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, October 27, 2012

Don't Miss Rut Summit 2!

What do the following six deer hunters all have in common:
Bill Winke of MidwestWhitetail.com  
Rick Basile of INVITE X-Tream Wildlife System  
Todd Bromley of Crossbow Magazine  
Mark Kayser of "The Buck Stops Here" TV Show  
Kip Adams of QDMA, and  
Steve Sorensen of The Everyday Hunter®

All six of us are featured as guest speakers in a special online event all about helping deer hunters take advantage of the rut. Click on the banner to learn more and register for the six-session "Webinar" for FREE at Rut Summit 2. Hurry -- it begins with Bill Winke on October 26!
 Webinar Series Featuring 6 Whitetail Experts. Oct. 26-31. Register now for FREE.

Youth Hunters: Choosing the Right Deer Caliber

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 27, 2012.)

Hunters remember their first deer like it was yesterday. Mine was a 5-point that dropped in his tracks with a neck shot from my .222. (He also dropped his antlers at the same time, but that’s another story.) The .222 Remington is seldom seen today, but it’s still a great little caliber.

Too little, I think now, for deer. I shot a couple of bucks with that old Savage Model 340, but if I were to counsel a youngster about what gun to start out with, I would not recommend the .222. Many better choices are available.

We have lots exciting calibers available today 
that are great for beginning hunters.

In any discussion of deer calibers, someone always brings up this old argument: “Any caliber will kill a deer with proper shot placement.” I agree completely, but let’s not assume every shooter is unfailingly capable of putting the bullet where it needs to go. I know I’m not, even with decades of experience. Human error – we’re all subject to it.

The .22 centerfires are accurate, but few 12-year olds are, no matter how agile their thumbs from playing video games on their iPhones. Accuracy takes practice, and a few shots from the bench just before hunting season don’t insure an accurate shot on a live target. Most hunters don’t shoot more than a box of shells per year, and that can’t make anyone an expert shot.

When the adrenaline starts pumping, will the inexperienced shooter (and inexperience can come at any age) be able to perform as he did from the bench? What kind of rest will he have for the shot? How far away will the deer be?

A one-hole group in a paper target doesn’t prove an inexperienced hunter knows exactly where to place the shot. Is the buck facing him? Angling toward? Angling away? Broadside? Are his vitals obstructed by a limb? Where exactly is the heart? The lungs? Is a neck shot a good idea?  Where will the bullet exit the deer?  (That’s as important as bullet entry, because it determines what organs the bullet hits on its path through the deer.)

We have lots exciting calibers available today that are great for beginning hunters. For the sake of simplicity and ease of comparison I mention three all derived from the common .308 cartridge – the .243, the .260, and the 7mm-08. And since most deer are shot within 100 yards, I’ll compare energy levels of low-recoiling loads at 100 yards.

The deficiency of the .222 shows up by comparing it to the .243. The little 50 grain bullet that pops out of the muzzle of a .222 at about 3140 feet per second has only 836 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards. A 95 grain bullet from the .243 more than doubles that (1719 foot-pounds).

In addition, the bullet from the .243 will give deeper penetration, and likely give an exit wound that aids in blood trailing if that becomes necessary. It will do more damage on its way through the deer, so even if shot placement isn’t perfect, the odds of recovering the deer are much higher. 

The .260 is less common, but a great choice. Its 120 grain bullet generates 1924 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards. Going a little larger, the 7mm-08 with a 120 grain bullet has 1979 foot-pounds.

What about recoil? Generally, recoil increases as the powder charge and bullets get heavier. Since all three of these cartridges have the same powder capacity, the influence of the powder charge on recoil is virtually the same. They use bullets of different diameters and weights, and bigger bullets usually make larger exit wounds.

Depending on the size of the shooter and his or her sensitivity to recoil, somewhere in this family of cartridges the beginning hunter will find one that’s suitable, but plenty of others with similar ballistics are worth considering.

Though the .222 is seldom seen these days, an even older cartridge is still hanging around and is an excellent choice for youth. It’s the .30-30 Winchester. Don’t laugh. This old-timer is not as glamorous as all the competing whippersnapper whiz-bang cartridges on the market today, but it delivers 1356 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards with a 150 grain bullet. That’s less energy than the .243, but the bigger bullet more than compensates. It has passed through lots of deer and spilled lots of blood.

It's an unchallenged axiom that the .30-30 has killed more deer than any other cartridge. It's still a great starting place for a deer hunter – especially in a safe, dependable bolt action rifle or a lever action with a reliable safety. But the cartridges I've mentioned – and any of the many others that deliver comparable energy – are also great choices for the beginning hunter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Inoculate Yourself against Buck Fever

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 13, 2012.)

It made me sick. I didn’t have a temperature. I didn’t have a rash. I didn’t toss my breakfast. But I was sick. I was 12 and I had just missed my first buck.

I don’t remember much about the buck, except that he was smallish, probably a 4-point. I do remember that my legs began quivering and I was breathing hard. I also remember that if I had stayed calm, I could have taken another shot. Instead, I was marinating in adrenaline and could barely stand on my rubbery legs. I never even thought about a second shot.
Buck fever is real, and
every hunter gets a touch of it.
We all act differently when “buck fever” strikes. I’ve heard of hunters ejecting every shell from the gun before shooting, then wondering why the rifle didn’t fire. I’ve heard of hunters firing, the deer going down, and the hunter shooting until the rifle was empty. I’ve heard of hunters who couldn’t find the safety. I’ve even heard of hunters taking careful aim and then saying, “Bang!”
Buck fever is real, and every hunter gets a touch of it. You get the fever when your adrenal glands respond to stress by injecting that “fight or flight” hormone into your bloodstream. You’re not used to that, because until the moment of truth those glands sit innocently atop your kidneys waiting to leap into action.

