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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Joe Brooks' Year-Round Trophy Whitetails – a Review

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., June 23, 2007.)
Big bucks come to the hunter who pays his dues,
and this book is about dues paying.
Lots of hunters are spending their summer months thinking about how to score on a great buck come fall. A book that will increase the odds of achieving that goal -- and a book you can read and digest quickly -- is Year-Round Trophy Whitetails. The subtitle is "The Secrets to Putting All of the Odds in Your Favor," but it's no secret that hunting deer all year-round will raise the hunter's odds. What separates exceptional hunters from average hunters is deer hunting homework. This book is about what that homework is, and when to do it.

Joe Brooks, the author and a trained wildlife manager, has killed lots of big bucks. He lives and hunts in northwest Ohio. But his book does not take a regional approach. His area is much like parts of northwest Pennsylvania, and most of his tactics are adaptable here.

He teaches that monster whitetails can live anywhere, even with pressure, and he's right. Big bucks have been spotted in or near every town wherever whitetails live, and Brooks has developed a comprehensive approach to hunting them successfully. The prepared hunter can harvest them using his step-by-step system. He includes many ideas that he has personally developed, and they make this book useful.

I'll argue with a few of his ideas. He says that doe populations are too high, that hunting does is good game management, and that a doe-to-buck ratio of close to one-to-one is desirable for trophy bucks. That's all well and good, but he also says that trophy hunters should not shoot does on property where they hunt bucks. He believes that will destroy the trophy potential by moving animals to neighboring properties.

Instead, he says the trophy hunter should depend on hunters on neighboring properties to thin the doe herd. My view is that there is nothing wrong with managing property for trophy bucks, but hunters should be game managers before they are trophy managers.

Brooks advocates baiting where it is legal and admits that some of his trophy bucks were shot over bait. That's worth mentioning because most Pennsylvania hunters will object to the tactic, but the author is merely open to using the method where legal. I don't believe baiting is a lead pipe cinch to scoring on a trophy buck, especially where natural food and farm crops are available. But baiting is controversial, and it's a minor point in the book.

Brooks gives plenty to think about that hunters don't always consider. Have you thought much about how you approach landowners to ask for hunting permission? Brooks shares his secrets on getting permission on pages 48 through 51. He says that standing corn plays a significant role in how you should hunt, but you'll be surprised at what he says. Check it out on page 154. He does not advocate the usual methods of scrape and rub hunting. Why? He gives three reasons. Read them on page 166.

This book may not deliver all that it promises, and some of the ideas presented are not as original as the author believes they are. For example, his ideas on using maps and aerial photographs are not new. But the bottom line is that, with occasional exceptions, big bucks come only to a hunter who pays his dues, and this book is about dues paying.

Year-Round Trophy Whitetails is self-published, and I don't mean to discredit the book by saying that. Many great books have been self-published, and it's not an easy path. But in this case it shows. The quality of many of its photos leaves something to be desired. (Some are very low resolution.) And the text is not polished writing. But how much does that really matter when the book is chock full of instructions that you can put together to increase your odds of bagging the buck of a lifetime?

Criticisms aside, there are three things I have no doubt about. Joe Brooks is a better trophy hunter than I am. Any deer hunter who reads his book will be a better deer hunter. And this is not a run-of-the-mill book that rehashes what everyone else says. In these days of smaller deer herds, older and smarter bucks, and all-around harder hunting, it's a book worth reading.

Year-Round Trophy Whitetails is the number one selling book at Cabelas -- a solid endorsement from hunters themselves! It retails for $24.95 but is available through Amazon.com at a discount -- only $16.47. And if you buy more than one book you're eligible for FREE shipping!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Brian Lovett's Hunting Pressured Turkeys – a Review

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., June 9, 2007.)
It's about time someone addressed the issue of
how to hunt turkeys that have seen it all before.
Someone has said that Pennsylvania's turkeys are
so pressured that if you can call in and kill
a spring gobbler here, you can do it anywhere.
At the beginning of each summer I make a few suggestions for the hunter's off-season reading. Summer is as much a time to reflect as it is a time to prepare for the future, and the hunter who lives and breathes his sport has no better time to catch up on the latest ideas and issues. So when you head out on vacation, or sit down to enjoy the summer evening, or wait for summer thunderstorms to pass by, pick up a book that will help you to reflect or prepare.

One book that should be at the top of your stack of summer reading is Hunting Pressured Turkeys by Brian Lovett, former editor of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine. It's a virtual textbook that leads a long and growing list of excellent turkey hunting books.

Unlike many books, this one delivers on its title. "Pressured turkeys" are what we hunt in Pennsylvania, and it's about time someone addressed the issue of how to hunt turkeys that have seen it all before. By the end of the first week of our spring season, the odds are that the turkey you're hunting is under pressure. He sure behaves like it. In fact, someone has said that Pennsylvania's turkeys are so pressured that if you can call in and kill a spring gobbler here, you can do it anywhere.

Lovett starts with good news – he says that the glory days of turkey hunting are now. Populations are at record levels, interest is high, information is widely available, and turkey hunting gear is highly refined. Passionate hunters are better equipped than ever before by what's available to stuff into their vests, and into their heads. But with the woods full of passionate turkey hunters, it's no wonder turkey hunting has become harder. So what we need to remember is this – it doesn't matter how much pressure turkeys are under, "they are still out there and gobblers still want to hook up with hens."

That's reason enough not to give up, and reason enough to believe Lovett's book will help you with that gobbler that beckons you back to the woods with each morning sunrise – even if that stubborn songbird escorts you to the season's final day.

If you want to judge this book by its cover, go ahead. The picture on the front is only one of dozens upon dozens of beautiful colored photographs throughout. And the text is just as satisfying. Along with chapters on "How Turkeys Use the Land," "Calling Pressured Turkeys," and "Troubleshooting the Tough Ones" are chapters on scouting, strategies for different times of the day and finishing the deal. The chapter called "Staying Safe in the Pressured Turkey Woods" is more than an obligatory safety lesson.

Back when I began hunting turkeys, most of us learned how to call in and kill a gobbler by trial and error. The few hunters who regularly killed spring gobblers succeeded mostly because they were fanatics about it or they had access to lands they kept secret. The few books we could find on the subject, even though some were written by the early masters of the sport, were interspersed with questionable wisdom.

Today, even though turkeys are highly pressured, learning to hunt them is much easier for at least three reasons. The first is because our turkey populations are at historically high levels, offering more opportunities to hunt turkeys than ever before. Second, because skillful turkey hunters whose expertise would challenge the likes of a dozen or so famous old-timers (Latham, Lee, Elliot, Harbour and others) live everywhere turkeys exist. And third, because solid instructional materials have proliferated right along with the flocks of turkeys themselves.

You've made your share of mistakes, and you probably know that nothing can take the place of learning from them. But you can learn from the mistakes of others, too. Like most turkey hunters, Lovett has made many, and he clearly teaches the lessons of his mistakes. Unlike most hunters, he doesn't make excuses, and you have no excuse not to get your hands on a copy of Hunting Pressured Turkeys. You'll be a better turkey hunter if you do. You can order Hunting Pressured Turkeys from www.Amazon.com at a discount.