Shed Hunting Strategies

As soon as the hunting season comes to an end in north-western Wisconsin, my mind turns to shed hunting. This year, mother nature is not being cooperative. It is already March 10, 2019 and we still have over knee-high snow at the farm. I do not remember the last time we had snow like this but it is driving me crazy. On a positive note, the weather for the next week is looking promising to start the snow melt.  If you know me well, you know how much I love to shed hunt.  For myself, it helps to tell the story of the bucks that are on my mind when fall arrives. It is a great time to put miles on going through the woods to scout. Not only scout for deer but the fast approaching turkey season as well.  Another reason that I love to shed hunt, is to spend time with my two labs.

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I have a chocolate lab that is 4 ½ years old, named Reese and a black lab that is 2 ½ years old that is named Hoyt.  They love shed hunting as much as I do. If they see the kennel going into the back of the truck, they start to freak out. As soon as they are let out of the house, they will go straight to the back of the truck and wait for me to open the kennel. All I need to say is three simple words, “find the shed”. I am always excited to watch the dogs work, using their sense of smell trying to  find the next antler. For someone who has never witnessed a shed dog work, I compare it to a bird dog. When a bird dog gets close to a pheasant or grouse, the dog get what I call “birdy”. The dog’s tail and body language changes, trying to stay on the scent that was just picked up. Each dog acts different when it gets “birdy”. The difference can be caused by many different factors, such as the dog’s personality and age. There is a difference between my labs, which I feel is caused by age/experience. Reese uses his nose more than Hoyt. Reese has had some awesome blind antler finds, which just shows how strong his nose is. Hoyt is likes to use his eye when he is first out of the truck but then will use his nose, once he wears off some energy.  Shed dogs are awesome to have to be able to cover more area, but even with having them, I use a couple of strategies to help pick up more sheds.

  • Do not only go through an area 1 time. This is especially true while running a shed dog. I try to go through an area at least twice and never take the same path. Trying to go through the area from a different direction. The sun might reflect off the antler a little differently which might help catch your eye. When hunting with the dogs, majority of the time they are trying to catch the scent  of the sheds so going through a second time, so it will help you increase your chance on winding the antler scent.
  • If you are close to the property that you will be shed hunting or still have trail cameras out, pay attention to the deer movement. Deer spends majority of the time in two areas, bedding and at food. The odds are the sheds will fall where the deer spend majority of their time.
  • I tend to take notes after I shed hunt. Some areas seem to be better for sheds than others. By taking notes either in my note-book or using an app like OnX Maps, it has paid off to go back to areas that have produced in the past.
  • The past couple years, I have noticed that early in the morning and late afternoon are not the best times to shed hunt. I feel that the best times to shed hunt are late morning and early afternoon, when the sun is above you which allows the sheds to stand out.
  • Do not rush, it is not a race. Take your time and enjoy the outdoors. If you are running through the woods, I will bet that you will miss sheds.

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I hope that the items listed above help you to find more sheds this season. If you have any questions on shed hunting or shed dogs, send over an email or contact us on social media.  Make sure to check out our social media accounts to stay up to date with our shed season.

It is Our Passion – 1/11/2019

mountains

By Sean Keck (@sean.keck)

I think back to that moment: a moment of relief, a feeling of accomplishment.  Follow-thru was second nature: feeling the trigger break, gaining sight picture after the recoil, working the action, searching to acquire the target in case a follow-up shot is necessary.  I hear, “He’s hit,” from Nile, and Roger, “Just to the left.  See where he was, five yards to the left.  There he goes, rolling to the left”.  There’s no need for the second shot, our ram is down; our Stone’s sheep is down.  I was nearly in disbelief.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my North American Grand Slam journey started in August, 2015, being guided by Cabot Pitts for a Dall’s sheep in the Brooks Range of Alaska.  Cabot encouraged me to join the Wild Sheep Foundation and attend the Sheep Show in Reno, Nevada.  Fast forward to January, 2016, during the Sheep Show, at a ‘moment of weakness’, I signed up for an August, 2018, Stone’s sheep hunt with Collingwood Bros Outfitters.

