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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Avoid Careless Mistakes On Stand

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., November 25, 2006.)
You are the predator
that must remain still.
Most of the nearly one million hunters entering the woods with high hopes on Monday will take up a position beside a tree. Whether a hunter has a spot where deer move in their normal patterns, or a place where they'll move because they are pushed by other hunters, stand hunting is one of the most productive opening day strategies.

Although stand hunting appears to be simple, hunters can make countless mistakes. Stand hunting requires the hunter's full awareness, plus a litany of things to remember in order to keep from making careless blunders that will cost you a shot at a whitetail.

If you take up a stand beside a tree, first kick the leaves away. Stand on bare ground; otherwise, leaves and twigs (and we pray, snow) will make noise at the worst time. Small rocks will become a nuisance, so remove them before they irritate you.

Another reason to stand on bare dirt is that a 3-foot spot of earth will give you a lot more cover scent than one of those little dirt-smelling wafers you see pinned to hunters' hats on the Outdoor Channel.

Instead of spending your money on those commercial doodads, spend it on snacks. Those pink mints with the word "Canada" on them are my favorite. But if your favorite candy comes in a noisy wrapper, unwrap a bunch of it at home and dump it into a zip-lock bag. That also cuts down on the litter you must remember to take home with you.

I like to choose a spot with a tree to my front and another to my back. They help block the deer's visibility, and give me an anchor point for shooting in almost any direction. If I don't have two trees about three or four feet apart, I clear the leaves away all the way around one tree so that I can quietly move from one side of the tree to the other.

Take off your backpack or fanny pack and fasten it to a tree where you can reach it with minimal movement.

Take those first few minutes to get acquainted with the landscape. Analyze everything in your field of view. Note the dark spots, the horizontal lines, and anything that's brown. If it looks like a deer, examine it, identify it, and dismiss it. Whitetails know their territory intimately. You should, too. Later in the morning you don't want to be caught staring at something on your left while deer approach on your right.

Watch for legs. Many times when I see deer at the limits of my field of view, I see the legs first. Those slender vertical lines moving horizontally through the woods contrast with vertical tree trunks. Trees are stationary, and mostly vertical. Any animal, either predator or prey, will be moving horizontally.

You, however, are the predator that must remain still. The idea in stand hunting is to let the deer come to you. As long as you remain still, you have an advantage. Remain as still as possible, letting your hips, back and neck do most of the moving.

Become the tree. By adapting to the vertical environment in the woods, you'll blend in with the trees and the deer will be less likely to notice you. Except in the movies, trees don't point. Trees don't swing their arms out to the side. Trees don't bend over. If you need to scratch your head or wipe a running nose, ease your hand up slowly and in line with your body. Keep all your movements vertical and very slow.

I would even advise never to put your rifle down except to rest briefly if necessary. Keep it in your hands as much as possible. Raising your rifle is a vertical motion with less movement than the horizontal motion of reaching for your rifle and then raising it.

Whenever you step away from your stand, take your rifle with you. Even if you're two steps away from your rifle, stepping toward it and reaching for it will give every pair of approaching deer eyes an extra opportunity to spot you -- and it could cost you a shot.

It's not only the young and inexperienced hunters who need to remember these things. On Monday someone -- and it may be an experienced stand hunter -- will miss out on a nice buck because of a careless mistake on the stand. Make sure it's not you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thoughts From My Treestand

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., November 11, 2006.)
I once heard someone say that
all of us should have a “thinking chair.”
I guess my treestand is my thinking chair.
Sometimes it’s my praying chair.
You’re not very mobile when perched in a white pine 20-feet in the air, waiting for a deer to walk through a shooting lane, but your mind can sure wander over lots of ground. Here are some of my thoughts from the vantage point of a treestand.

Wherever I go, women (most of them non-hunting women) tell me they enjoy reading "The Everyday Hunter." Thank you, ladies. I’m not sure why that is, but if non-hunters enjoy my scribblings and they give hunting a good name, that suits me.

I'm on private property. Private property is still one of the foundational values in our free country. Landowners have rights that those who do not own the land do not have. One of them is to grant or deny others the privilege of using their land for hunting, hiking, riding snowmobiles, picnicking, target practice, and every other activity. If a man's home is his castle, his kingship extends to his property boundaries -- within the limits of the law. Landowners or not, we need to make sure that right isn’t eroded in America.

A few weeks ago I said that no one eats everything they kill. To those who say hunters should give away anything they don't intend to eat, I'm making a list of people who want to eat the woodchucks and coyotes I shoot. There is plenty of time to be the first one on the list.

Twice this week I've heard of someone saying the .270 is inadequate for deer. I'm not the .270’s biggest fan, but it's not a weakling. Put the bullet in the boiler room and the deer is dead. Two things stand out to me. Whoever thinks the .270 doesn’t have enough oomph for deer (1) doesn't understand that a caliber’s effectiveness is a function of the bullet's weight, speed, terminal ballistics and shot placement, and (2) should trade me his .270 for a deed to oceanfront property in Arizona. The deed is real. I know 'cause I'll print it on my own computer.

If the .270 doesn’t have the get-up-and-go to prevent a deer from getting up and going, then it isn’t enough gun for most of the animals it is hunted with. Think about it – lots of hunters swear by the .270 for elk.

To kill a deer with any bullet is a matter of physics plus the giant variable known as shot placement. Poor shot placement is never reliable. Good shot placement almost always is. Every cartridge is great – if it’s used for what it’s suitable for.

No, a buck with 30-some points wasn’t killed in Scandia, at least not this year. Maybe back in 05. I don’t mean 2005 or 1905. Just 05.

No matter how many times I visualize a buck approaching my stand, and what I’m going to do, my heart beats a little faster when I see something move – even if it turns out to be a squirrel.

Sitting in a treestand offers a great opportunity to think. Most of us spend too little time doing that. I once heard someone say that all of us should have a chair designated as a “thinking chair.” I guess my treestand is my thinking chair. Sometimes it’s my praying chair. I pray for a giant whitetail under my treestand, plus lots of more important things.