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How To/Pro-Tips

Know Where Deer Have Dinner

Food is important to deer all season long. During the early archery seasons, most deer patterns are food-based. They tend to focus on late summer and early fall succulent plants and soft mast such as fruits and berries. Later, they will switch to hard mast such as acorns and you should be not only aware of this transition but where the preferred acorns will be found.

During the rut, the bucks will not be that interested in food but will be very interested in does. Does are very interested in food because their nutrition is key to the estrous cycle and bearing fawns. The bucks will be hanging around doe feeding areas.

After the rut and into late season all deer will be feeding heavily. The bucks, after the rigors of the rut, will be trying to regain good condition to go into the winter. At this time both remaining natural foods and agricultural crops, including winter cover crops, are highly preferred.

Snowbird Bucks

Many northern hunters look forward to a tracking snow. This is a light snow that allows hunters to cut a fresh track and actually trail the deer that made it. This sounds like duck soup, but it really isn't. Tracking is a real art built by experience.
First, the hunter must be reasonably certain that it's a buck's trail. Large tracks, particularly with drag marks, are a good sign. So is the trail bypassing low-hanging limbs that might catch on a buck's antlers.
Pressured deer seem to be aware they are leaving a highly visible trail and they check their backtrail frequently. Sometimes they stop or even circle back to see if something is following them. The expert snow tracker moves slowly and spends more time looking far up the trail and to the sides than looking down at the tracks.
Southern deer, unused to snow, generally won't move much at first. North or south, a truly heavy snow depresses deer movement for a few days.

Elk Success

Over the past century we have witnessed a remarkable wildlife turnaround. When the 20th century was young, it was estimated there were fewer than 50,000 elk left in the U.S. We are entering the new millenium with an estimated population of 800,000 elk. Hunting is allowed over much of elk country and some states have surplus populations.
Elk are the second most popular big game animal in the country and a recent survey showed that 750,000 hunters consider themselves elk hunters.
Who do we have to thank for this wildlife management success story? Mostly ourselves. Sportsmen rallied behind far-sighted conservationists such as Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and George Bird Grinnell to demand protection for the nation's natural resources. Hunting license dollars financed game law enforcement and management.
Today, these forces are still at work and volunteer non-profit organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are adding to what is being accomplished. If you call yourself an elk hunter, you should also call yourself a member of the RMEF.

Get A Map

Getting a map of the hunting area is a basic step for elk hunters on their own and for the occupants of a drop camp. However, even a guided hunter needs a map to enhance success and safety.
On many guided operations, the standard deal is two hunters per guide. In this situation, the guide will alternately put one hunter on stand and ride with the other. Sometimes the lone hunter will be asked to meet somewhere else later, or he may see a better opportunity in another place. In a worst case scenario, your guide might be incapacitated and you have to get out alone.
Well before your hunt, ask your outfitter for the map quadrangle names that cover his hunting territory. You can order these maps from the U.S. Geological Service by calling 1-888-ASK-USGS or online at
These maps, along with knowing how to read them, a compass and perhaps a GPS unit can be worth their weight in gold if you happen to need them.

Pellet Percentages

When steel shot, which is actually made of soft iron, was required for waterfowling, hunters quickly learned that the harder, and often rounder, steel pellets patterned more tightly than lead. Also, when fired through some extra-tight full chokes the steel would slightly bulge the gun barrel. Never shoot steel in a "turkey-tight" choke.
Extremely tight patterns are hard to hit with and too-tight chokes can "blow" the pattern, scattering pellets wildly. Most hunters went to a modified choke and began to hit more birds. This also solved the barrel bulging problem. Some goose hunters shooting very big pellets found they might need an improved cylinder for a good pattern.

Now we have alternative materials for non-toxic pellets, some of which are very much like lead. Federal's tungsten-iron is close to steel and chokes appropriate for steel shot work fine. However, Bismuth, Federal's tungsten-polymer and the new matrix pellets are soft, like lead. They won't damage older barrels and may require a return to full choke for long-range results.

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