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There were many hurdles to get over: financial, mental, and physical.  It is on target to say that my Stone’s sheep hunt started at the Sheep Show in January, 2016 – not August, 2018, as one may think.  When your sleeping bag weighed eleven pounds (yes eleven!) on your first sheep hunt, you quickly learn your gear has to be different for a mountain hunt than for a back-forty whitetail hunt.  I changed my tent, sleeping bag, rain pants, bullets, backpack, rifle scope, binoculars, insulation layers, etc.  In addition to getting in ‘sheep shape’, my physical training routine integrated exercises that provided an insurance policy against hurting my back again.  I thru my back out on the first day of my Dall’s sheep hunt.  I didn’t want my lower-back turning a ‘once in a lifetime hunt’ into an expensive camping trip!  The mental stress stems from the financial obligation one must commit to when hunting Stone’s sheep, or is it the sheep hunter that should be committed for willingly paying what we do to hunt a Stone’s sheep?!  Don’t answer that; back to the story.  Not leaving anything to chance, I attended the Long Range Hunter course by Ron and Denise White of DR Long Range Concepts in Seneca, Missouri.  I was ready for whatever may come during the ten-day hunt.  Excited as a kid during their first deer season, final hugs to my family, I was off to Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.  Within 48 hours I would be within Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park hunting Stone’s sheep!

Once in Smithers, British Columbia, it was a relief to know my gear made it without a hitch.  Wendy, a Collingwood Bros expeditor, picked us up and provided transportation to the Hudson Bay Lodge.  Two other gentlemen, John and Gary, would be hunting Stone’s sheep during the same time period.  John, Gary, and I had a relaxing evening discussing prior experiences and our dreams of what may transpire over the next 14 days.  Before hitting the rack, I must have triple checked and triple packed again.  I wanted to make sure I had everything before leaving for the float plane in the morning.  There wasn’t a store where we were going.

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Wendel, owner of Alpine Lakes Air, flew us into the secret location base camp the next morning.  The couple hour flight provided more time to dream and visually get acquainted with Spatsizi, land of the red goat.  Once at basecamp, we were greeted by the guides, wranglers, Bundy the dog, and two successful sheep hunters, Jim and Matt of California.  After unloading and reloading the DHC-3T Turbo Otter, being in British Columbia hunting Stone’s sheep hit me.  How many people know what a Stone’s sheep is, let alone experience their home range of northern British Columbia?  The day was spent getting acquainted with the crew, the horses, fitting stir-ups, double checking rifle zero, and enjoying Esther’s cooking.  Each meal at base camp felt like a holiday meal:  you had to try a little of everything, it was always good, and of course you ate too much.  I wasn’t so sure I was going to lose any weight on this trip!  The campfire was a good end to the day. ride to the mountainjpg

The following morning, after a good sleep in one of the log cabin accommodations, we loaded up the horses and started our nine hour ride to spike camp.  I was riding Babe, a robust Canadian mountain draft horse that had two gears –  too slow and trot.  That day I learned what saddle-sore means and why cowboys walk the way they do in cartoons!  My knees were grateful the ride in was over.  It took the day to finalize stir-up height and learn how to adjust your feet as the willows tug and twist on them.  We made it to spike camp before dark, allowing us to settle in and start glassing.  Mountain goats were visible from camp, but no sheep yet.

