Monthly Archives: May 2010

Top Questions about Hunting – Part II

As a second part of our dive into the minds of Americans alongside Ask.com, we’ll take a look at another five questions that are among the most asked hunting questions at the question and answer site. By the way, these questions are among the more than a million asked at Ask.com everyday!

Without further ado, here are the questions and my personal opinion to the answer. Once again, if you’d like to see how each is answered by others, visit Ask.com and ask.

Fishing is not the only outdoor activity former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin enjoys. Photo borrowed from Ask.com

Does Sarah Palin hunt?
I guess she does. People ask a lot of Palin questions these days. Those questions are not exclusive to politics.

When is turkey-hunting season?
This is another one of those state-dependent answers, but most states do fall in the April-May timeframe for spring turkey season.

What is the easiest breed of hunting dog to train?
Look, there’s a reason why Sage is the star of this blog! I’m completely biased in my opinion that Labrador retrievers are the easiest. I’m sure there’s a Springer Spaniel, German Shorthair or Boykin Spaniel owner out there who disagrees with me.

What is the best rifle for long-range deer hunting?
The opinion of “long range” differs for a lot of hunters, but when it comes to my preference for hunting deer with a rifle, I am a big fan of the .308 Win. And I don’t believe there’s ever been a more shooter-friendly rifle action built than that of the Remington 700. All of my rifles are sent to my friend Lenny Palmatier in Potter County, Pennsylvania to make sure they’re field ready for those long-range deer hunts!

Where is the best duck hunting in the U.S.?
I wish so badly that I could put the answer as the Piedmont Region of North Carolina! Sadly for Sage, that is not the case. I’ve never hunted it, but widespread perception says that Arkansas represents some of the best duck hunting in the U.S. The top location I’ve ever hunted is unquestionably North Dakota. That said, with the right time of the season and the right weather, it’s hard to top any region along the Mississippi flyway.

This is part two of a two-part entry that looks into the top questions about hunting – as posed by Americans at question and answer site Ask.com

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Do you have a question?

Questions are amazing. If you think about it, every advance in humanity can pretty much be traced back to a simple question. How are we going to get from point A to point B? Why does my head hurt eight hours after drinking a pint of whiskey? How am I going to communicate with my family 500 miles away? The answers to many of life’s questions can be found in the minds of experts who have helped guide our societal growth.

This guy has a few questions to answer when he gets back to camp! Image borrowed from Ask.com

I’m fortunate enough to work with Ask.com, a website for asking questions and getting answers online. Ask.com is a client. And the cool part about that is I get to pick their proverbial brain to see what’s on the minds of Americans, which gets played back as the top questions asked about a particular topic.

Of course I’m going to ask about the top hunting questions! And for your reading pleasure, I’m going to provide five of the top asked questions about hunting as a part one. Part two will include another five.

I’m going to reveal the question and provide my answer to the question – plus, a bit of commentary with a few! I invite you to go to Ask.com to see what answers it provides!

Who sells the best hunting knife?
I’ve always been a Buck knife fan and carry the same Woodsman (No. 102K) on my hip that my brother Mike bought me almost two decades ago. I also like Gerber hunting knives and usually have one or two of those as a sidekick not too far away when I’m hunting.

How much does hunting permit cost?
I love that Americans are asking this question. Hopefully this means that more people are getting interested in hunting. The answer to this question, obviously, is very state specific. That said, I’ve rarely complained about paying the price to buy my hunting license. I’m a lifetime holder in two states, but typically hunt out of state at least once or twice a year. I’m well aware that it’s hunting license revenues that make the lion’s share of funding for a number of state-funded outdoor programs (I wish more anti-hunters would learn that fact). And because of that, I always feel that I’m doing something good.
Ask.com

What percentage of Americans deer hunt?
This is a great question. And I had to go to Ask.com to get the answer. Just seeing the question on the top questions list piqued my interest. I wish more Americans did participate. That said, the number is impressive.

