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If you guessed this story involve balance, you nailed it.
Balance is like hand-eye coordination, some people have more of it than others. I certainly was not the first in line in the hand eye coordination department, but I’ve always had pretty good balance. Be it surfing, snowboarding, or wading a deep, swift, moss covered river I have always had good balance.
I remember a couple years ago at a field shoot in Santa Cruz, California, in what could be described as a monsoon. The mud trails were slicker than hog snot on a new gym floor.
Everyone in my group had fallen at least a couple of times. I remember losing my footing twice and surfing down steep muddy trails like I was dropping in to a black diamond chute at Squaw Valley. I never fell that day.
One negative aspect with having good balance is that you know when you’ve lost it entirely, a little earlier than others, which is the gist of this posting, “Falling for Turkeys”.
I am up the night before my hunt to setup my blind.
I decided to set my blind up in a different spot than normal. It’s nearly midnight and pitch black outside. I choose a spot on a hillside near the strutting area.
The average person would feel out of balance in this location, but I, confident in my equilibrium, convinced myself I could make it work.
It rained off and on throughout the night so the ground was saturated. Like any good hunter, I was up an hour before daylight and ready in my blind.
The turkeys were extremely vocal and seemed to be hot to get on with their day, which looked to be a beautiful one.
I am chilled from the cool morning. I’m fatigued from having to balance on my chair for a little over an hour. I decided to look over my left shoulder to see what the turkeys were doing and then it happened.
Remember when I said people with good balance tend to know when they’ve lost it a little earlier than others? That’s exactly what happened.
I knew I was falling, so I dug my heels into the soft mud with no results. I instantly threw my hands and head forward, bringing my body to a nearly upright position.
The key word here is “nearly”. With no other mechanism to right myself, I ever so slowly fell backwards. This seemed to take an eternity. I gently laid my beautiful bow on the grass at my side and relaxed as much as possible to go with the fall.
I rolled backwards down the hill into some bushes, taking my blind and my chair with me. My blind is upside down with my legs and arms are sticking out. I must’ve looked like an upside-down tortoise.
I thought this could NOT be happening to me. I repositioned my blind, discarded my chair, and chose to kneel on the wet grass. I’m pretty sure I made up some new swear words and kept them under my breath.
After kneeling for approximately 15 minutes, I believed that the hunt was now a bust and my confidence was shattered. I gave a couple week and tentative calls.
To my surprise the turkeys responded immediately and with a sense of urgency. With renewed confidence I called again and they responded.
Within minutes the turkeys flew in my direction and started to display.
I picked up my 54 pound Black Widow recurve. I knocked my nearly full length 400 Axis arrow with a 50 grain brass insert and a 125 grain fixed blade broadhead. I picked out a bird displaying at a little over 20 yards and let my arrow fly. I could easily view my florescent pink feathers that looked as if they were being followed by a laser.
The laser was in fact the new pink Lumenok. The arrow hit the mark and the Tom fell to the ground.
To my surprise, the bird got back up and flew 50 yards to a field of waist-high grass.
I am now faced with the dilemma that every successful turkey hunter encounters. Normally, I charge my birds while staying clear of the broadhead and spurs and finish the hunt. Or, I can wait and watch the birds until it’s safe to approach.
If I try to capture the turkey, it could easily fly off the property and be lost. But I had something going in my favor. Remember that red laser? Yes, that glowing nock was like a beacon moving through the grass. Even though the bird was out of sight, I could see the glowing nock, clear as day. The bright pink nock traveled for about 10 yards and stopped. After a minute I threw both hands in the air, doing my best Fred Eichler imitation. I then ran down the hill like a little kid and recovered my prize.
This was my first tom of the season and I couldn’t be happier.
So it just goes to show you that it’s better to be lucky, than good.
“Never stop- never stop fighting until the fight is done.”
That’s the quote made famous by Kevin Costner in “The Untouchables”.
Over the years, it has become my mantra while hunting. In my opinion, a positive state of mind is one of the most important things you can bring into the field, right behind a bow, and maybe a quiver of broadhead tipped arrows.
Allow me to share a recent example:
My hunting partner Evin and I had been getting our butts kicked by the turkeys for the better part of a week. Unseasonal rains and cool weather had thrown the birds off their usual springtime habits, and the turkeys were being as quiet as a monastery full of cloistered monks. Since the usual calling tactics were not producing, we decided our best course of action was going to be an ambush.
We knew where the birds were roosting, and we knew the route they preferred to the turned over field where they liked to feed during the day. We made the two-hour drive to the property the night before, and carefully set up the blind. It was perfect. Nestled between two oak trees in the knee-high grass, it was hard to see even if you were looking for it. As comfortable as my pop up camper is, we could barely sleep that night. We just knew our luck was going to change, and visions of long beards danced in our heads.
We awoke in the dark of the predawn, and stealthily made our way to the blind. We were in the blind probably a good two hours earlier than we needed to be. We were not taking any chances. While we sipped our Redbulls in the dark, I went through my mental checklist, visualizing the shot. While I was excited, I was also calm and confident. I was prepared.
