We?ve blogged about it, we?ve tweeted to the Twitterverse, we?ve posted some flyers, and this weekend is our Hunter?s Night Out. We?ve got our ducks in a row and hope to see you at the event. Just a quick recap of what?s going on.
We?re hosting 3 representatives that will speak about game management and food plot creation/maintenance. Each individual is going to give a presentation that lasts about 30 minutes or so with room for questions at the end.
Those 3 representatives are:
Yes, we?re going to feed you and we?re going to start eating around 5:30 so be there and be ready to eat. We are going to eat spaghetti so don?t wear your best shirt! The event is free of charge.
Be sure to get a ticket when you get there? you just might win a Thermacell!
We're also raffling off a ground-blind and some goodies. You can buy a ticket there if you want.
Event Location: First Baptist Church 203 Pigg Street Pageland, SC 29728
The rise of thermal technologies coupled with the increase in coyotes and wild (feral) hogs has led to a growth in night hunting! Night hunting is a very different experience from the hunting many of us grew up with and it is addictive. If you night hunt long enough you realize that taking pics of coyotes, hogs, or whatever else you may be hunting at night… well, it’s not easy. Early last year we shot some big hogs, but the photos never did them justice. We struggled with dark, blurry, grainy and pixelated pics for a while before I decided to try and learn more about taking night pics. In this blog, I’m going to share some tips I’ve learned after a year of failing, learning, and making some progress with night pics.
Why Take the Time to Take Good Pics?
One may wonder, why should I invest time and likely money in taking quality pics (for both day and night that is). Taking good pics helps to capture the moment. These high-end pics can be printed, framed, and they help make memories last longer. Quality pics also help give hunting a good perception among non-hunters. The small details that are considered when taking quality pics go a long way to shape the view of hunters in the public, which can ultimately help to recruit more outdoorsmen.
In today’s social-media-driven-world everybody wants content. Tech professionals say “Content is king” and great night hunting pics definitely provide quality content that helps increase your reach online and shapes your personal brand. My advice is to take the time to do it right. You may be in a hurry to get to the next hunting location, but you won’t regret it in the long run when your pics come out looking awesome!
Example Night Hunting Pics
So, what do I mean by “high-end night hunting photos” … here are a few samples of some of my better ones from this past year. There are definitely better night hunting pics than these out there, but these examples are simply to help get you thinking about what I’m describing.
Now that you’ve seen a few sample images, let’s get to the point already and discuss what you need and how you can take pics like this too!
What You Need
If you’re going to do it right then you’ll need some gear. Without trying to tell you exactly what specific models to buy, here’s a general list of items you will need:
Before You Even Turn the Camera On
Before we get to the details of the camera and lights, let's think about a hunting scenario. Let's say you've got some fur on the ground. The next thing to do is to look at your surroundings and the sky. Consider the landscape, horizon, moon, stars, and any ambient light in the scene that may affect a photo. Visualize the scene you want and look for what would make a good setting for your pic. Even before we see hogs or coyotes I’m usually looking up at the sky and my surroundings and thinking of where and how I would set up for a pic should we get lucky and get something. Sometimes I tell the guys, “We really need to get something tonight because we’ve got an awesome sky for a pic.”
Tip: Use elements of the location. That is, if you’re on a farm, then consider getting the tractor in the pic or using hay bales to convey your location to the viewer. Below are two example pics where we used elements of the location to convey that we were hunting on a farm.
Light the Scene
Let’s say that you’ve got some fur on the ground, you’ve mentally visualized the pic you want to take and now it’s time to actually do it. Once you’ve got your game and scene framed how you want the next step is to light the scene. Since we’ve got to illuminate the scene so will need some lights.
I use litra torches because they are very bright, small (easy to carry), and rugged. There are other options out there as well, just do some Googling if you want. You could even use a flashlight and light paint with it as well. Ultimately, the more light you have the better chances of your pic turning out well.
I have 3 litra torches and I wear one on my head and hand the other 2 to my fellow hunters. I’m in the middle and I position the other hunters on each side about 5 yards away. I want light coming in from every direction possible.
When we start the exposure, we all “light paint” which means that we move the lights around waving them up and down, side to side, back and forth with the goal being to eliminate shadows in the background of the pictures. These shadows will come from the gun(s), tripod(s), trees, animals, or anything else that could block the light.
Camera Setup & Settings
Make sure the tripod is seated firmly in the ground because we must take multiple pics from the exact same location. You don’t want the tripod or camera to move AT ALL between pics. One time I took pics in a wet, muddy environment and the tripod sunk about an inch between shots and it made post-production a lot more difficult. So be sure to get the tripod on solid ground and that all your knobs are tightened down as much as they can be. I’m currently using a Manfrotto 190 Go, but any good tripod will suffice.
Level the Scene
Nothing is worse than taking a pic that is crooked. Most modern cameras will show you if they are level or not. Move the camera and ball head until it is level. This is a step that’s easy to forget so be sure to include it in your mental checklist.
Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture
I’m not a camera guru by any means so I’m not trying to explain all of these settings to you. If you want to learn more about those check out any tutorial about this subject on the internet. Ultimately, we want our settings to allow for a well exposed photo and depending on several variables the settings will be different.
Shoot in Delay
The pushing of the camera button can cause the camera to slightly move, bounce, shake, or vibrate. For long exposure photography this is not good as that slight movement can cause your image to be blurry. Most cameras have a 2, 5, or 10 second delay that you can enable. I use a 2 second delay so that I can push the button and 2 seconds later the exposure starts. This removes vibration or movement of the camera caused by me pushing the button.
Pulling Focus in Manual Focus Mode (in the dark)
Pulling focus is not easy to do in the daytime, much less at night. However, this is a critical step for having a good pic. Once I’ve got the scene set, I’ve given the lights to my fellow hunters, and I’ve got my settings how I want, I then pull focus. My crew has hunted with me so long they know the drill. They start asking “You ready to pull focus?”.