What choke is best for dove hunting?
It seems to me that the one in my gun on the dove opener each fall is the wrong one! I’ve always had the best luck with a Modified or a Modified-Improved Cylinder. If you’re in a really good spot, that the doves really want to work, then I’m a fan of Improved Cylinder.

What are some good exercises to help train my hunting dog?
This question likely is asked so often by Americans just venturing into the world of owning a retriever, or respective hunting dog. This is where I would recommend that any new hunting dog owner purchase “The 10-Minute Retriever” by John and Amy Dahl. It is a fantastic, time-relevant book that helps lay a foundation for making your family floor rug into a suitable hunting companion. There are lots of exercises out there for training your dogs, but the ones in the Dahls’ book are some of the favorites of trainers around the world.

This is part one of a two-part entry that looks into the top questions about hunting – as posed by Americans at question and answer site Ask.com


Spot and Stalk Turkey Hunt Nets Bird, Memory

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

It wasn’t a promising start.

May 1, 2010 had come and gone without a single gobble on our 140 acres in Upstate New York.

Heading into the spring turkey season, my hopes were extremely high. I had seen multiple birds on a nightly basis during the fall archery season, and was even fortunate enough to harvest my first turkey with an arrow on our Livingston County property.

I didn’t have a good feeling about my dismal opening day, but if there was one encouraging fact, it was that I had only heard one shotgun blast echo down the valley during that calm Saturday morning.

Convinced that other hunters had experienced similar fates, I shrugged it off and headed home thinking that most toms had already found dancing partners for the spring prom.

When Sunday morning rolled around, I didn’t. I spent the morning with my wife and two young children, who I miss on most Sundays because of work obligations.

Monday brought a new week and new hope for me, but because of daddy duties, I wasn’t in the woods that morning either.

Nine o’clock came and that meant time to get my 5-year old off to school. We were two miles from the house and I happened to glance over, and there in a green field, was a strutting tom and at least one hen. I really didn’t think much about it, as my 2-year old was in the back seat and intent on spending the day with daddy.

That all changed though when I drove back by and saw Mr. Handsome still struttin’ his stuff. I couldn’t stand it anymore – I felt like a pot of cold water on a hot stove and I knew a pursuit would ensue.

Hard work and timely execution helped the author bag this Eastern turkey

Thinking quickly, I called our daycare provider to see if she could look after my little guy for a few hours.

By the time I dropped him off, I had roughly two hours of shooting time left, as high noon marks the end of shooting hours for turkey hunting in New York. Knowing the farmer whose field the bird was in, I stopped at the house to ask permission. He obliged and I was on my way.

My plan at this point was to get close enough to the bird and try to draw him away from his hen(s) by placing my decoy in a neighboring cut cornfield.

With a hedgerow separating me from him, I walked as far as I dared and set up on the edge of a woodlot. With my hen decoy bobbing in the west wind, I took a deep breath and then let out a yelp from my Primos diaphragm call. I waited, thinking the hot bird would for sure see the decoy and come in. But, that was far from what happened.

Thinking that the strong winds may be preventing the long beard from hearing me, I took out my slate call and gave a few strikes on it. Still nothing.

With time not on my side, I made a hasty decision to try and make something happen. Knowing that this would be my make-or-break move, I abandoned my decoy and slowly dropped back into the woods.

My hope was that I would somehow be able to gain ground on the bird while using the trees as cover.

As I crept towards the green field, the anticipation grew as I knew I was virtually on top of the bird. The question at this point though, was, “Where was he?”

I forced myself to move slowly as I feared a snapping twig would alert the bird and it would be game over.

When I reached the green field, I was astonished to see no turkeys. I thought,“You’ve got to be kidding me, right?”

I thought it was over, for sure. My thinking was that the birds had moved south prior to my arrival, however a glance through my Bushnell 10X42 binoculars proved my theory wrong.

