Thursday, December 29, 2011


This is the time when we all come up with our resolutions for the next year.  Our resolutions often include losing weight or eating healthier and stopping or altering various vices.  Personally, I am looking to share special outdoors experiences with my family.
I was amazed when talking to someone a while back from New York City about how he had never been to the Statue of Liberty.  He told me it was never a priority because he could see it across the bay and knew it would always be there.  Before he knew it, he had moved and now longed to return so he could experience some of the things he missed while living there.  That brings me to my resolutions.
North Carolina is full of one of kind experiences that many will never have the opportunity to share.  Imagine a sky of white and black flowing in a swarm feathers.  Birds so plentiful the United States military had to alter its plans of building a landing strip makes for a fascinating sight.  Several years ago my oldest son Turner and I were hunting tundra swan in the Pocosin Lakes area in Northeastern North Carolina.  Off on the distance a funnel cloud of proportions indescribable rose from one of the lakes.  The funnel cloud consisted of tens of thousands of snow geese lifting from the water.  Amazing.  This January I will be in the midst of this funnel with Turner hunting the snow geese on their final resting spot for the winter.
Of course, the outdoors does not just consist of hunting.  Also on the coast on a small island, the ponies of Shackleford Banks reside.  Small frame horses roam freely on this nine mile long island.  Their history of inhabiting the area can be traced back to the early to mid 1500’s, with ancestors coming from Christopher Columbus himself as Columbus set up horse breeding farms in the New World.  This was done in order to provide horses to future colonists when they arrived to expand the territory.  Watching the small stallions feed, gallop and play has to be well worth the trip.
Then, to add a bit of mystique to our year long adventure, I figure we will have the family drive to an overlook of Brown Mountain.  Mysterious lights adorn the side of the mountain at night and have thus far been unexplained.  The United States Geological Society once investigated the strange orbs with explanations ranging from swamp gas to reflections of a train several miles away.  I can see my daughter holding us tight as we watch the light flare and then fizzle under a star lit sky.
One of my favorite places in the state encompasses the towering Mount Mitchell.  I have been to the top many times, but rarely have taken one of the long hiking trails from the pinnacle of the Appalachians’ highest mountain.  The family would surely enjoy a steady nature walk through a brightly colored autumn landscape accompanied by a picnic lunch.  The exercise would likely be as good for the soul as it is for the body.
And lastly, a thrill I have longed for is another backyard secret.  A reasonable drive to the Cataloochee area of the Great Smokies National Park will yield an experience that both hunter and non-hunter can appreciate.  Ten years after releasing a small herd of elk, they have remained mostly in the same area.  The tall antlered cervids make a distinctive bugle during the mating season.  One vision I wish to experience and share is the lifting head of the bull elk with his long rack reaching mid-back as he bellows for a mate.
If I accomplish but one of these resolutions, I feel I still will have experienced a wonderful gift from God.  Nature, wildlife, and history all melded into something I chose not to miss right here in our backyard.

Read Bill Howard's Outdoors: Goal Setting

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Double Doe Down - Cutawhiskee Creek Hunting Lodge