You need to flip the camera into manual focus because auto-focus will constantly move around which is problematic at night. Once you’re in manual focus mode and your friends have your scene lit for you, then spin your focus ring to get your focus just right. I always take the first pic focusing on the animals that we’ve just harvested. I take 1 to 2 pics and I may adjust my camera settings in between.
One thing I’m always sure to do is to review the photo as soon as you take it. Zoom in and look around making sure the pic is focused. And you must do this without moving the camera. Once I’m sure the focus is good, we move on to the next pics.
Focus Stacking - It’s Multiple Pics Combined into One
Viewers may not realize it, but the final pic is actually 2 to 3 pics that are composited together in post-production. This technique is referred to as “Focus Stacking” and it can yield some awesome results, but it can be easily overdone. Generally speaking, I take 2 or 3 pictures depending on available light:
In the end I’m taking the pics and using image editing software (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) to merge the pics, each with different focus points, into one. This final image will ensure that the areas the viewer’s eyes go to will be in focus and produce a quality image.
Here is an example of 2 images I took with different focal points and the final pic which is both images combined into one.
Focus Plane on the coyote’s face & gun
Focus on the background horizon
The Final Edited, Composite Image
Here’s an example of 3 images I took that I edited into one
Focus on the Humans in the Pic
Focus on the Hog, Tractor, & Guns
Focus on the Horizon Line
The Final Composite Image
Shoot in Raw
Modern cameras can shoot in RAW. I always shoot in RAW as this gives me more ability to edit in post-production. Pixels can be better manipulated in the RAW format.
Note: If you have an iPhone you know that the recent phones have strong image editing capabilities. You can go in and edit all kinds of things before saving the image. This is the same principle as shooting in RAW.
Edit in a Photo-Editing Software
Once you’ve gotten the pics taken you’ve got the hard part done! Now the only thing that remains is to edit the pics in whatever image editing solution you choose. And editing these pics is a whole different conversation because there are so many options. Any image editing program will provide you with the fine grain controls that you want/need to get you to a final picture similar (and hopefully better) than the ones I’ve shared above.
I hope you’ve found this information and some of the tips we’ve learned over time useful. It’s definitely an art and I’m still learning. Taking these types of night hunting pics does require one to slow down and focus, but it is worth it in the end. If you venture into night hunting photography, be sure to share your pics we’d love to see them.
As you know, we?ve been working a lot on the Tecomate Seed Food Plot Journey over the course of the past year. Most of the time when we?re out working we are talking about deer hunting and optimistically dreaming up scenarios where huge bucks come into the food plots or into shooting lanes and how we would position ourselves, etc. I?m sure you may have had similar experiences. Many times when Adam and I have been out working and having these conversations he kept bringing up the subject of scent control. I have known your scent was important, but I?ve never really thought about it, or taken it to, the level at which Adam does. What level is that you may ask? the level of spraying down when going to check game cams, washing your clothes in odor reducing detergent, taking showers with scent free soap, looking up which direction the wind is blowing before hunting, etc. Initially to me, that was a bit much, but hey?everyone has their own style of hunting.
This season we?ve been using the McKenzie Scent Fan Duffle Bag as well as Atsko?s products to work with our scent management. This is a regular routine for Adam, but for me it?s a whole new ball game, so I figured why not try it out and see what happens. So, as you know from previous blog entries, I?ve been using the McKenzie Scent Fan Duffle bag to fuse earth and pine scent into my hunting gear. I mean I?ve been putting everything in the bag?my clothes, m boots, my smaller bag, even my Thermacell, and this past week I also stuck my video camera?s tripod in there too! Literally everything in the bag smells like dirt now. So I?ve got my hunting gear taken care of and smelling just right.
I?ve also started testing out and using some of Atsko?s scent reduction products. Atsko has a 4-pack (the same one that someone is going to win this year) of scent reduction/UV killer products. I put the N-O-Odor soap in my shower and put the N-O-Odor spray right beside my McKenzie bag. I was eager to test all this out because in this early season heat, anything I can do to reduce my scent is beneficial since I sweat a lot and it?s been very humid.
Ok?jump back in time to one week ago?
A week ago (when we put down lime and seed) I also went out and put some corn out at an area where we?ve had an old stand forever, but that hasn?t been getting hunted out of much lately. We have a feeder out there that hasn?t been working for a while too (you?ll see it in the video). Since I had some time, I took a game camera out and tied it up on a tree and put some corn out in front of it. I didn?t know what to expect or even know if any deer were in the area, but I figured I?d try it out. I put it out and really just forgot about it.
When I came back home this past Friday, I went out to check the game camera. I put a new chip in and brought the chip that was in the game camera back to the house. Looking at the chip I could see that deer had been in there all hours of the day and night. In one week I had 268 pics on it. That answered the question as to whether there were any deer moving in that location. There were a lot of does on the camera, a small 4 point, a small 6 point, and every once in a while an 8-point came through and paused for the camera and ate some corn. I guess I had the game camera really close or something because the majority of the pics were close-ups like these:
With so much activity going on in that location, I figured I?d go and sit there the next morning to see what would happen.
I knew I was going to go sit in this stand on Saturday morning and I was thinking about my scent-game-plan. I let my McKenzie Scent Fan Duffle run all day Friday and all night Friday night while I was at the game and even while I slept. After the game (Eagles dominated Chesterfield again!) I came home and took a shower and used Atsko?s odor eliminating soap. I planned to use it that night and also in the morning. And yes, when you use it?you can?t smell anything. I sat the odor eliminating scent spray near my McKenzie bag to spray my shorts (the shorts that I wore under the camo) and socks down.
