My friend Jason Love and I hunt together often and we’ve been chasing some turkeys in our area for about 3 weeks. Up until earlier today the turkeys had been winning. It has been somewhat frustrating trying to get everything to line up.
Thus far this season it has seemed that the turkeys are not nearly as vocal as they have been in the past seasons. My theory has been that they are silent because of the coyotes (as demonstrated in the “Tech-Turkey Brings in Coyotes” blog video. This season we’ve been turkey hunting twice and seen 6 coyotes, shot 2, and killed 1. I was hoping the trend wouldn’t continue. Fortunately today we had a much different and better experience.
We got there early and set up near a point that overlooks a field. Behind us was a fresh cutover. We were louder on the way in that we wanted to be, but we made it to our spot. We’d scouted birds and seen them in the area for the past few weekends. We were not hearing them, but rather were just seeing them. Though, this morning we had turkeys gobbling from all directions, which was a nice change of pace.
As the sun rose we listened to nature wake up. We heard several turkeys start gobbling. Jason started giving the turkeys the “pillow talk” and we had one that was going absolutely crazy, but he was far off. However, he was seemingly getting closer with each gobble. It was an awesome morning in the woods. It was cool enough that mosquitoes weren’t out and we weren’t covered in sweat by the time we got to our location. The turkeys were really hammering from the trees and it was good to finally hear them in the area again.
We anticipated the turkeys entering into the field, but as often happens when turkey hunting, the unanticipated occurred. We had 3 jakes come in really silent behind us from the direction of the cutover. When they got about 60 yards from us they gobbled and liked to scared us half to death. At that point Jason turned and got his body in position to shoot in that direction. He saw the birds and said “Hey they’re close sit still, don’t move”. So I knew that they were getting within shooting range. I didn’t move because I didn’t want to mess up the hunt.
As I sat there looking the wrong way it dawned on me that the camera’s screen was reversible. So I turned the camera around backwards and aimed it over my shoulder. Then I flipped the viewfinder screen so that I could see in the viewfinder. It was really difficult to video in reverse over my back, but I did the best I could. It took me a while to find the turkeys, but when they got really close I was able to video them. One thing I could easily see though was Jason’s facial expressions and reactions. He was very focused and as they got closer you could tell it from his body language because things got more intense.
When the turkeys got about 20 yards away from us I was able to find them in the viewfinder. They worked their way closer. The turkeys were feeding just about 15 yards from us when they went behind some stumps. They stayed there momentarily, though it seemed liked forever. Then they started moving across our face to our left. Jason whispered “You ready?” and I said “Yes” and the turkey stepped into the perfect window, but he didn’t shoot. He had a tree in his way. I said “Wait!” and zoomed out. Then a few seconds later I said “Yes” and Jason instantly pulled the trigger and the bird dropped to the ground. The other 2 took off running and the rest was history.
Now to help you visualize that story, check out the below video...
This year turkey season came in on a cool and windy Sunday morning. A cold front came in that brought some really strong wind with it and conditions were not the best for turkey hunting. On top of that we couldn’t hunt too long as we needed to head to the early church service too, Palm Sunday. Nevertheless we still wanted to give it a shot.
As most of you are aware I’ve been working on the Tech-Turkey this off-season and was ready to give it a test run. My friend Will List picked me up early and we headed to the woods. We’ve got some turkeys on the land we hunt that consistently come out in the field in the mornings.
When we parked the wind was really gusting and pollen was in the air. I didn’t know if we would be able to have any success with the wind blowing so hard. On the way into the field we found a nice shed rack which I always enjoy finding. I was hoping it would be a sign of good luck.
We set up on an island of woods that overlooks a field. I went and put the decoy out about 35 yards away from us. Once set up I logged into WeHuntSC.com on my phone and tested connectivity and movement. The turkey was moving around just as it should. We were good to go and the sun was rising.
As it became lighter in the sky we were able to see the trees swaying back and forth in the wind. We hadn’t heard a gobble in the distance and really couldn’t hear much other than the wind. Usually by this time we would have heard some gobbles in the distance. We stayed and waited it out hoping for some gobblers to come around.
Will wanted to video the turkey from his phone and he asked me to make it move. So I made the turkey move and he videoed it. We were both looking down at our phones and I looked up to see 2 coyotes coming straight for the decoy. We didn’t hear a howl or have sign of coyotes coming, they came in silent and were focused in on the decoy. The wind that had been blowing so strongly was directionally blowing across our face so the coyotes couldn’t smell us. I couldn’t believe how close in they came.