In 2010, I entered in the hunt drawings held by the North Carolina Bowhunters Association at the annual Bowhunters Banquet during the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh.  The ticket was one of my Christmas presents that year.  I was drawn for a couple of different hunts, one of which was a guided deer hunt with Cutawhiskee Creek Hunting Lodge.
I spoke with Dan Bryant, owner, and asked if I could go during opening week of bear season, just in case a bear showed himself during my hunt, being the opportunistic hunter that I am.  Dan agreed.
Several weeks prior to the season, I was back in touch with Dan, confirming our plans, and checking the possibility of some pre-hunt scouting on the land, since I was unfamiliar with Northhampton and Hertford counties.  Again, Dan agreed.
We met on a Sunday afternoon, and he drove me around the properties, showing me both where stands were, and likely traffic areas of bear and deer.  I like to get out on my own, and Dan left me for the remainder of the afternoon to scout one particular field that we thought would be best for bow hunting.  I first skirted the property checking for tracks, and found many.  I even spotted several scrapes just inside the wood line.  I chose to set up on a corner of the field, where a creek ran behind in the woods.  I placed a trail camera on the corner and laid some corn and sweet potatoes out.  The soybean field was coming close to harvest, and I wanted to see what the deer would hit.
I scheduled the hunt for a Saturday thru Monday, and Dan allowed me to come down Friday evening.  The lodge is a two story house accommodated with a full kitchen, two full baths, satellite TV, and eight beds.  There were several others staying, however they would be coming in throughout the weekend.  Dan also provides a walk-in cooler, large enough to hang sixteen deer.  The cooler is entered through an overhang providing an outdoor grill, cleaning table, hanging scale, and four gambrels with winches attached for cleaning.
When I first arrived, I headed out to the field and set up the climber and pulled my camera.  I noticed the corn and potatoes had not been touched, and the soybeans had been harvested.
Checking the camera card, there was lots of activity, including that evening.  Several large bucks could be seen hovering at the edge of the infrared range during the overnight periods.  The rut was starting that week after a very slow season up to that point with the high temperatures and lack of rain in the area.
The other hunter staying that Friday evening was preparing spaghetti, and very politely made enough for me!  I LOVE spaghetti.  Especially with sauce made with deer meat!  As we finished our meal, several trucks drove up, and Dan asked us to come out to the shed and cooler.  One of the local hunters on an adjacent property brought in a 10 pointer weighing 184 lbs.  While field dressing the monster, another truck pulled up sporting yet another 10 pointer.  While weighing in the mid 170’s, the rack was thinner that the other, but had long tines.  We estimated a 140-150 inch green score.  The interesting thing is a 7 year old boy took the deer.  His dad asked him if he wanted to mount it, and his reply astonished us all.
“I think we’ll just do one of those skull type mounts Dad.  It’s not as big as the one I got last year.”
While this seemed to be a VERY good sign, yet another truck pulled up.  You guessed it, one more 10 pointer.  (You can’t make this stuff up!)
It was a hard sleep that night, anticipating what might be.  The morning was bitter cold, and I’m a believer of getting in the stand early. I was sitting 18 feet up with two video cameras and the compound ready by 4:30am.  You do know that the best sleep comes while waiting in the stand; correct?
The only action that morning I had was one small buck which showed about 20 yards away on the backside of the stand.
That evening was a different story.  Early afternoon brought a doe down the side of the field straight toward me.  I usually position my climber so I am facing the tree, which helps cover my movement when drawing the bow.  She turned in the woods about 40 yards out, but I was able to watch her come around.  She never noticed me, but as she circled around, I saw a 30 yard shot that would present itself if she kept following her path.  Knowing Dan was trying to thin out the doe, and not seeing a buck follow her down, I took the shot, which entered a little high, but exited cleanly through the heart and near lung.  I watched her drop, not 20 yards from where the arrow impacted.  Since it was still early, I stayed put in the stand.
Two more doe came in from the left of the field, one large doe and one year and half old.  The largest I ranged at 60 yards.  Too far.  The other was grazing between 20 and 35 yards.  I waited until the end in case a buck would come out to join, but as the evening darkened, I knew if I was going to take a shot, I had to do it then.  The smaller doe was 35 yards out, and had just quartered away, possibly ready to extend the range even further.  I quickly took the shot, and she bolted.  While it was still legal hours, the pins were not as bright, and I could not tell for sure whether she was hit from my vantage point in the stand.  Both doe went in the woods about 100 yards down field.  I sat for about 20 minutes, hoping the shot was true and giving her time to lie down.
I exited the stand, and found my arrow.  And yes, it was soaked in blood.  However I could not find any other blood in the field within a 20 yard radius by flashlight.  I decided to take the first doe back to be dressed, and continue the search for the second the next morning after the early hunt.
I left the arrow in the field as a marker for the start of the search.  I found several drops of blood about 80 yards away in the field, but nothing else.  Still, that gave me enough of a direction to search the tree line.  About 20 yards up field from there, I found more blood just inside the tree line, and the track was on!  The blood stood out easily once inside the forest, and after a much easier and bloody track, I found her lying in the brush about 40 yards deep.
Two deer, one afternoon, and a full freezer…even though the trophy buck wasn’t taken, this is what I call a successful hunt.
Note: I did spot two very large bucks over the next two days ranging from 150-200 yards out. These would have been easy targets for rifles.  Cutawhiskee Creek Hunting Lodge has a 14 inch spread/8 point minimum for taking a buck with their deer management.   They also do not allow you to shoot at deer with red glowing noses!  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

1 Year Blogoversary...and more!

Today is Bill Howard's Outdoors 1 year birthday!  Thanks for following these last 12 months.