So the game plan was this?take showers using odor eliminating soap, put on regular underclothes (shorts & socks) and spray them down with the scent eliminating spray, and then wear the camo and take gear that had been getting scented all day and night with the earth/pine scent. This would hopefully reduce any human scent and/or bacteria that deer smell that may have been on me and then cover-scented my gear with a natural smell. Doing all of this really felt extreme and out-of-the-ordinary for me, but again? I?m just giving all this scent management stuff a whirl.
I executed all scent management steps and set out to the stand. This stand is a very small, old, wooden stand located in a thick forest area. Due to this scenario; I didn?t take the tripod, but was set to MacGyver a way to video or either get busted by a deer moving around trying to video. It was going to be so tight in the stand that I wouldn?t have room for the tripod. I knew this would hurt me in some way, but I just wasn?t sure how.
I sat for a little while and my vision was slowly getting better as the sun was starting to rise. Shortly thereafter I heard something moving behind me in the woods. If you?ve hunted before then you know the sound of a squirrel running through the leaves?they?re loud and go in spurts. This sound wasn?t like that, but rather was a slow pace and sounded like a deer rummaging through the forest floor as it walked. Due to the high activity of game cam pics, I felt sure it was a deer. This sound started out behind me?what would be 6 o?clock on the clock-face and it was extremely close. I was frozen in my stand and wasn?t budging. I knew that however many deer were back there were close and that any movement would leave me busted and hearing deer blowing at me as they ran away. My heart beat was escalating with every step that the deer took. It got closer and closer and was coming up my left side. I was looking to the left in my peripheral vision as much as possible, but didn?t see anything initially. I didn?t want to turn my head and just kept looking to the left. I looked until my eyes started hurting from straining them so much looking so hard trying to find what was making this sound. I?m sure this may have happened to you before as well.
It was still a little dark and tough to focus clearly. Then I finally saw movement and it was about 10 yards away from me! It was heading toward the corn pile. I wasn?t moving for anything as the deer walked right beside me, but my heart started pounding because I saw antlers! The trail I walked into the stand had me coming into the stand in the same path that this deer was walking toward?i.e. his path was going to intersect the path I took and he would be smelling right where I walked as he crossed my path. I knew I did all this scent stuff, but I also knew I was sweating some. I really didn?t know what to think.
As the deer passed around my left side he went behind some brush. If I was going to turn the camera on with any structure in between us, that moment was the time to do it. I reached over and cut the camera on and it started recording. Keep in mind that, due to size constraints, I didn?t bring the tripod and the camera was not secured to the stand, but rather just sitting on top of the side of a 2 x 4. I was nervous that I would knock it off, but I had to get it turned on. After I got the camera turned on I moved my gun a little, cut the safety off, and got my body in position. The deer kept walking and I could hear him getting closer to the corn as he moved. Finally he popped out at the corn pile and was broad-sided, giving me the perfect shot.
Something neat happened when the deer got over to the camera. Obviously the camera sensed movement and starting taking some pics. I was looking through my scope and also looking through the camera at the same time. I was going back and forth with my eyes again from the scope to the camera. Out of my right eye I saw a really bright light flash, but I didn?t see it out of my left. From what I could tell, the video camera picked up on the infrared flash, but my naked eye obviously was unable to and apparently the deer?s eye couldn?t pick up on it either. This may be common knowledge, but when it happened to me in the stand it kind of startled me at first because my initial reaction was that the deer would be spooked. You?ll easily see the camera flashing in the video.
As it got lighter I watched this buck eating corn for what seemed like forever. I mean I had the best case scenario from the moment that he arrived at the corn pile. I let him go for a few minutes without pulling the trigger. I wanted to make sure that this buck was not a 6 pointer because I?m trying to let the deer get to a decent size in this area. I looked and looked and finally counted 8 points, but even then I still debated not shooting this deer. I could tell he had a good sized body, but I just went back and forth in my mind about letting him walk and shooting him. Then I finally decided to shoot. (This is why you see me let him eat the corn for a while and not take the shot until late) The deer was eating corn and I had the perfect angle, but at the moment I decided to shoot he kind of gave me a quarter shot. I waited a few seconds and he raised his head up quickly and his body tensed up. I thought he sensed danger and was about to bolt?so I took the shot. When I took the shot I knew I hit the deer because his back legs jumped up in the air. The bad news was that when I pulled the trigger the camera fell off the ledge of the stand ? the good news is that it fell back in the stand rather than out of the stand! I caught it in my lap. I heard the deer go down about 20 yards away so I didn?t think it would be a tough deer to trail.
I always sit in the stand after I make a shot just to calm down some and gather myself. I want to give the deer time to die and also want to make sure that I get my safety back on my gun and that I don?t get in a hurry and leave anything or hurt myself somehow. On this specific day all my hunting buddies were not around and were out of town or were working. So I put the call in to my parent?s house and told them that I shot a deer and that I was going to start dragging. They said they would come out to help.
After a couple of minutes I got out of the stand and walked over to the corn pile and shot some post game footage. I walked a little bit and then saw the deer lying down about 20 yards away. I knew I had made a good shot. I went over and started dragging. My parents showed up not too long after I had started dragging the deer. My dad has been having some trouble with his knees lately and just walking the terrain of the land was killing him?so what does any good mother do?that?s right?my mom helped me drag the deer out of the woods! Talk about unconditional love. So to the people around Pageland reading this?if you see my mom tell her that you heard she?s dragging deer out of the woods in her slip-ons! I felt bad as one time she fell down when we were pulling the deer across a dried up creek, but she soldiered up right on through it and kept pulling. We had to stop 2 ? 3 times, but soon enough we had the deer to the edge of the woods. My mama has always told me ?They don?t make them like me anymore? and after last Saturday I have to say that I definitely believe her!