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Up at 6AM and on the horses by 730AM after filling up on pancakes and moose sausage.  After two hours, the horses had taken us to tree line.  We stalked to the top where we were able to glass up eight goats and three sheep.  The rams were sky-lined about one mile away, evading bugs by catching the morning breeze.  We couldn’t tell if the largest was legal from this distance, but he was intriguing.  A legal Stone’s sheep in British Columbia is at least eight years old or the tips of the horns curl past the bridge of the nose.  Stalking on either side of the ridgeline, I was thinking that these mountains aren’t like the Brooks Range.  At one point we were straddling the knife-edge; this really plays tricks on your brain.  You have to focus your vision at your feet and not the bottom of the mountain.  I realized why some people tease that the Brooks Range is where sheep hunters go to retire.  Mid-day we came to a small grassy bowl that afforded us a hiding place to take a break and eat lunch.  During lunch, a spent, tarnished, 30.06 case from a previous hunter revealed itself on the ground.  I took it as a sign we were on the right mountain.

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One thousand yards out – the ram, bedded on a grass ledge, started to look legal.  One has to error on the side of caution and not let your greed make a poor choice of legality on a sheep.  Four hundred yards out – we confirm the ram is legal; for sure eight years old and tips of his horns were past the bridge of his nose.  A handsome ram for sure.  Roger asked me if I liked him enough to continue the pursuit.  I couldn’t believe it.  Any legal Stone’s sheep is more than okay with me as I felt humbled and fortunate just to be on the adventure.  Two hundred yards out – we set up in a comfortable shooting position.  There wasn’t enough wind to matter at this range.  I trained the center of the crosshairs to line up behind his shoulder when he stood; the wait began.

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The ram was bedded since late morning; now late afternoon.  How much longer would he stay comfortable, ‘til he gets up to feed?  Roger tells me to take my rifle off of safe and be ready.  I could hear Roger willing the ram to stand: “Stand up, come on, stand up”.  A few minutes later our ram stood.  In that second, my Hill Country Rifle in .280AI and the 162gr Hornady ELD-X connected the ram and I.

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Two years and six months had passed since the first day of this adventure.  At that moment, many questions were running through my mind.  What had this hunt taught me?  What was I expecting from it?  What meaning did it give me?  Did I want a Grand Slam?  What is the pull to spend the money, obtain the gear, get educated enough to travel across borders with hunting tools, to stay in physical shape, sacrifice time with family???  It is our passion.

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“We need to understand the passionate, for it is in the passions that people achieve their highest potential of being human.” – James Swan

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I would like to thank many people for helping me on this journey, but there isn’t enough printed space to name them all.  The following are the key people who helped make this adventure a success:  my wife Donna; Cabot Pitts, Kevin Muir, and Matt DeFrank for guidance before the trip; Reg Collingwood for running the best hunting camp in British Columbia; and finally Roger Oler and Nile Sinnes for guidance during the trip.

The wolves were let out one more time as I still had a mountain goat tag in my pocket, but that story is for another time.

DTB Blog – Post 8/1/18

Blog Post 1. (8/1/18) – Final Countdown

By: Troy Petznick

Welcome to the Droptine Booners Blog! We are excited to get our blog kicked off which will document our experiences as we approach the 2018 Wisconsin hunting season. We will be doing both a written blog and a video blog. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with us, hit up our Facebook or Instagram accounts (Droptine Booners) or send us an email (droptinebooners@gmail.com).

As the calendar flips over to August, the DTB team is in full force getting ready for the 2018 hunting season to kick off. We continue to put the work in to help increase the odds in our favor by running trail cameras, working on food plots, setting tree stands, etc. The season will kick off on September 5th as I will be stalking Wisconsin black bear which will lead right into the whitetail season.

Bear Hunting

For myself, I started bear hunting about 6 years ago after I drew my first Wisconsin tag for zone C. It took me 3 years to draw my first tag which lead to an experience I would never forget. That summer and fall I learned a lot about bear in general and what it took to hunt them. The opening day morning of the 2012 season, I was sitting in a college class but paying more attention to the clock instead of the instructor. As soon as the clock hit 11am, I was gone and on the way back my hometown of Medford, WI.  I wanted to get into the stand as soon as possible because the trail camera picture was showing that a couple bears were hitting in the early afternoon. As soon as I arrived home, I got ready and ran out to the tree stand. I just got settled into the stand, and taking in the moment. It was a warm day but the breeze made it feel perfect.