And tonight, on Coast2Coast Outdoors... Rb Wright Outdoors and Chaplain to the Outdoorsmen - We are talking Gun Safety, Safety Harnesses, Bear Protests, & Antlered Does. We will also be joined by guest Bill Howard engaging the discussion of safety in the field. Join us at 6 PST / 9 EST.

You can watch it here LIVE:!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gear Review: Bogs Footwear Copperhead Snake Boots

Bogs Copperhead Snake Boot
Bogs Footwear is considered a leader in quality boots.  For this reason, when they contacted me to do a review on a set, I jumped at the chance.  Being from North Carolina, my hunting areas offer plenty of opportunities for human/snake encounters.  Based on that, the Bogs Copperhead snake boots were the logical choice.
Since this is a rubber boot, I felt this would be a good boot to deer hunt in.  Rubber boots do not carry scent preventing the chance to leave my human odor on the trail to the tree stand.  With the snake boot quality, I was hoping this would also work well for turkey hunting in the spring as well.
According to Bogs, the Copperhead boot “offers a perfect fit that doesn't need breaking in.”  So, I might as well take their word on it!  I looked over the boots when they arrived at the house, but I did not even remove the cardboard liners from the inside.  I wanted to hike in them from scratch.
I woke up around 4am, took a shower, and then began dressing for the hunt.  Sliding my feet in the boot kind of reminded me of Iron Man.  There is a long zipper in the back of the boot with a folded rubber liner.  When my foot got past the snake lining, it ‘locked’ into place.  I was quite surprised at the weight of the boot.  Once zipped up, the boot seemed much lighter than just holding them in my hands.  The real test would come in about 30 minutes.
I drove with the boots on and I could tell there was limited movement in the ankle area.  This was expected, after all, it is a snake boot.
Once at the entrance to the field, I grabbed my pack and bow and commenced to hike.  After only a hundred yards or so, I could feel some fatigue already on my right foot and ankle.  My left ankle, however, was doing well.  A little history; my left ankle was broken while in college while playing basketball.  I made a steal on the opposition but as I headed in the other direction, my left ankle stepped on the side of his foot, rolling it completely over.  From this injury, I have chronic pain and occasionally develop a limp.  The support from the hard snake lining in the boot actually helped in this case.  I rested a couple of minutes and thought about what was going on.  I step differently with my left than I do my right, so I adjusted my walk.  Problem solved!  I proceeded to hike about a mile in to the stand with no leg, ankle or foot fatigue.  They were actually quite comfortable for the hike after I adjusted my steps.
It was a chilly morning (low in the mid 30s) and the 5mm of combined Neo-Tech and Airmesh insulation provided plenty of warmth.  I did not test them in water, but this is a rubber boot and that is what they are made for.  I have no doubt they would handle the water well.
The construction of this boot is noticeable from the moment you open the box, through the process of pulling the boot on, and to point where the boot is worn.  They are advertised as not having to be broken in, and in my case the advertising was dead on.  The comfort exceeded my hiking boots and the rubber shell does not carry scent.  The boot contains a 400 snakeguard for puncture protection and security when walking through snake infested waters or lands.
The Bogs Copperhead snake boot lists at $190.00.  I spent half that on a nice pair of 9mm chest waders.  I have snake chaps that I may have spent $40 on.  The point I am making here is they are expensive and I am a little cheap in regards to clothing and shoes.  But...yes, there is a but…THESE BOOTS MAY BE THE HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCT I HAVE EVER REVIEWED.  I am overly impressed.  Bogs has made a believer out of me, and I can see myself paying this much for this same boot in the future if circumstances dictate it.  They are worth it.

Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More Great Things Coming!

As we get closer to the one year Blogoversary on Monday, things just keep getting better!

First, Bill Howard's Outdoors broke the 10,000 mark for reads earlier.  I hope as this number continues to grow that you, the reader, is getting something from this, whether it is a bit of knowledge, a warm cozy feeling of nostalgia, an understanding, or maybe even a tear down the cheek every now and then.