Since Will was looking down at his phone I said “Will” and I turned the camera on. Will grabbed his gun and I was videoing. The coyotes came within 35 – 40 yards of us and like 10 yards from the decoy. Will debated letting them get even closer, but if he waited we may have been leaving with a mangled up decoy. In the video you can see the coyote pause for a second and that was the moment that Will pulled his gun up. Then seconds later he shot twice and hit the coyote both times. The coyote was flat getting out of there, but Will’s 20 gauge, 5-shot wasn’t enough to bring him down. It was definitely an interesting hunt. I think the coyotes will think twice before rolling up on a turkey again though!
So as you can imagine this wasn’t the hunt we had hoped for and it’s definitely not a good sign to have coyotes aiming for turkey decoys and our turkeys in general. Though, for the part of the Tech-Turkey decoy it is a good sign that the coyotes came to it because it was realistic to them. Usually coyotes are very keen on things and it’s a positive sign that they came in.
Hopefully next time we’ll be able to get some turkeys to come in.
The 2016 Predator Challenge was another successful event. We continue to grow as this year’s competition had 85 teams and 260 hunters registered on the website. It’s great to see the growth in the competition, but the awareness of the sport is what we’re really pleased to see. Ultimately we are outdoorsman who love to hunt and we host this competition to help raise awareness for what coyotes are doing to other game populations around the state (as the below video denotes). The more people we can get hunting coyotes, the better off our deer, turkey, ducks, and other game species are.
Coyote Only For The First Time
This year we implemented a request that hunters had voiced in post-competition-surveys for some time. The majority of our participants demanded a “Coyote Only” hunt and so this year that’s what we delivered. We knew that cutting out foxes and bobcats would lessen the number of people that could win, but our main purpose is to hunt coyotes as they are the true predators affecting deer, turkey, farm animals, and other wild game populations around the state. We didn’t know what to expect making this change, but in retrospect I think it was good and everyone still seemed to enjoy themselves.
It should go without saying that we cannot hold a competition without sponsorship. We are very fortunate to have some great sponsors. If you are predator hunters please check out our sponsor organizations and their products as they are the true ones who support you and us!
As everyone knows, the weather this weekend was not the best for hunting. It was particularly difficult for us upstate hunters and for NC teams. The snow, sleet, and ice made travel difficult and it made the coyote hunker down for a good portion of the weekend.
We received some criticism via email, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. about the competition weekend. People were saying we should reschedule, pick a different weekend, or have some alternative. For those who were criticizing understand a few things… we plan the competition months in advance and aim for a full moon, we don’t control the weather any more than you do, and several hunters take Friday off work to hunt while others line up specific land to hunt for this weekend. If we were to reschedule at the last minute it would inconvenience a lot of other people as well. It’s just difficult to please everyone with rules, scheduling, the weather, and timelines we have to operate under in order to host the competition. It’s very similar to a bass tournament where they fish regardless of the weather. Also, keep in mind that this is a FREE competition and we’re doing the best we can to serve all the hunters in our state and beyond. We do not make any money from the weekend. We actually lose money to host it. So we acknowledge the weather and your complaints and we take them with a grain of salt :-)
Team Members: Tyler Logan, Erica Catoe, Jacob Gainey
Counties Hunted: Lee, Darlington, Sumter
Coyote Total: 8
2nd Place: Carolina Dawg Killers
Team Members: Cody Ahlstrom, Trent McWhorter, Simmty McWhorter, Cambel Cox
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield, Union (NC)
Coyote Total: 7
3rd Place: McKenzie Outdoors
Team Members: Eddie McKenzie, Barret Griggs, Scottie Hoffman, Patrick Griggs
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield
Coyote Total: 2
Big Dawg: Carolina Dawg Killers
Team Members: Cody Ahlstrom, Trent McWhorter, Simmty McWhorter, Cambel Cox
Counties Hunted: Chesterfield, Union (NC)
Big Dawg Weight: 43.9
Congratulations again to the winners and thanks again to everyone who hunted in this year’s Predator Challenge. If you participated in the event you will receive an email sometime in the near future asking for feedback, concerns, thoughts, and snide remarks!
See you again next year!