That was how the story of the hunt went. Reflecting back on the hunt, I have to tell you that I really think the measures I took of scent control played a big part in my success. The reason is because that deer started out behind me and came full circle all the way around me at a very close range and even walked across the path that I walked in on. The deer ended up in front of me and was clueless that I was even in the woods. If I would have smelled then he would have winded me a couple times over and fled the scene, but you already know how the story went. Needless to say, I?ll be covering my scent and paying more attention to it in all my upcoming hunts. Maybe the deer was dumb or couldn?t smell, but you have to "dance with the one that brung ya" right??? So I?ll keep focusing on my scent and see how the rest of the season goes. Maybe Adam?s scent management techniques aren?t too extreme after all!
After all this I got all my scent control products together and took some pics with the deer. The deer ended up being 8 points, 155lbs. He?s not a monster, but he was a decent buck.
Here?s the video of the hunt?sorry the camera fell, but we don?t have a camera-arm sponsor yet?lol! So next time I?ll take some rubber-bands or start saving my money up for a camera-arm. Also, you?ll notice that my video edits aren?t great?but I?m a web guy?not a video guru so this will have to suffice.
Be sure to bump the resolution up a little in the bottom right-hand corner of the video where it says "360p"
Something else neat occurred to me later that morning?when I was hunting the camera was flashing right? I sat there and thought to myself? that pic will have the deer in it and also have me in it (if it could see that far out). So I journeyed back out to the stand again to get the chip (that had only been out there for one day) again and see what the pic looked like. I was surprised to have over 80 pics just from the past 24 hours. Those deer were out there all night long again! That 8 point was there in the middle of the day on Friday and there were even deer at the corn pile at 5:45 am?the same time when I started walking to the stand. I probably scared them off on my way in. Anyway, I found the pic of the deer at the corn-pile right before I shot and you can see me in the background, but it?s kind of blurry. You can make out my head, the gun barrel, and the dark area where the camera is. Check out the pic
So I sweated a lot dragging the deer and even got some blood on my camo and what did I do?that?s right? I put them in the washing machine and washed them with Atsko?s odor eliminating detergent. I dried them and then stuck them right back in the McKenzie bag. I think the stars aligned just right for me on this day or something. I?ve only been in the woods hunting 2 weekends and have harvested 2 deer. This season has been a success whether or not I get any more deer this year?and I?m just fine with that, but I?ll still be out trying to videotape! If you made it this far, thanks for reading all this.
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:
In the most recent news and events we?ve seen how countries in the Middle East have used, and are using, Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube to organize, communicate, and overthrow governments, regimes, and dictators. The internet has increased social connectivity and is changing the fabric of many cultures around us. The same principle of technology being used to change the dominant narrative within a society parallels a shift currently going on within the outdoor industry.
Narrowing the focus, I?m specifically talking about how online video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo are changing the outdoor industry as they relate to hunting and fishing TV shows. What change you ask? Well, it?s not quite so evident yet, but as technology becomes more integrated into the lives of outdoorsmen it will become more noticeable. To further investigate this notion let?s look at the current dominant narrative, the disruption, and the resulting model that is arising out of the disruption.
The Dominant Narrative Currently, hunting and fishing TV shows are watched by many outdoorsmen on networks like the Outdoor Channel, ESPN Outdoors, the Pursuit Channel, Versus, and other networks similar in programming. These shows consist of quality footage, professional editing, and action packed content. The TV shows are fun to watch and they set the bar high for what trophy animals are in the outdoor world, they introduce new products, and give informative tips to the viewing audience. Many of these TV shows are made possible via the contributions of sponsors and other organizations that have a vested financial interest in the success of these shows. The sponsors and networks also have a financial interest in the success of the personalities they spend tons of marketing money creating. These shows reach their target audience sitting on a couch in a living room taking in the action?and yes, I?m an audience member too! This is the model that we have grown accustomed to expect and accept.
The positives for this model are obvious?quality content delivered directly to the target audience. However, there are some drawbacks to this model as well that can easily go unnoticed. Some flaws for this model are:
Cost - To have a show you must have financial backing or support from sponsors. Essentially it takes money to produce, edit, and buy the air time for the show. Thus, the need for financial backing from sponsors is never-ending. This model means you have to have money in order to have a show, to have your products(s) featured on a show, or to be a personality on a show. This model is expensive and makes it difficult for budding entrepreneurs and smaller organizations to get product placement in these ?prime time? shows. The barrier created by the necessary financial backing is a strong deterrent for many trying to ?break in? to the industry whether they have product(s), talent, or wisdom they aspire to share with the outdoor world. Many really neat products or bits of knowledge have never received high amounts of exposure simply because the people behind them couldn?t foot the bill to get publicity on this level of shows. It?s an understandable dynamic and it?s also becoming an outdated one.
No Exposure for Grass Roots Hunters ? Do you know someone in your local area who is an avid or exceptional hunter? I do and I also know that their knowledge and experiences could make for some good TV material?or at least content good enough to draw interest in the outdoor community. In the current model, these exceptional, local hunters won?t get much exposure. I also know some guys who were pushing to have their own hunting show on TV, but they eventually gave up as they couldn?t get enough financial backing to make it possible. The current model within the outdoor TV show industry makes it nearly impossible for grass-roots hunters to get exposure and promote their ways of hunting or fishing, their knowledge, and wisdom.
Authenticity ? In today?s society we seek authenticity...realness? and we can easily pick up on it when something or someone doesn?t seem to be 100% real. It?s not that hunters on TV are viewed as fake, but we, in the back of our minds, always think that these guys are hunting on a ranch somewhere or that they?re hunting in a pen. Whether they are or not is yours to decide. I?m sure you?ve heard outdoorsmen talking about how their hunting/fishing experiences ?aren?t like the hunting/fishing you see on TV? and this statement alludes to the notion that outdoor TV shows don?t accurately represent real life examples that they experience during hunting or fishing season. Whether the outdoor show is 100% real or not, the perception of the viewer often times leans towards the less authentic side of the argument. And as you know, perception is reality.