Second, on the one year mark, I will be making a guest appearance on Coast2Coast Outdoors with RB Wright and Kerry Mackey.  I will post a link to the show on this blog afterwards.  The show appears LIVE at 9pm EST here:  Coast2Coast Outdoors. There will be a good message in my appearance, so I hope you all will be able to join or watch later in the week on the embedded video.

Emily Anderson and her
Kansas whitetail grace our
first cover.
Lastly, I am working on my newest endeavor, BowAmericaBowAmerica is an e-magazine featuring all things bowhunting!  We have lined up some great talent in our inaugaral issue set to launch in January.  The awesome thing here is subscriptions are FREE!  All you have to do is sign up via email and the magazine will come to your inbox each month with departments in TRADITIONAL, COMPOUND, BOWFISHING, DO-IT-YOURSELF, LIFE, WOMEN BOWHUNTERS, TARGET SHOOTING, HUNT RE-CAPS, GEAR REVIEWS, and much, much more!  If you bowhunt, there will be something each month in BowAmerica that you are interested in. 

Some of our contributors include Nick Viau (Life and Longbows), Al Quackenbush (SoCal Bowhunter), Will Jenkins (The Will to Hunt), Amanda MacDonald, (Bow Meets Girl), Mark Huelsing (Sole Adventure), Ryan Shoemaker (BowhuntQuest), Emily Anderson (Scent Free Lip Gloss) tips and stories from Lester Harper (LH Custom Archery), Tony Catalde (Bearded Boar), Timothy Borkett (Unlucky Hunter), Randy Mabe (Broadhead Kennels), Sonny Ithipathachai (NC Outdoor Adventures) and many many more!  Each of these are experts in their own rights, are parts of various prostaffs, have tremendous followings and even hold some bowhunting records.  We will also have guest stories from industry leaders in various segments of bowhunting and archery.

The best part of our magazine is it is not your typical magazine!  We are going to cover some of the usual stuff such as whitetail hunting, but we are also going to throw some stuff out there that is a little out of the norm.  How 'bout snow goose hunting with a bow?  Or how dogs can assist bowhunting?  Maybe even how to spot and stalk using a horse for cover.  We will have a directory for state wildlife agencies, taxidermists, and game processors for each state as well to help you no matter where you hunt.

So, if you love bowhunting, or just love hunting and the outdoors, this magazine will provide some good reads for you.  Just head over to BowAmerica and sign up there.  Again, its FREE!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gear Review: Barmah Australian Hats

High Desert in Arizona with Barmah on top!
Every outdoorsman has their one ‘can’t do without’ item.  It is like a security blanket or teddy bear for a toddler.  As long as that one thing is with them, he can tackle anything nature throws his way.
For me, it is a hat.  I have always worn hats.  As a child and through my teenage years, you could hardly ever catch me without a ball cap on.  The only exception would be while hunting dove.  Then, you would find me with a green boonie hat with the draw string usually pulled over the top of the hat with one side snapped up.  I have always been a ‘little’ different.

Recently I was offered an item to review that was right up my alley.  After all, I had been wearing one for over 10 years!  Barmah USA makes Australian style hats.  Barmah is based in Australia and their hats are made from such leathers as bronco and kangaroos, are water resistant, and have that flare I look for.  They are also designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  They come with a nifty bag that has imprinted instructions on how to properly fold the hat for storage in the bag.

Gators at night in Georgia
with Barmah.
I have been wearing a Kangaroo Barmah hat in a hickory.  I have also owned one in a limestone green that was sent to retirement.  Barmah supplied me Foldaway suede in a sand color to try as well.  Like mentioned in the previous paragraph, the hats are designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  I have found there are a few tricks if you have a preference to the look of your hat, and I like the front of the hat to curl slightly down with the side curled slightly up.  Letting the hat rest on the edge of a table or desk with the front hanging off for several days will give this desired look.
The hats have been treated with Scotch-guard prior to shipping preventing stains and giving the hat the water resistance.  How water resistant is this hat?  Let’s just say Niagara Falls resistant!  While the exterior of the hat was soaked on a trip to the national landmark, the hat dried quickly and retained shape and fit.

Not even the mighty Niagara
can stop it!

