Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Note To Wives of Deer Hunters

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 21, 2012.)

Wives, girlfriends, mothers and all,
bring us every deer antler you find.
If you find a shed antler, please bring it home.

I’m not talking only to wives. I’m also talking to girlfriends, mothers, anyone who loves someone with the incurable fever that inflicts serious deer hunters – antler fanaticism.

Antler fanatics hunt for deer with antlers on their heads, but that’s not all. Some also hunt for the antlers themselves – shed antlers – those protrusions of external bone bucks wear until they have no further use for them. After they’ve displayed them with pride, demonstrated their dominance with them, even used them for combat, the antlers just fall off. Then they grow a new set. (Some people don’t believe that, but it’s true.)

How likely are you to find a shed antler? Not likely, I know. They’re hard to find even for those of us who have a pretty good idea where to look.

One reason is that Mom Nature recycles. Porcupines and other rodents eat them, nibbling until nothing is left. (Some people don’t believe that either, but it’s also true.) Yes, equipped with specialized central incisors, rodents gnaw and grind the hard bone into powdered calcium, which they eat to supplement their diets.

So, lots of porcupines, mice and other nibbling critters make them quickly disappear.

Another reason they’re hard to find is that coyotes and foxes occasionally take them back to their dens and use them as playtoys. Still another reason is that once spring’s vegetation begins to grow, leaves hide them.

You might be wondering why we want you to bring them home. We want you to follow the example of Dave Altman’s wife, Rena. Dave is a friend of mine from Brookville, PA and Rena played a key role in his harvest of a giant buck last season. The story began a couple of years ago when Rena was out walking with a friend one evening. As the women skirted the edge of a cornfield, Rena happened to notice an antler lying on the ground.

Did she know what it was? Yes. And she called Dave and asked if he wanted her to bring it home. (By the way – no need to call. Just assume your hunter would like to have it, so bring it home.)

Only one word describes that antler. BIG! Dave put a tape measure against it and the main beam, the lengths of the tines, and four circumference measurements totaled 75 inches. Nearly desperate to find the other antler, he searched unsuccessfully for two weeks. But, assuming the opposite side was similar, and adding about 18 inches between them, that buck grew nearly 170 inches of bone on his head. Hardly any of us will ever shoot a buck that big in Pennsylvania. Or anywhere. Or even see one.

So, wives, girlfriends, mothers and all, if you bring us an antler here’s what might happen. It might just lead to our next big buck, as it did for Dave. This past season on the second day of the firearms season, he shot the buck that grew the antler Rena found two years earlier. Not only is it Dave’s best buck ever, it ranks with the all-time greats among bucks ever killed in Pennsylvania, with 200 inches of antler.

So, bring home every antler you find and, next thing you know, maybe you’ll be looking for a place on the wall to hang that buck’s head or, like Dave and Rena, moving furniture to create space for a full body mount.

Two more things – and they’re essential. Don’t tell anyone where you found it. And then do what Rena did. On the morning Dave killed that buck, she wrote him the best little love note of his life. “Good morning, Honey – Well, good luck. Go get the big buck! Be careful. I love you. Lots. Rena XOXOXX.” He calls it his good luck charm.

Now a note to guys. Dave has two things you should try not to envy. One is that 200-inch buck, but the better one is Rena. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interview on Erie's WSEE TV

On April 1, Dave Altman, Brian Kightlinger and I were interviewed by Gary Drapcho and Mike Ruzzi for WSEE-TV. Dave killed the 200-class non-typical that I've written about for North American Whitetail magazine. (It will be in the September, 2012 issue.) Brian is an official scorer for the Northeast Big Buck Club, which accepts the B&C score. Take a look at this video segment from WSEE's "SportsBlitz".
In case the embedded video below doesn't work, here's the link: Dave Altman Buck TV Interview (starts at 1:25).

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Tradition Marries Technology

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, April 7, 2012.)

I doubt one hunter in a hundred
goes afield without a scope on his rifle –
and it’s probably a variable power.
Here’s one I haven’t figured out yet.

I often hear hunters decry the use of technology in today’s hunting world. They rail against the use of GPS devices, iPhone apps, and trail cameras. Yes, hunters value tradition – so much that some of them say, “The woods is no place for technology!” Apparently they’re not thinking about what that means.

The irony is that these complainers roam the woods with equipment that they wouldn’t have were it not for modern advancements of technology.

For example, let’s start with something simple. Back when I first started hunting, low-tech was all we had. We didn’t even think of it as “tech,” let alone low-tech. Camouflage, other than military woodland design, hadn’t been invented yet, and the few who wore the army’s version stood out from a line-up largely of red-and-black buffalo plaid hunters. Now, we have more sticks-and-leaves patterns than anyone can shake a stick at, and even many non-hunters wear camo every day.

Ammunition was pretty traditional back then. Hunting bullets universally used some kind of lead core with a copper alloy jacket. Bullet designs were limited to soft points or hollow points, and flat or boattail bases. Today, we have bullets made entirely of copper gilding metal, plus steel shot and various other kinds of non-toxic alloys.

On rainy days hunters struggled to keep dry, many opting for wools that would shed most water, but they were heavy when wet. Or, we summoned rubber raincoats and plastic ponchos into duty. Now, virtually every hunter has hi-tech breathable waterproof rainwear – Gore-Tex or one of a dozen other brands.

Although wool is not obsolete, it’s often benched in favor of lightweight synthetics. Polyesters have acquired so many performance characteristics – special formulas wick moisture, absorb moisture, or repel moisture. The reputation of polyester has been redeemed as this high-tech fiber has found a market among athletes and hunters.

In my early days many hunters were still using iron sights, and the transition to optical sights was just taking hold. Now, improvements in technology have led countless riflescope and binocular companies to make, for a reasonable price, quality that was top shelf 50 years ago. I doubt one hunter in a hundred goes afield without a scope on his rifle – and it’s probably a variable power.

Few hunters hunted “from above” back then, but treestands are ubiquitous today. Early adopters remember the old death-trap known as the Baker stand, but treestands have come a long way since then. Today’s stands are made from lightweight aluminum alloys, plus they’re quieter and safer. Some hunters can barely imagine hunting without one.

Back 50 years ago, if a hunter would head out early or stay out late, he carried a heavy flashlight. Two or three D-cells powered a filament bulb that mustered a dim, yellow light. Today he depends on a flashlight that’s tiny by comparison, possibly lit by a single AA battery and a glowing LED that produces a bright, white light for hours or even days.

I haven’t even mentioned today’s lightweight insulations, electronic predator callers, ceramic knives, rangefinders, or the cellphone camera hunters use for their hero shots. Equipment that a few years ago was reserved for a few specialists because of its high cost has now become affordable for many – the Cabelas catalog is proof.

By virtue of what he wears or carries, every hunter today is the beneficiary of modern technology. Even if he doesn’t acknowledge it. Even if he disparages those who use it. Even if he’s a curmudgeon about it.

I have great admiration for the guys who hold-out for simpler times, but even many flintlock hunters are using high-tech gear that Davy Crockett couldn’t have dreamed of.

Every Gore-Tex wearing, LED-flashlight toting, treestand climbing, cellphone dependent, polyester camo-clad hunter who calls himself traditional is a walking, talking example of the use of technology. It makes my head spin that some of them still argue against using modern technology in hunting.

Apparently, when we’re comfortable with technology we don’t think of it as technology. We just use it, and somewhere along the way tradition gets married to technology.