I was not even in the stand for 45 minutes when I heard a huge splash from a pond that was about 75 yards away. On the far side bank of the pond, there was a good bear shaking off the water it just jumped out of. As I was watching the bear dry off, I had to keep telling myself not to take the shot yet that it will come into the bait. The bear started to walk around the pond towards my direction. My heart-felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. It felt that the bear was taking forever to come in, I kept trying to listen for the bear to break a stick or make some noise to prove that it was still coming in but nothing. All sudden, I seen the bear cross the trail and is now only 20 yards away but a lot of brush in-between us. The bear kept taking its time coming in, caution with ever step. In mind, I kept asking how an animal that big, can be that quiet? I was amazed by the caution and movement of the bear coming in. I had the gun up and safety off as he was about to hit an opening about 15 yards away. The bear seemed to just stand out of the opening forever as I had the gun ready. Finally, it took the final steps into the opening and placed the cross hairs on my mark then I squeezed the trigger. The gun fired, bear made a loud grunt sound and took off straight for the pond.  I was shaking so bad after the shot, I had to hand up my gun so I didn’t drop it out of the stand. My mind had a million thoughts and questions going through it, did I hit it? Was it a good hit? How far did it go? I sat there for about half hour to calm down and collect my thoughts. I then slowly, climbed down the stand and sneaked back out to the truck to get a hold of my dad and my friends dad. Once they arrived, we headed back to the spot to find blood to start tracking. We found the blood trail right away and it was headed to the pond which was no surprise but wanted to confirm it was a good hit. As soon as we got to the pond, I saw it laying in the water by the bank, my bear. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest again but this time because I was jacked up for excitement of finding the bear. All the work of scouting, baiting and learning paid off.

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Ever since the 2012 season, my dad and I have been hooked on chasing black bears.  In 2017, I was lucky enough to take one of my dream animals.  A color phase black bear in Colorado with the muzzle-loader on a spot and stalk hunt.

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This year will be my third tag I have had for bear hunting in Wisconsin. My goal this year is to take a black bear with a bow. Each time I hunt black bears, I keep learning new things. Below are a couple of tips that have helped us in the past to successful hunting bears:

  • Bait Location:
    • Since we hunt zone C in Wisconsin, we are normally hunting farm land. When trying to pick a bait location, we look for water and corn. We found that the baits that stay active most of the season is near water. Bears like to stay cool and do not want to travel far. Also, we try to be around corn because bears love corn in the milk stag and they also will use the corn fields to bed in.
  • Minimize the chocolate in the bait.
    • As we pickup bait for the upcoming bear baiting season, we are critical on what we are using. Bears will fill up and then stop hitting the bait. We normally use a combination of cookie dough, granola, popcorn, and ice cream cones. Before purchasing the cookie dough and granola, we review the product in the bins. We make sure that it not all chocolate. The chocolate will fill bears up quickly. The goal is to make them want more, which means consistent bait hitting.
  • Be consistent.
    • Baiting bears will require a lot of time. Get in a pattern of when checking baits, if you don’t the bears might lose interest. We normally check every 2 days but know many that will do every 3 days. If you are not close to the location where you are bear baiting, you may want to find family or friends that can help. I have been lucky to have both family and friends help because I am over an hour away from our bear hunting spots.
  • Molasses
    • Getting a good scent going around the bear bait will help pull the bears in. Why not have the bears aid with that? We use molasses around and on the bear stumps. When the bear comes in and tips the stump over to eat, it will get the molasses on its paws. That means when it walks away, it is leaving a scent trail behind and spreading it throughout the woods.

If you are hunting bears this year or looking to start bear hunting, I hope these tips will help you in your next bear hunt.  I recommend giving bear hunting a try, if you really enjoy hunting and like to try new things. I promise it will be like no other hunting you have tried.  Continue to pay attention to our blogs and social media accounts to know how our bear season unfolds.