Now I have been blessed/cursed with my father's and grandfather's genes.  This means my head lacks some natural covering.  The Barmah hat provides covering that can be worn in the heat of summer or the bitter temperatures of winter.  While I have not worn the suede during excessively high temperatures, the kangaroo hat does a great job of allowing my noggin to breathe in the heat.  As far as cold temps, both hats keep my head plenty warm.
Even the September sun and dust are under control.
The price points for the Barmah hat varieties are in the $75 or less range.  I’m pretty cheap when it comes to clothing and apparel, but I believe in the worth of the Barmah hat enough that I have bought two.  I can be pretty rough on them, as I wear them in the woods and in the field, and they continue to survive unscathed.
In a recent interview with the Outdoor Blogger Network, I responded to the question “What is the one thing you cannot do without?” with “My Barmah Hat.”  In fact, my Barmah hat is not just a hat, it identifies me.

Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gear Review: Plano AW Double Gun Case

As a hunter who has traveled out of state for several ‘dream’ hunts, it is important to keep your gear safe, intact, and exactly the same as when you packed it.  Nothing more so than the equipment you rely upon to bring down the game you are pursuing.  In my younger days as a preteen, I would marvel at my grandfather’s expeditions to Alaska, Canada, and Africa in his search for some of the most dangerous and fascinating creatures that you only see in books or occasionally at the zoo.  Each time he loaded his bags at the airport he would have a hard metallic gun case carrying two rifles.
I was helping him sight his rifles one day before he was heading on a trip to Africa and I asked, “Papa, why do you carry two guns?”
“In case one doesn’t work.  It could get damaged in the trip or simply malfunction.  I don’t want to cancel my hunt just because one rifle is broken”
I recently was afforded the opportunity to test and review the AW Double Gun Case from Plano and the Outdoor Blogger Network.  First, I have a Plano bow case which Santa brought to me several years ago for Christmas.  This was an airport safe case as I was heading to Arizona for a mountain lion hunt that March and needed something to pack the bow in for the trip.  While this is not a review on the bow case, it did well and survived the trip, but I could tell the baggage handlers had their fun in tossing, tumbling, and stacking it.
As for the Plano AW Double Gun Case, after opening the box the initial thought was “This thing is heavy!”  In fact, over 20 pounds heavy WITHOUT firearms!  It does have 2 rollers and a end handle (for use when rolling) and a side handle (for carrying).  The handles are more than sturdy enough to carry the load.  They are also comfortable to the hand.
On the long end of the case are 4 double action latches, two of which have keyed locks.  There are also two padlock holes located on either side of the long end.  The keyed locks would probably suffice for airline and government regulations, but I would likely add a Master lock to one of the holes if traveling by air.
Handle and Latch together.
On each end is another double action latch.  The latches are very strong and sturdy as well, however the one located where the handle is on the end is tough to get to.  I found it manageable but still aggravating that by lifting the handle then popping the latch loose was the easiest method.
Inside, the case is lined with two plush foam pads.  A third pad rests between the two.  The one pad is shown as being able to be cut to form the outline of our firearm.  Most I’ve seen in this manner were already partitioned into squares making it easy to remove the part of the pad where the rifle or shotgun would be placed, but this one solid pad with no pre-cuts.
The case has a secure weather tite seal around the perimeter of the case when closed and latched.  This protects against water and dust/dirt.  Note: NOT WATERPROOF, but splash proof...yes.
The test came next.  When traveling, I recommend packing socks, t-shirts, underwear and the likes inside gun and bow cases.  This solidifies the case, helps prevent unwanted movement which minimizes the chance a scope will get bumped out of line, and protects the firearm better.  With this case, I’m not sure this extra precaution is needed.  It’s the strongest Plano case I have ever seen.  I stood on the side of the case and the case barely moved.  This may not mean much without the knowledge that I weigh 225 lbs and I was putting all the pressure down on my heels, increasing the lbs per square inch.
There are other cases that are known for the protective traits that run over $200 for a similar case to this one.  Plano’s AW Double Gun Case can be purchased for under $150.
Overall, the Plano AW Double Gun Case has outperformed my expectations and will surpass yours as well.  Plano succeeds in not only protecting your highly valued firearms, it protects your once in a lifetime hunting expedition knowing your firearms will be safe and secure while resting inside.