Lack of Availability & Sharing ? TV shows run on a schedule. You can easily figure this out by looking on your program guide in the newspaper or on your network?s program guide. You can also record programs and watch them at a later time. These are neat features for TV, but it still lacks in a few areas. You can?t watch these programs on a mobile device as easily. You can?t ?like? or ?share? or embed or search for and easily find these videos so that you can effortlessly share them with others. If the shows aren?t seen on TV then they?re not as easily accessible for viewing. Sharing and searching is out of the question as well in the current model.
The Disruption Enter YouTube and Vimeo. In this day and age anybody with a video camera can easily post videos for the world to see. The ability to document events on video and post them online has caused drastic changes in the way we communicate and share videos and media.
The videos posted on YouTube & Vimeo reach their target audience wherever they are via their mobile devices, Iphones, Droids, Ipads, Galaxy Tabs, computers, etc. We can consume these videos at work or at home. Though, the target audience for consumption of these videos is a mobile generation that?s constantly on the move, has a short attention span, is accustomed to interacting with media, and spends more time online than they do watching TV.
The online videos are instantly searchable, shareable, ?likeable?, embeddable, measurable, and they have the ability to go viral very quickly. These features are the same features that TV lacks. The new generations of hunters are pushing this disruption and in doing so are contributing, video by video, to the paradigm shift that is being observed. The end result will be a new, blended model in the way outdoorsmen consume videos and consequently a new way for marketers to reach their target audiences will be created along with the possibility for anyone to become a well known outdoorsmen.
The New Shifted Model The new model for video content consumpetion will consist of a blend of hunting TV shows that air on networks as well as prominent hunters who present their video content in an online, shareable, searchable, measurable, and ratable format. This new blended model has several benefits for many involved in this industry. Some of those benefits are:
More authentic/genuine content ? There is just something about a home video that gives an authentic feel. Whether it?s the bloopers or bumps of the cameras or moments of unsteady handling, when I view one of these videos I feel like the video is genuine. I feel like I have something in common with the person shooting the video and that common link is that the creator of this video is an everyday hunter/fisher just like me. It may just be me, but I feel that I can identify more with someone a few miles down the road from me with a hand-held camera than I can with someone hunting in a distant state harvesting deer/turkeys that are unrealistic animals for my area. This new, blended model will give me both types of content that I can consume. I can see the fancy editing and high-dollar product placement on TV as well as being able to see online content that I feel I can identify with on a greater level.
Cheaper marketing of sponsoring organizations - Along with working with ?big names? in the hunting TV show industry, sponsoring organizations will become more open to working with grass-roots hunters to have their products featured in their YouTube and Vimeo videos. Why would an organization reach out to the ?good old boys? who post YouTubes & Vimeos? They will do this for several reasons with the main one being that the cost will be much cheaper while the reach will become much further. Instead of having to pay for air time, editing, production, and backing high-costing TV personalities, organizations will easily save money and also work with local hunters to feature their products in the blogs and/or videos of the grass-roots outdoorsmen. They may donate products to these hunters or work some agreement up for promotions, but whatever they do will be cheaper for them than what they?re currently doing. The smaller entrepreneurs will start to jump on this and will start reaching the grass roots hunters and will cover ground in this arena earlier than the large organizations will because it is initially more attractive to them. The big boys will be a little behind, but they will catch up once they take note of the shift and start operating in the new blended model. Also, initiating change within a large organization takes more time so it will take the larger organizations more time to adjust.
Large organizations and smaller entrepreneurs will now both be able to benefit by receiving publicity and promotions from this new, blended model. Since viewers of the next generations will increasingly seek authentic videos from people they can identify with ?and will access the content where they spend most of their time (online)? the new generation of consumers will lean more toward online video than they will hunting TV shows. When consumers change where they?re viewing their media then so will the location of marketing change somewhat for the sponsors and organizations promoting products.
Increasing quality of videos - When hunters start understanding the ripple effects of the new, blended model they will start producing higher quality home videos. Just look at what has taking place on our site within this past year. Hunters are now carrying video cameras in the woods and are commentating while they video when possible. The videos submitted by our site users and bloggers are getting better all the time as well (and so are the available tools for creating videos). Hunters are spending more time documenting and editing the videos from their hunts. Current video editing software allows for some great, creative videos in the end. Over time more and more hunters will have better software and will produce higher quality videos and they will post them online! Organizations are noticing and are starting to donate products for our bloggers to field test and blog about. It?s cheap for them and the grass-roots outdoorsmen directly interface with the audience they want to reach which, in our case, is the audience of our fellow outdoorsmen here on the site!
Increased Exposure for Grass Roots Hunters ? Through these video sharing sites, local hunters will have an avenue to share their stories. In the new, blended model hunters will easily be able to reach greater size audiences (at the audience?s convenience too). The barrier for getting exposure will no longer be determined by the amount of financial backing that you can obtain from sponsors. Because of this increased level of content sharing hunting, knowledge, and wisdom will be more readily available. In short, anyone can create a YouTube or Vimeo channel and begin building their credibility and reputation online. Just go to Derek?s YouTube channel and tell me that you don?t see content that is intriguing to you?and this will happen to a whole generation of outdoorsmen who are figuring this out just like we are.
Ease of Availability - A TV show may air a couple of times. A YouTube/Vimeo video will always be there and is accessible 24-7. It?s way more convenient to find a video via Google search at your leisure than it is to find a TV show and be present when it airs or either DVR it and watch it later. Another intriguing fact about online video is the possibility for the video to ?go viral? and quickly circulate the net. Users can access these vides on any device and can connect from virtually any location. Its real time and it?s social and it?s easy.