Eventually there was a hint of dawn in the sky, and the turkeys began to wake and gobble. I looked over at Evin, and by the big smile plastered across his face, I could tell he was excited as I was. It would be soon now!
At that exact moment, we heard a peculiar sound in the distance. It was a squeaking, mechanical sound, like an old-fashioned well pump, or a rusty windmill. Evin and I both looked at each other. He looked as puzzled as I was. What could it be? It was getting louder. The birds began to shock call in response to the racket. Our hunt was in danger of being ruined! I took a chance and stuck my head out the blind and could not believe what I saw. The landowner’s twelve-year-old grandson was making his way down the gravel hill on an old, rusty ten-speed bicycle. To make matters worse, the kid started hollering, “Hey, I’m not a turkey, I’m not a turkey!” Over. And over. And over.
The rambunctious youth made his way to our blind. “Are you guys hunting turkeys in there?”
“Get out of here! You have to go!” I hissed in reply.
The inquisitive child made his departure, but it was too late. A cacophony of alarm putts and birds flying away told us what we feared: Our set was blown, and the turkeys had flown to the neighboring property.
To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. So many hours, so much planning, not to mention the lost sleep, to have it all sabotaged by a curious, early rising twelve year old. It would have been easy to throw our hands in the air, and go to the local diner to lick our wounds over pancakes and hot coffee. But we didn’t. We chose to “never stop fighting until the fight is done.” We hunted hard for the rest of the morning, and in the last hour of legal shooting time, we located a lone feeding tom. I watched from a nearby hilltop as Evin made a masterful stalk on the bird, utilizing the terrain and ground cover to close the distance to thirty-five yards. Evin drew his bow, stepped out from behind an oak tree, and sent an arrow through the old tom before it even had a chance to raise its head out of the grass. Finally, we had a bird on the ground!
Once again the mantra had served us well. “Never stop- never stop fighting until the fight is done.” Keep those words in mind the next time you become frustrated, and feel like packing it in. Who knows? You just might touch an untouchable tom.
Many archers believe that feathers are a gift from heaven. They might be right.
The vast majority of modern archers now choose plastic vanes over feathers, and that’s fine. Most vanes will guide your arrow beautifully. They are also a little bit less expensive than feathers. However, if more archers had all the facts regarding feathers, I think the scales might tip the other way.
While there have been great advancements in vane technology over the years, the simple fact is that man has not been able to successfully create a vane that has all of the inherent benefits of a feather.
Feathers are lighter than plastic vanes, creating an easy way to build an arrow with a greater forward of center. Feathers are also more forgiving when it comes to deflection. Contact on the arrow rest, the shelf of the bow, or those pesky little brush limbs or grass blades that might be between you and your quarry. Additionally, feathers are more durable than vanes.
Observe the photo of two different arrows, both fletched with five-inch feathers. You will notice that the feathers on the first arrow are in brand new, pristine condition. The feathers found on the second arrow are battered and torn. Despite the noticeable difference in the condition of the feathers, these arrows will in fact group together. Plastic vanes in a similar state of disrepair would fly erratically, and need to be replaced.While I prefer TrueFlight Feathers for my arrows there many options on the market.
What about rain? Won’t the feathers get ruined if they are wet? Short answer: No.
In fact, wet feathers fly surprisingly well. Most archers don’t know this, simply because they never shoot in the rain. Personally, I make it a point to shoot in the heaviest downpours that come my way. What I have found is that while arrows fletched with either vanes or feathers fly quite well in the rain, both will drop dramatically down range. If you find yourself shooting in heavy rain frequently, it might be a good idea to invest in one of the commercial powder or spray treatments that effectively water proof feathers.
Whatever your equipment choice, it is a good idea to practice with your gear in those less than desirable situations. Rain happens, so it is a good idea to know what your equipment can or cannot do, whether you are a bowhunter or tournament archer.
Do vanes have a place in archery? Sure they do. One of the great things about being an archer in this day and age is the number of choices we have in terms of equipment. A big part of archery success is confidence, and if your confidence lies with a certain style of fletching, then carry on. However, I would also encourage you to at least experiment with feathers, perhaps during the off-season, and see what kind of results you get. You just might be amazed.
I’ve been a professional fly fisherman for over 20 years conducting seminars demonstrations and clinics.
As a fly fisherman I was a champion distance caster known for long casts.
I have created numerous fly patterns, some of the most popular are the Vans Softex Squid and the Shuttlecock.
I’m also an avid archer and have conducted clinics across the US to promote aerial archery. The clinics involves techniques used to hit flying objects such as pheasants. We use milk jugs, soda cans and sporting clays to simulate flight patterns.
Some of my sporting exploits have been captured in articles and books. Seth Norman’s Crimes of Passion is one of them. I have also published my own articles on Fly fishing.
I was the executive producer for Pheasant Hunting with a Bow.
Pheasant Hunting with a Bow is a unique DVD that shows strategies and techniques for taking game birds on the wing.
I have have spent a lifetime trying to look at the challenges that face both fishermen and hunters. I have always tried to look outside the box, and create an advantage or shortcut to success and I openly share those tips with others.