  • Weather tight Dri-Loc® seal

  • Thick wall construction

  • Easy-glide wheels for convenient transporting

  • Rugged, textured exterior

  • High-density foam

  • Dual stage, lockable latches

  • Pad lock tabs for air line travel

  • Pressure release valve

  • 54.25" L x 15.25" W x 6" H

Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Everything Old is New Again

This is a guest post by Sonny Ithipathachai.  This story originally ran in an edited form in NC Sportsman Magazine.  This is the unedited version.

I’ve been around for about 43 years now, and one thing I’ve learned is fashions and trends never die, they just get recycled every 10 years. I call it the, “Everything old will be new again theory.” So goes my first hunt, first shot, and first deer of the 2011 North Carolina season.

This was my first time in the deer woods and I dusted off my early 1968-1970’s Bear Kodiak Magnum 55 lb. glass powered recurve bow. I had made two nice wooden arrows tipped with 125 (+/-) grain Steel Force glue on broad heads. These wooden arrows are heavy and weigh approximately 600 grains each. Arrows were dressed out in NCSU colors, so go Wolfpack.

The weather had cooled down significantly that Saturday afternoon. Last Thursday the high was up in the 90’s, and Friday morning I drove to work through a brisk 57 F! It had been raining, and the clouds had rolled in threatening showers for the day.

I had not been scouting, but knew this little bottle neck in the woods that was a perfect spot to set up in. I was excited and looked forward to just spending some relaxing time and self reflecting in the woods. Things had been hectic lately, and hunting is cheaper and more therapeutic than a $200/hr shrink.

We bow hunters are a ritualistic bunch and have our own little routines. We dress outside, wash our clothes in no scent detergent, and shower with no scent soap. We do everything that it takes to reduce our scent signatures. Yet with all the meticulous steps and planning, I always forget something. This time it was my shooting glove, so now I have to shoot with bare fingers.

I put out a scent wick with some 2-drop supreme a little upwind from the area I was hunting, and then I climbed up a nice straight young pine about 12-14 feet. I didn’t want to get too high because of all the leaves and branches. The recurve is very limited on range and I am only accurate out to about 25 yards.

A beautiful red fox ran by just 30-yard directly in front of me after a mere 30 minutes of sitting. It was beautiful, with red fur on its sides, dark gray fur in the middle, and the tail was tipped with black. The wind was picking up, and it was nice and cool. I remember I did not break in sweat at all walking the 200 yards in, and knew this was going to be a good day.

Time slowly ticked by as I sat motionless, scanning the woods for movement with my eyes going from left to right. A squirrel feeding at eye level just 15 yard in front of me kept me entertained.

That little bushy tail would stand on its hind legs and grab berries and eat. Then it would hang upside down like a monkey and eat. It is funny how one passes the time watching the littlest things when you’re in the woods. I was surprised that the squirrels were not on the ground looking for food, but would rather gather something to eat up in the trees.

By 5:30 p.m. I heard my 1st buzz of a mosquito the size of a cricket. I quickly turned on my ThermaCell, and all is good with the world again. The wind must have died down a little as well.

It was now 6:30 p.m., and I saw movement directly in front of me just 40-50 yards away. It was a buck moving from right to left on a trail in front of me. He disappeared into the thick woods, and I slowly got into the standing position…waiting for him to show up again.

Then from the left corner of my eye I saw movement. There were two does walking, stopping, and feeding up a path that was to my left. They moved at a normal pace and had no idea they were being watched. Sunlight was starting to leave me fast, and I wanted to wait for that buck to come back, but hunting with the recurve is a game of opportunity. So, I had an opportunity to harvest a doe, and that’s exactly the decision I made.

The two does were walking from left to right, and when the bigger one paused long enough in an opening. I was able take a deep breath and draw my bow. She had turned completely broadside to me.

Replays of past failures flashed through my mind. I had missed on a nice doe at 15-yards last year because I thought she was out farther and aimed high. The arrow sailed over her back. Everything looks different when you’re up in a tree above 12 feet.
I kept saying BRASS in my mind, Breath, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze, just replace squeeze with smooth finger release. Aiming carefully……I took the shot, “Whooshed” went the arrow, and then that familiar “Crack!” sound.  A recurve bow is extremely quiet.

