It has been said that hunter’s are born, not made, and perhaps this is true. Far be it for me, to disagree.
Hunter’s eyes are born of blood, and I, like my father, and his father before him, would seem to prove that out. Well-worn deer trails, mist-filled bogs, and oceans of pitch pines and blackjack oaks were always a large part of our daily landscapes. I cannot help but think that we were all so much better off for our youthful visions.
Just below is a long forgotten photo of my Dad’s first white-tailed deer, taken with a hand-me-down shotgun in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. As you can see, it was a good one too. He was sixteen years old.
I never did hear the story of that first buck, but I have no doubt that it was a big adventure of some kind. Or at least I would like to think so, knowing my father’s penchant for getting the job done. South Jersey was still a wild place in the 1930’s, and a boy could really stretch out and do some roaming. I surely would have loved to have explored it all back then.
Below that is a photograph of my first big game kill with a bow & arrow, taken not very far away from where my father stood for his photo. I was also sixteen at the time, and I could not have been more excited, and proud.
The doe may have been small, and the picture is now tattered, and faded, but the memory is not. I remember everything about that hunt as if it was yesterday, and it remains a thrill that has not nearly begun to wear off after all of these many years.
There are far worse things in life, than to be born a hunter…
*My father became an avid bowhunter in the 1950’s, and I am sure that he would have hunted his first deer with archery tackle, if he could have. New Jersey did not hold its first special bow & arrow deer season until 1948, only ten years before I was born.
See Some of the History Of The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Here
“A Bowhunter is a Hunter Reborn – Forever…” – Michael Patrick McCarty
“There is much mystic nonsense written about hunting but it is something that is much older than religion. Some are hunters and some are not.”– Ernest Hemingway, An African Journal, 1972
– Bowhunting For Deer by H. R. “Dutch” Wambold, Stackpole, 1964, remains a timeless classic on the subject of hunting for white-tailed deer, and I have always thoroughly enjoyed the read. So did Howard Hill, apparently, judging by the jacket endorsement blurb, and by Fred Bear, who wrote the preface. If it was good enough for them, than it is certainly good enough for me, you might say.
We generally have a copy in our used and rare book inventory, if so interested. Please email us at email@example.com for details.
Photograph By Chris Smith, Found At the Denver Botanic Gardens.
We Can also Recommend: The Witchery Of Archery
Maurice Thompson’s 1879 book “The Witchery of Archery”, was the main inspiration for the increase of interest in archery in the United States at the beginning of the century.
Dr. R. P. Elmer wrote of it “That wonderful little book has had as much effect on archery as Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on the Civil War!”
The Witchery of Archery was the first book in English about hunting with a bow ever published. At the time of its publication the book was well received for its wit and use of common language. (Publisher’s Description)
“Maurice Thompson’s graphic articles will delight the lovers of Archery, which ancient sport finds new life and freshness under the vigorous touches of his pen.”—New York Tribune.
We have some limited copies of Let’s Go Bowhunting by Doug Walker.
Doug is a member of the Bowhunter’s Hall of Fame and was one of the very first regular members of the Pope & Young Club. He was a friend of Glenn St. Charles, Howard Hill, and Fred Bear. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of archery and bowhunting and big game hunting in general.
Doug Walker passed away in 2011.
Cost is $34.95 (plus $4 shipping in U.S.)
Subject to availability.
*Read More about Saxton Pope and The Pope & Young Club Here
“I wriggled silently through the swamp, carrying bow and arrow in my mouth. The marsh was broad, the water icy cold, and there was no cover in sight.
Slowly, soaked, invisible, I crawled within range. The reindeer were eating; they grazed the juicy moss without concern, till my arrow sank tremblingly deep into the bull’s side.
Terrified, the unsuspecting herd hastily scattered, and vanished at the sharpest trot to shielding hills.”
– Aua (Igulik Eskimo Man, Lyon Inlet), From Reindeer, Eskimo Poems From Canada and Greenland, 1973, Material Originally Collected by Knud Rasmussen
May 20, 2015
48-Year-Old World Record Shattered!