More easily measurable ? Video views are quickly and easily measurable. I know TV shows have the Nielsen ratings and other methods of finding out viewer stats, but seeing how many views a video has on YouTube or Vimeo is way more easily accessible than waiting for ratings to come out and find out how many people watched a specific show. The view count on YouTube & Vimeo is as close to real-time insight as one can get. The ?view-count? on each video is a direct signal as to the visibility an outdoorsman is receiving and it?s easily available to both the sponsors and the hunters. The transparency reveals the truth and the stats can?t be manipulated. These quick and easy metrics help sponsoring organizations make an easy assessment of the value of working with various outdoorsmen.
Conclusion Don?t mistake what I?m saying here? I don?t think hunting shows are going to end because I think there?s a place and demand for them. I?m just saying that over time they won?t be in as high of demand. I think this change will become more evident in the coming years, but you can see it happening already if you simply look around. Just look on YouTube and search for hunting or fishing videos and you?ll see a ton of outdoorsmen having their own ?shows? via their YouTube or Vimeo Channels. Outdoorsmen are picking up on it and the sponsors are slowly starting to as well and they should!
What means more to you?? seeing someone on TV shoot a deer/turkey on a ranch in a distant state or seeing one of your fellow South Carolinians bag a good buck or turkey on a YouTube video?
The shift has begun.
A while back someone on twitter saw a link to our site and checked it out. Their response tweet was that they liked the design of the site and that it fired them up and made them "want to go kill something?" Obviously this individual doesn''t have a clear understanding of what hunting is all about as his words were a window into his personal view of hunting ...or should I say his trouble distinguishing the difference between hunting and killing.
I often meet people who are non-hunters and sometimes over the course of conversation we end up talking about hunting. Inevitably the conversation trends towards the hunting vs. killing debate. It usually surfaces in the form of "How can you shoot those helpless little creatures?" or "You try to kill Bambi?" This statement is typically a strong indicator that the person asking the question has never hunted.
I'd like to take a look into the hunting vs. killing debate from a hunter's perspective. Let's use a critical lens to analyze and deconstruct the meaning of hunting and also killing. What are the differences between hunting and killing? Where do the differences lie? What are the signs of both a "hunter" and a "killer"? Let's start the investigation by looking at hunters.
Hunters, first and foremost, have totally different motivations, thought processes, and core values than a "killer" does. The fundamental values of a hunter affect the way he/she views the sport. A hunter's beliefs and values prompt actions that are direct indicators that the individual is a true hunter. Over time these fundamental differences are outwardly manifested in the activities in which hunters engage. For this reason, you will find hunters involved in activities in which you will never see "killers" involved. These belief-motivated actions can be noticed both in-season as well as during the off-season.
In the off-season a hunter still enjoys many aspects of hunting. This is because being a hunter doesn't come for a season and then leave, its not seasonal, it's a way of life. Some examples of these off-season activities are those such as "shed" hunting where finding a deer's shed antlers is the goal, or with training any hunting dogs that a hunter may have, doing off-season scouting, competing in target shooting competitions and/or calling competitions, attending trade shows, moving deer stands, building duck blinds, practicing calling techniques, researching, planting and maintaining food plots to help with the health and nutritional diet of the deer, turkeys, ducks or other game in the hunter's area, or even watching hunting TV shows.
During the season a hunter doesn't merely look to harvest anything that walks through the woods, but rather is selective about the game that he or she does choose to harvest. A hunter won't shoot more meat than he or she needs in his freezer. Hunters also help less fortunate people by donating deer meat to them. It's common to find hunting clubs or deer processors working with local organizations supporting the needy. A hunter takes pride in being able to watch an animal mature over time and is challenged to hold the game in their area. A hunter also has a true appreciation for nature and the patterns found within nature denoting intelligent design from above. Hunters grow to appreciate the stillness of being in the middle of the woods, field, swamps, etc where one can momentarily elude the business and noise of everyday life. Sitting on the ground, in a stand, or in a blind offers one the time and place to ponder the wonders of the universe or anything else that may come to mind. The serenity hunters find out in nature can't be found in too many other locations and gives some hunters a natural high. This tranquil and peaceful place is where the hunter remains until he/she either encounters the game or the end of the hunt. Sure, a hunter wants to harvest an animal, yet he/she still enjoys the hunt whether an animal was harvested or not. When the game does arrive, whether it is a duck, boar, turkey, deer, etc hunters enjoy the instant rush that comes over us. The instant rush of adrenaline, rather than the kill, is what gets hunters hooked.
A hunter also has the discipline to watch their game for hours and never pull the trigger. When a hunter does pull the trigger, it is a calculated moment that has been in the making for some time rather than being a moment that randomly happens by chance. Harvesting an animal is the culmination of many factors some of which are: off-season scouting, scent control, successful hunting tactics, food plot, land/game management, successful calling, well trained dogs, and yes, an accurate shot. All of these factors coming together at once is not an easy feat to pull off. Therefore, when an animal is harvested it's the intersection of preparation, patience, and nature.
Hunters usually have hunting partners with whom they go hunting and spend time. Having a hunting partner is a good safety measure, it helps when any work needs to be done, and offers a chance for fellowship while participating in an activity that both individuals enjoy. It's commonplace to find fathers and sons hunting together. You see hunters also care about passing the tradition on to younger hunters. Because of the burden to share the sport and experiences in the outdoors, hunters strongly support activities which promote and educate hunting to youth. Fathers also appreciate the opportunity that hunting gives them to spend time with their children.