I could see the arrow flying straight towards the two deer, and it looked like a good clean shot. The two does bolted in opposite directions. Looking down at my watch, it was 6:45 p.m. As always, I thought I had missed. When I got down on the ground to where the two deer where, I couldn’t find my arrow and thought it might had just buried deep in the ground. The ground was wet from all the rain.

I saw no blood, but for some reason I decided to walk and look for my arrow in the direction the larger doe ran. I didn’t find my arrow, but did find her lying on the ground just 35-40 yards from where she was shot. I was so happy, and looked up and thanked God. Taking anything with the recurve is a gift.
Sonny and his trophy.

The entry wound was slightly above her right front shoulder, and the exit wound was well behind the opposite rib cage. When I looked at her closely it did seem like I got both lungs and grazed the heart. I’m guessing my arrow travelled around 175 to 190 fps, and she probably jumped the string a little, this was why she was hit quartering to and not a 100% broadside.

I was able to pace out the distance from where she was shot and it came out to be 23 yards. It was getting dark and I got out of the woods by 7:00 p.m.

The next morning I went out and found my arrow. It was intact and laying on the ground just 15 yards from the point of impact. It didn’t have much blood on it….just a little on the fletching, but then I did remember putting about 8-12 layers of clear coat on it. No liquid would ever stick to those arrows. It must have stayed in and got pulled out as she ran.

I’d had that old Bear bow for about 10 years and have killed a couple of deer with it. It’s probably older than me. I did notice how the popularity of traditional archery is making a comeback. I’d often wondered if that bow could talk what stories would it tell, would it say to me “Everything old is new again. Although an archer may shoot a million times, every shot is a new beginning.” I don’t know, I just know that I’m very happy with my 1st hunt, 1st shot, and 1st deer of the 2011 season.

Story by Sonny Ithipathachai

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What is the Best Gun for Hunting?

One evening during one of the breaks of a hunter education class I was teaching, a kid and his grandfather came up to me.  “I want to deer hunt.  What kind of gun do I need?”
Without hesitation I responded, “Your Granddad’s.”  While it seemed I was just coming back with a quick response to garner a smile, I was truly being sincere.  While hunting consists of shooting at animals as part of the process, the real joy is the connections the hunter makes.  Experiencing the hunt and bringing the most joy from the experience comes from the meld between you and God, nature, family, our forefathers, and memories.
Stories I share of my grandfather and father are not just vehicles to carry on who they are and what they did, they become part of who I am as well.  When I share these stories with my kids, it also becomes a part of who they will become.
When black bear hunting, I cannot help but think of President Teddy Roosevelt and his passion for the great bruin or Daniel Boone and his storied encounter with the beast in the Great Smokies. 
Want to read about Teddy Roosevelt's bear hunt? Click HERE.
The buffalo hunt my father and I went on included a hike to a tall mount that stood out amongst all others on the horizon.  When we reached the top, not only did we have a fantastic view of the Dakota pothole region, but there, right at the flattened peak, was a circle of stones.  Around the circle were other smaller circles of smaller stones.  When we returned to the hunting guide and inquired about the area, he told us that was an ancient ceremonial ground for the Indians who lived in the area.  I could envision the tribes hunting the herded bison just as my dad and I were.
Read about Bill Howard's Most Memorable Hunt-the Great Bison HERE.
Sitting in cover on the edge of the field, anticipating the coming of a strutting gobbler with fanned tail is enough to set any hunter in flurried heartbeats of anticipation.  The thought of Benjamin Franklin’s pursuit to make the wild turkey our national symbol for its courage and meaning to our land brings a sense of historic proportions to the hunt.  The turkey provided nourishment to the pilgrims on their original plight into the new world.  Even the Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans centers itself around the bird.
To think while sitting in a tree waiting on the whitetail to sneak his way into shooting distance was likely precluded by a Cherokee, Catawba, or Tuscarora several hundred years prior in the same location can be both overwhelming and comforting.
So, as I watch and remember my son shooting the old Ithaca shotgun, I realize that the bridge from my son, to me, to my father and to my grandfather has been completed.  I also know that one side of that bridge is a long road of that has been paved over time with blood, sweat, pain, tears, joy, and accomplishment while on the other side is a road yet to be cleared but already well planned.
So when you ask “what is the best gun?”, know in advance the best gun is one that is well used and experienced. 