By M.R. James
Jeff Samson had been thinking more about tasty blueberries than record-class caribou antlers in early September of 2013. But as Jeff and his wife searched for patches of ripe berries in the Middle Ridge area near Gander, Newfoundland, the sudden sight of a giant woodland stag feeding nearby snagged their attention. One look was enough. Jeff hustled home to grab his bowhunting gear.
Several frustrating stalks later, everything finally fell into place when Jeff managed to slip within 15 yards of the browsing bull. A single well-placed arrow dropped the caribou and in due time rewrote the Pope and Young Club record book.
See Original Article About the Samson Stag by M.R. James
THE McCARTY BULL
Michael Patrick McCarty
World class animals of any species of big game are hard to come by, and the taking of a world record animal can make some big news in the bowhunting world. Obviously, this is old news for some, but I have only recently discovered it.
I must tell you, it really sent me back in time.
My father, Mark A. McCarty Sr., was an archer and a bowhunter before it became more widely popular. The art and challenge of the sport truly appealed to his character and can-do attitude. He was a rifle and shotgun hunter from an early age, but put them both away for good after killing his first white-tailed deer with the bow & arrow.
He fell in love with the idea of Newfoundland after meeting legendary sportsman and filmmaker Lee Wulff. Mr. Wulff was known primarily as a fisherman, but he was also the first person on the island known to have killed both a caribou and a moose with archery tackle. It was not long before my dad had made the first of several bowhunting trips to Newfoundland.
He fished and hunted for moose, black bear, and caribou, but it was the Woodland Caribou that enthralled him. He very badly wanted to take one home.
He did just that in 1966, and oh what a caribou it was. In fact, it would have been a world record animal had it not been bested by the stag taken by Dempsey Cape and two other bulls killed at about the same time, though I am not privy to the exact chronology of the events. Apparently, 1966 was a very good year for Woodland Caribou hunting in Newfoundland.
I remember how excited he was when he returned home. His success created quite a stir among his friends and his taxidermist, who was also an official Pope & Young Club Scorer. The news of the Dempsey Cape bull or any of the others had not yet reached him, and from what he could tell he had just taken the new world record.
I remember his astonishment when the word came down, and I would not be honest if I did not report that he was just a little deflated when he realized that his accomplishment was so short-lived.
Such is the nature of records, I suppose…
Nevertheless, he was happy for the hunter and more than willing to give credit where credit was due. After all, he knew first hand what it took to get the job done in that wild and hard-won country. He had quite a difficult hunt himself.
The story goes, as I remember it, that he had returned to hunt caribou here for the second or third time. After several days of hard hunting and several close calls, he and his guide spotted a bull that really got their attention. It was tough going, and no mater what they tried the stag remained just out of range for several hours. The moss and muskeg took a heavy toll on their legs, and he was just about done-in when he finally worked his way into position.
He said it was quite a long shot for his Black Widow Recurve, but it was that shot or nothing and he had to try. He launched a cedar shaft with a Hilbre broadhead at about 65 yards, and was elated to see the bull react to what was an obvious hit.
Unfortunately, the celebration was rather short-lived too, as he soon discovered that the arrow had hit towards the rear of the animal and was now lodged in the hindquarters.
The bull was obviously compromised, but far from ready to give up easily. Knowing the toughness and moral constitution of my father, neither was he. He told me that he stalked this bull for another mile and more, and even watched helplessly as it swam across a good-sized lake.
But the bull was beginning to tire. Finally, after working their away around the lake, near the end of a long day, he was able to get another arrow into the boiler room from a distance of forty yards. And, as they say, the rest is bowhunting history.
I have lived with that story, and others, for nearly fifty years. It is one of the reasons that I became a hunter, and more to the point, a bowhunter. It has led me on many outdoor adventures, for game small and large across North America. I would not have had it any other way.
I have yet to see this magical place called Newfoundland, but I want to, in fact yearn to, and it is at the very top of my bowman’s bucket list. I doubt if I could ever come across a stag as fine as Mr. Sampson’s current world record, or one as special as my father’s. But that won’t keep me from trying.
Bowhunting means everything to me, and it is the thrill of the chase and the sheer magnificence of the Woodland Caribou that keeps me going. In my time I will hunt one up in honor of those who have come before me, and for all of those who can’t wait to get there too!