To see what happens when a non-hunting, father-son, duo goes hunting and realizes the rush of the hunt and the experience that they'd just had together see the below video
Hunters also get involved with organizations that support their sport and focus on the conservation of the sport so that everyone can continue to enjoy the outdoors. Organizations like Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Ducks Unlimited (DU), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), and the National Rifle Association (NRA) are ones that you'll see true hunters get involved with. These organizations bring a wealth of research, information, and synergy to their respective sport of hunting and work for the greater good of the hunting community as a whole. Hunters get involved with these organizations because the core principles and values of the organizations align with the core principles and values of the hunter.
The last thing I'll mention is that, due to the strong differences between hunters and killers, you'll seldom find hunters associating with killers, the two just don't mesh. Sure they may bump into each other at a processing plant every now and then, but you won't see them together much other than that. The old saying goes "You are what you hang around" and because of this notion, hunters are careful about the company they keep. Take a look at the people around you who hunt and think about who they do and don't hang around to see if it holds true.
We all have different perspectives, but the above is my perception on what makes a hunter and how you can identify and distinguish a hunter from a killer. Since I've elaborated on what I believe comprises a hunter, now let's look at the other side of the fence. Let's look at characteristics that I believe make up a "killer".
A "killer" is essentially the opposite of all the characteristics mentioned above that encompass a hunter. In my opinion, killers give hunters a bad reputation. In the same way that you'll see a hunter involved in specific activities and carrying out certain behaviors, you'll see killers not taking part in certain activities and also engaging in contrasting behaviors. Most of the time a killer's behaviors are in stark contrast to those of a hunter.
In contrast to a hunter, a killer does not appreciate the hunt because the hunt is what stands between them and a kill. Killers don't genuinely appreciate the wait, the silence, and the necessary time in a stand/blind that most hunters love because a killer doesn't really enjoy the peacefulness of nature, but rather is in a hurry to pull the trigger.
Killers don't respect the land they hunt on or animals they harvest. They don't mind littering or damaging the land they hunt on because the environment and conservation is not of their concern. Killers are also what we like to call "trigger-happy" and will shoot the first deer, turkey, duck etc. that they see. In the deer hunting world killers live by the motto "If it's brown it's down" because they're not concerned with game management or limits. I remember an instance related to this topic that happened when I was a kid that still sticks out to me.
In the mid 90's we were at one of our locals processing plants and everyone was talking about deer hunting while the guys were cleaning deer. The environment was the normal, upbeat, good-humored, environment that you've probably experienced before at a processing plant. We had been there about 20 minutes when some guys came up and bought in a very young doe. The deer was so small that it looked like it had just got rid of its spots. At the time I didn't really know what was going on because I was so young, but I distinctly remember the old man that was processing the deer's reaction to the situation. The guys drug the small deer up and immediately the whole processing plant went silent. Tension was in the air and it was thick. I vividly remember the awkwardness of the moment. The guy who shot the deer said he wanted some "tender meat" and that did not go over well at all with the processor. He gave the guy a death-stare and then shook his head in disappointment to let him know that what he had done was wrong. After that the whole place remained quiet until the individuals who brought the deer in left. Being young, I didn't exactly understand what had just taken place, but my dad explained it to me on the way home. In retrospect, I now respect the processor even more because even he didn't want to make money cleaning a deer that was so young because he respected the game and disliked doing business with a killer.
Another sign to look for that denotes a killer is what they do in the off-season. Killers rarely participate in, and do not enjoy, the off-season work that hunters love because its actual work and it doesn't involve or even come close a kill. Hunters know that working in the off-season can help their game and also keeps the hunter's flame burning year round. Killers on the other hand may do some off-season work, but from what I can tell, they don't seem to be too motivated about it.
After a killer does harvest a deer, they commonly boast about the kill as if it builds social status whether their animal was a trophy animal or not. Of course a hunter may brag about a nice deer, duck, turkey, etc they've harvested, but they won't go to the extent of self-promotion that a killer will. A true hunter doesn't need any self-promotion and doesn't thrive on his reputation because to a hunter it's not a competition, but to a killer, it is.
Killers aren't interested in taking others hunting because it only lessens their chances of making a kill. Sure everyone hunts by themselves at some point in time, but (if okay with the hunting club and/or land-owner) a hunter is always open to taking another person hunting, especially a kid because a hunter wants to share the enjoyment of the sport. A killer's viewpoint on that matter is the opposite because he/she isn't interested in sharing the sport as much.
Killers aren't concerned with adhering to the state/county regulations on game and don't mind breaking the rules because they don't respect the game, land, or sport as much as a hunter does. Due to this lack of adherence to rules & regulations killers will do things such as spotlighting deer at night, shooting before legal shooting time, hunting on land that isn't theirs, harvesting more animals than they are legally supposed to, etc. For whatever reason, a killer seems to feel above the law.
In the above paragraphs I've used a critical lens to compare, contrast, and note my view on the characteristics of both the "hunter" and the "killer". Looking deeper into the debate and deconstructing the meaning from a hunter's perspective provides unique insight with which you have the right to agree or disagree.
The term "Epistemology" refers to one's "way of knowing" and really forces one to ask the question "How do I know what I know to be truth?" Knowledge is derived from the merging of what we know to be true (truths) and what we believe (beliefs). This is demonstrated by the graph on the right.
Given an epistemological viewpoint, one can be more informed about hunters from understanding a hunter's core values and beliefs. One must know the truths about hunters and understand the sport from a hunter's perspective in order to be knowledgeable and informed in the debate. Looking at hunting from the vantage point of a hunter offers valuable insight for non-hunters and those who are critical of hunters.
Determining whether an outdoorsman is a hunter or a killer is a judgment that can only be made on an individual basis. Stereotyping hunters as blood hungry killers is unfair because many times that is simply not the case. I'm not denying that there are some killers out there. I'm just saying that you can't call us all killers until you get to know us and understand us a little.