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gear Review: Fieldline Glenwood Canyon Backpack

About once each year I try to get away for a two to three day hunt.  I try to ‘rough’ it, camping beneath the stars and enjoying nature.  It presents a bit more of a challenge and separates myself from the ‘rest of the world.’  When I do this type of hunt, it is necessary to have a good backpack that brings comfort and functionality into the equation.  Hiking several miles into the wilderness can take its toll and you need a way to bring in the necessities.

I tested the Fieldline Glenwood Canyon pack recently.  I have other Fieldline products, including a backpack, and they do a nice job of combining low costs with nice workmanship to make their products a really good value.  The backpack I owned is comfortable and spacious but I had to strap my bow on the outside without any support.
First of all, the Glenwood Canyon pack comes in two camouflage patterns featuring Realtree and Mossy Oak.  I mostly use Realtree so that is what I chose for my pack.  The local stores that carry the G.C. pack only had Mossy Oak as a choice.  It has an internal frame for pack support.
The straps on the pack offer a waist belt and a chest buckle strap for better comfort.  The chest strap is attached to two straps located on each shoulder strap to allow it to slide up and down for personal adjustments. They are also well padded to prevent extra fatigue on the shoulders.
Over the left shoulder is an access port for a hydration bladder, which has a separated compartment in the main bag.  On top of the bag is a strapped rain cover with an extra zippered compartment.  It does not provide a lot of storage, but is nice for something like a wallet or map.
On both the right and left sides are zippered compartments that can be reached with the pack still on.  These hold items such as a rangefinder, binoculars, cell phone, and flashlight.  I found it pretty easy to reach in a feel for the items I was looking for.
An angled zippered compartment rests in the center of the pack.  I keep my Knives of Alaska knives there as well as my LED Lenser headlamp.  Snacks would likely fit there as well.  Two adjustable snap straps are located on the outside of this compartment for strapping something like a foam pad or small tent.  The straps can be adjusted to a diameter of approximately 6 to 7 inches.
To the left is another zipper that allows access to the main pack area.  This is nice as you do not have to open the pack from the top and can get to items located in the bottom of the pack without pulling everything out.  The zipper is about 12 inches long.
On the left side of the pack are 2 adjustable straps along the side and a small zipper at the bottom.  After unzipping the bottom, a boot pouch with 2 straps attached to it can be pulled out to accommodate the butt of a rifle or shotgun or the lower cam of a compound bow.  As a bowhunter, I naturally tried it out with my compound.  The boot pouch does not work well with a compound with parallel limbs, but if I strapped the riser with the straps on the side and strapped the string with the two straps in the center, it did hold the bow pretty steady.  It does not work will with the quiver on.  However, for a firearm, the boot works great and the pack held fine.
The access to the main pack compartment is under the rain cover.  There are two straps sown into the access material that are rolled and then fastened to prevent any water from entering.  It also can add several inches of storage.  Inside you also have access to where the hydration bladder would be located.
All the zippers have a rubberized material covering the closed zipper area and also have plastic lined pull strings with large loops.
Here is the best part of the pack; it can be bought for under $30.  As far as holding up, if it is like my other Fieldline Pack it will hold up fine for years if it is used for a few trips each year.  My other pack has been through some reasonable abuse and has held up fine for the last 5 years.  I do not like the absence of straps on the bottom or top to connect a sleeping bag for instance.  The inner compartment has plenty of room for use as a one to three day pack.
Overall, the price is hard to beat providing features of packs that are in the $150-$200 price range.  The functionality for a gun hunter or hiker is great.  I will continue to use this in the future for short multi day trips.

Glenwood Canyon Frame Pack

(Company Specs)

Dimensions : 20 in x 15 in x 8.5 in / 50.8 cm x 38.1 cm x 21.59 cm
  • Top and vertical pack entries
  • Front access scope pocket
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure
  • Hydration compatible (2-liter Hydration Reservoir sold separately)
  • Top flap includes zippered compartment
  • 2 compression straps to secure your load
  • Ultra quiet zipper pulls
  • 2 large zippered side pockets
  • Gear-lock attachment points on waist belt
  • Yoked shoulder strap system with adjustable sternum slider
  • Adjustable waist and chest straps
  • Vertical front entry opening for easy access to gear
  • Top compartment has been designed with quiet roll-top closure
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure
Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.