There in the green field about 80 yards east of the hedgerow was a red head. I couldn’t believe it, not only had the bird not detected me, but he was still there.

Time to regroup.

With very little separating me from him, I needed to get behind a tree or something to ensure my presence wasn’t detected. I dropped to my knees and began to crawl down the west side of the hedgerow – using it as a buffer. I had a tree in mind that I hoped to make it to. From there I would set up and call – and for sure the bird would be able to hear me.

I made it. Tucking myself behind the mature walnut, I slowly reached for my favorite slate call. Little did I know, it had fallen during my approach.

I was forced to try and catch my breath for a minute and again using my mouth call, I let out a series of yelps, except this time I was watching his reaction through my Binos.

I couldn’t believe it; he turned his head and just sat there looking around. I let out another more aggressive call. Nothing. He wouldn’t budge. I knew he could hear me, because every time I called, he looked my direction. No gobble, no strut, no nothing.

With my bag of tricks empty and my decoy left behind, I questioned my next move. He’s about 60 yards from me at this point.

I gave a few more calls, to no avail. With my watch now reading 11:15 a.m., I had few options but to force the issue.

Slowly rolling onto my side I began to belly crawl towards the green field and the bird. I had pulled this trick off before some 15 years ago, but that time on a wounded whitetail. This time, I was dealing with an animal whose main defense was his eyes, and here I was out in the middle of a wide open field. For sure he would see me. But I had little options.

By the time I reached the green field, my arms began to burn, but my confidence grew.

As I entered a little swale in the field, I picked out a yellow weed in the clover, knowing that if I could make it to that point, my Harrington and Richardson single shot could do the rest.

The author displays the fruits of his labor. The bird weighed 21 lbs and sports a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs

I had reached the yellow weed without being detected, and in one smooth motion, I cocked the hammer on the 3-inch mag, came to rest on my knees and steadied my truglo sight on the red head. A swift squeeze of the trigger and the bird went down flopping. I ran up on him not believing I had pulled off the best spot-and-stalk of my life.

The bird weighed 21 lbs. with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Not my biggest bird to date, but quite possibly my best trophy – or at least the most memorable one.

I hoisted the long beard over my back and headed home. It was about that time that I realized I had had crawled through a large patch of poison ivy along the way!


Changing tune

There are a lot of things I did as a teenager that I’m not all-too proud of. And while the statute of limitations has surely run its course on all of those things, I’m still not prepared to share any of them here!

Conversely, I couldn’t be more proud of the awesome times I spent with many of my high school pals chasing wildlife around the Southern Tier of New York State. Those days are top of mind to me right now, mostly because one of my closest hunting partners has given up hunting. He’s actually gone a bit further than that. He publicly chastises hunting (particularly for sport).

High school hunting buddy, Jeff Mattison, and me after a day of duck hunting and chasing "doodles"... Jeff is still a hunter! Notice the gun rack in the '78 Chevy.

This is a friend who I’ve shared duck blinds with, walked acres of poplar woods and driven mature hardwoods for deer on countless occasions! I would like to think that as we grow older, we also expand our knowledge base. That said, my affinity for the outdoors and, moreover, my belief that sportsmen are the foundation of conservation has never been stronger.

You’ll notice the very famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt on the left column of this blog. Many historical quotes by famous dignitaries become outdated. This is one that couldn’t be more relevant in 2010 as it was the day Roosevelt said it more than a century ago.

More high school hunting buddies after limiting on geese. This photo ran in our hometown paper, even though we missed the first morning of school during early goose season!

I invite you to read it … and then share it.

Without question, I still consider the ol’ hunting buddy a friend. It doesn’t bother me that his views on hunting – and probably many other things we enjoyed as teenagers – has changed. Heck, mine have too. But those times afield were some of the most fun times I had as a kid. I know they were for him too. Hopefully, those are not moments he’s ashamed of.