Buck fever is generally defined something like this: “Nervous excitement felt by a novice hunter at the first sight of game.” But it’s more than that. It’s a syndrome, a complex of symptoms, and though it prepares the athlete, it can destroy the hunter’s preparation.  

Adrenaline gets an athlete ready for a contest by increasing his heartbeat and elevating his respiration. It gives a person in danger or attempting to rescue someone else from danger an increased blood supply to the muscles. In extreme cases it can give almost superhuman strength.

When adrenaline can cause that kind of rush, it’s easy to see why it can be such a problem for a hunter trying to calmly ready himself to fire an accurate shot.

At the target range he can usually remain calm. Every shot is predictable. Nothing more than a possible friendly wager is riding on any shot. In the field, it’s another matter. Shots are often unpredictable, and a missed shot can alter the way you approach the rest of the day or the season. Wounding a deer could spoil the hunt not just for you, but for your companions, too.

So, what do we do about it? Everyone is different, but I’ve noticed that bowhunters don’t struggle as much with buck fever. I’m not saying they never get it. In fact, they might be more subject to it because they’re some of the most passionate hunters. What’s their secret to defeating buck fever?

For many, the secret is this – bowhunters tend to practice shooting much more than gun hunters do, because much more goes into shooting a bow than shooting a rifle. Practice can accomplish more than accuracy.

1.      Whether you’re shooting a gun or a bow, practicing makes shooting automatic by developing muscle memory and by focusing your mind. When you take that shot at a live deer, it shouldn’t be one of only a few shots you take during the year. Make it one of hundreds, even thousands. Shoot a lot. Shoot until you don’t have to think about the shot.

2.      While on your stand, visualize the deer approaching in as many ways as you can imagine. From the left, the right, behind you, slowly, quickly. Visualize him at various angles. The more deer your mind’s eye sees under shooting conditions, the readier you’ll be to shoot when the real one finally shows up.

3.      The more you practice, the more you begin to think about the conditions around the shot and not the animal itself. How far is it? Is the wind blowing? Where do I want to hit the deer?  

Fortunately, you can overcome buck fever with practice. Even practicing without ammunition can help make you ready when the moment of truth arrives. Practice is the best inoculation a hunter can get to counter the debilitating effects of that jolt of get-excited juice called adrenaline – the primary cause of buck fever.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Top New Go-To Deer Calls

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Havalon Sportsman's Post, October 1, 2012.) 

Great sounds for deer
and total confidence for hunters.

Thirty years ago, most hunters hadn’t tried calling deer. Twenty years ago deer calls most hunters owned a deer call, but few had success with them. Ten years ago, so many deer calls were on the market that hunters were confused about what to buy. Today, that confusion persists.
Many calls are effective if used properly. But I’ve found two that are not only effective, they’re practically foolproof, and they’ve worked well for me.

Jerry Peterson from Woods Wise Products has been in the callmaking business for many years. And he doesn’t just make calls, he makes sure they work.

A few years ago I was hunting in New York. I climbed a hill in the pre-dawn darkness looking for a buddy’s treestand, but I got off the trail and couldn’t find it. So, I headed straight up the hill to a spot overlooking the bench where the treestand was, figuring I’d go down and climb into the stand after first light.

My mistake turned out to be fortuitous, because if I had blindly stumbled around looking for the stand, I’d have chased a buck out of the area. While it was still dark, I heard some crashing on the bench below me. I also heard grunting and bleating. Obviously, a buck was chasing a doe around down there, but she wouldn’t stand still for him.

As it got light, I glimpsed the doe angling up the hill below me, and about 75 yards behind her was an 8-point buck. I pulled out my Woods Wise® Super Hot Ma-Mah™ call, and gave a few estrous bleats. Even though he could see the doe he was chasing, he turned and came directly up the hill toward me. I had succeeded in calling him off the track of the estrous doe. I shot and down he went.

Do I need to say I love the Super Hot Ma-Mah™? It works. You can work it inhaling or exhaling, and you can squeeze the megaphone to manipulate the tone. It’s more compact than other calls, and I always have it with me. And it’s all rubber, so when it bumps against buttons, a gunstock or a bow, it’s silent.

I just got another call from Woods Wise®, and this one is specifically designed to bring does running. It’s the Lost Fawn Ma-Mah™, slightly smaller and pitched to create the voice of a fawn. This will be great for filling an antlerless tag. On the inhale it produces a higher, younger voice, and on the exhale an older fawn sound. For these and other calls, the Woods Wise® website has some great instructional calling videos.

Another great call is the True Talker® Legacy™ from Hunters Specialties®. You might be familiar with the original True Talker. That was the first call to be completely encased in rubber to dampen any unwanted sounds. I’ve used the True Talker with great results.

The True Talker® Legacy™ has several improvements over the original True Talker, but it’s still completely rubber covered, and it’s still built on the internal hardwood frame which prevents the reed from freezing up gives it a natural sound. The Legacy is easier to master, with three definite finger placements for various sounds – though it still allows you to press at any point between these spots.

The True Talker® Legacy™ works on exhale only, and it’s probably still the best call for making those deep, distinct, gutteral clicking sounds a trailing buck makes when he anticipates a doe is about ready. At the right time during the rut, that’s deadly.

These go-to calls fool deer, are easy to use, and give a hunter confidence he’s doing it right.