This past weekend I did a lot of work in the woods and it felt good. I’m just now getting around to doing the work that I wished I could have done in the summer so yes I’m a little behind. After making a lot of noise in the woods I hunt in and spreading my scent everywhere I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to hunt there and since Derrick & JD Outen helped me do the work I told JD that I’d come video him hunting in the evening. JD’s still after his first buck of the season for this year so we hoped to get one on camera. We had a good time sitting it the stand, but luck just wasn't in our favor tonight. Though, while we were sitting in the stand we heard a loud boom not too far away. This meant that JD’s dad, Derrick had made a shot. Derrick took a shot right at dark and he text messaged us and said he was on the way. And so it began.
Derrick picked us up and told us that he shot a deer at about 235 yards out in one of his shooting lanes. We went to the lane and starting walking. You have to kind of know Derrick to be able to fully appreciate the mode he gets in during situations like this. This was serious business and Derrick was like a CSI detective on a crime scene. Derrick showed us the spot where he said the deer was standing when he shot. I know Derrick is getting old and his eyes probably weren't working up to par right at dark so I went beyond where the said he shot the deer. Derrick, JD, & I searched for blood for nearly 15-20 minutes. I kept telling him that he missed to his response of “Outen’s don’t miss”. I was just about at the point of telling him that we should give up when I looked down and low and behold I saw a drop of blood. I was nearly 30 yards ahead of where Derrick & JD were by then. I yelled out “I've got blood” and I could tell Derrick’s hairs on the back of his neck were starting to stand up. The CSI deer detective had upped the tracker mode one notch because he knew there was a challenge at hand. From that point on Derrick was methodical in how he proceeded.
The drop of blood I found was in the shooting lane and we were trying to figure out which way the deer took off in, but the problem was that we couldn't find any more blood. Derrick told us to not be straying off into the brush because if a deer had traveled down a specific path we needed to be able to see it and if we went into the brush we would create a path and make it more difficult to keep up with. I told the guys that I was going to drop my hat on top of the blood so we would know where our origination marker was. We searched and searched through the edge of the lane on both sides and couldn't find anything. We even got desperate enough to start walking through the brush looking for anything that would give us hope. We had strayed the course and broken our own rules. We were about 30 minutes in at this point and yes my sweat was attracting mosquitoes which made it “fun”.
Derrick pulled us back to the drop of blood and said “Let’s get side by side and walk down this lane one more time” and to my surprise JD found another drop of blood about 20 yards from the first one. This small drop of blood was a glimmer of hope that reignited the troops. We moved the hat to mark the new, most recent drop of blood. And we continued stalking, crouching, slow-walking down the lane looking for more sign. I think Derrick may have put a new dip in to denote the new level of seriousness now that drop of blood number two had been found.
The blood drops continued about every 10 yards and were slightly leaning toward the left hand side of the lane. Derrick saw a drop of blood enter the brush and you would have thought somebody gave him $20 as pumped up as he got. He proceeded step by step through the brush finding random drops of blood smaller than a penny to trail this deer. It was indeed impressive to watch is controlled focus through the brush. We were about 40 minutes in at this point.
The deer cut across some thick brush and then into some open hard woods. Derrick commented “See if we don’t pay attention this is where we’ll lose this deer right now. Ya’ll don’t be in a hurry and look with every step you take to make sure you’re not stepping on blood”. We were getting deeper in the woods toward the creek. We got found more broken brush and some larger drops of blood which was a good sign. We were getting pumped up and gaining energy and then all of a sudden the trail completely stopped. I couldn't believe it. We searched in every direction and couldn't find anything. Derrick was even picking up on the existence of spider webs crossing trails and letting them still crossing the path denote that the deer didn't go in that direction. I got so frustrated I walked ahead another 30 yards to the trail by the creek just hoping to find a white belly somewhere, but nothing. I was swatting mosquitoes when I heard Derrick say “I don’t see any blood, but it looks like something ran through here… see how these limbs are broken.” Derrick keyed in on some brush lying over oddly and some broken twigs and kept following them. By the time he worked his way to the end of the trail he and JD were arriving to the road I was standing on. Derrick told me to look for blood and sure enough I saw a small drop about the size of a pencil eraser on a leaf. I couldn't believe it. I was standing right next to the creek and Derrick again got in the zone and proceeded toward the creek. We all stood on the edge of the creek (and it was a sizable creek) and saw blood on the edge. The deer had crossed the creek. I knew Derrick was going to tell us to go swimming when I looked to the right and saw the deer lying dead in the creek. We were about an hour in at this point.
We all couldn't believe what had just occurred. We literally went from thinking Derrick completely missed to having moments of hope to being let down to be back up then back down again to ultimately finding this deer in the creek. It was definitely a challenging process in which many would have abandoned a couple of times along the way. JD and I pulled the deer out of the creek and hauled it back up the road while Derrick went to get the truck. It was a gnarly antlered spike… what some would call a “cull buck”.
It was a hunt and night of tracking that I’ll never forget. I, like many of you, don’t like giving Derrick too much credit, but the boy can flat track a deer… I will give him that. Using a computer is a whole different ball game, but I don’t know if a blood hound would have done us much better than Derrick tonight. I guess here would be the best place to also say that if he wouldn't have gut-shot the deer all this tracking wouldn't have been necessary :-)
Ultimately the hunt was successful and from tonight’s experience I've learned some more about tracking a deer. I wanted to share some pieces of info that I've learned about tracking a deer and I welcome you to add more in the comments field.
So while sweating through briars and tracking a deer for an hour may not seem too fun, it’s definitely rewarding when you find the deer. The story doesn't always end that way, but tracking is challenging and that challenge is what makes it rewarding. What’s your toughest tracking story?