*I have used the 1993 record book as an example, as I do not have the most recent record book in hand at this time. As you can see my father took his bull at King George IV Lake. I believe that this area may be now closed to hunting, but I am not sure of the details. My father passed along several years ago, and the mount of his caribou was lost in a fire. I did, however, have a good long look at it. It remains stored in a good place, right at the forefront of my archer’s dreams.
Anyone know where my father’s bull stands at this time?
Like many things in the world of sporting gear, the choice of a proper fitting bow, arrows to match, and the appropriate accessories to make it all work well together is a highly selective and personal choice.
It can also be a bit intimidating, for the combinations available in today’s bowhunting world are virtually limitless, if not mind-boggling. One person could not possibly try out even a small fraction of the more popular products, though it would surely be a whole lot of fun to try.
So what’s a conscientious and inquisitive bowhunter to do?
Well, my strategy of late has been, in many ways, to return to the archery days of my early youth. Mine was the days of Fred Bear and Frank Pearson, to name just a couple of the more obvious icons. It was long before Mr. Allen, or Mr. Jennings, appeared on the scene.
To be honest, I had already given up on those things with wheels a few years back, along with many other items of the mechanical kind. Not that there is anything wrong with that type of equipment, and power to you if you prefer the compound bow and some miscellaneous gadgets. It’s just no longer my particular cup of tea.
Still, it took me several decades to fully and unapologetically embrace the fact that I simply love the elegance and simplicity of the stick and string. In my view, archery has always been much more about art and intuition than science, or physics. Pull it back and let it go, I say, and watch the arrows fly.
Today’s modern recurves can offer all of that and more, with some remarkable engineering to go along with it. They can also be shot with surprising precision.
Lately, my current setup consists of a 60″ Hoyt Satori Traditional Recurve at 50# draw weight, Easton 340 Axis Traditional carbon shafts (with three pink 4″ parabolic cut left-wing feathers and Fred Eichler Custom Cap Wrap from Three Rivers Archery), and a 200 grain Helix Single Bevel Arrowhead (in left bevel to match the left-wing feathers).
I chose a Selway Archery Quick Detach Quiver to complete the package.
The Satori is available in several riser and limb configurations, and in this case I selected a 17″ riser and a shorter limb package which works very well in the confines of a ground blind or tree stand.
If pressed, I might agree that the 50# draw weight may be a little light for a big game animal like an elk, but then again, perhaps not.
I am a big believer in the use of heavy, weight forward shafts. With that in mind, I have attempted to compensate for any draw weight deficiencies by adding a 75 grain insert up front, with a big chunk of steel on the pointy end. The end result is about 610 grains of quick and unadulterated death.
However, as you might guess, it is pretty slow by compound bow standards, and it is definitely a close range affair. But in the end it is very stable, quiet, and target bow accurate. It also hits very hard, with penetration to spare.
As you can see from the photos below, first hand experience has shown me that the combo is very effective on big game from pronghorn to elk, for example. Both of these animals were literally dead on their feet when the broadhead hit them, and were recovered within one hundred yards of the shot.
“For the wild animal there is no such thing as a gentle decline in peaceful old age. Its life is spent at the front, in line of battle, and as soon as its powers begin to wane, in the least, its enemies become too strong for it; it falls.”
– Ernest Thompson Seton, Lives Of The Hunted, 1901
There is a place I have been that many elk hunters must eventually visit. The mountains may shine amidst spectacular landscapes and it may look like typical elk country, but somehow things are different there. It is a land of mystery and natural forces inaccessible by horseback, jeep or other conventional means. Inward rather than outward, it is a journey of the heart on a path unique to each individual. It is a place you only know once you get there.
I found myself in such a place some years ago, while archery hunting in the high desert country of northwestern Colorado. Elk hunting had been my passion for a couple of decades, more often than not with bow and arrow as the weapon of choice. I’d hunted more than a few of Colorado’s limited-entry units with a fair amount of success. And my overwhelming concern had always been the pursuit of the big bull – the bigger the better.
He filled my dreams and consciousness and became part of my daily motivation for living and working in Colorado. I would find him, and I would launch a broadhead deep into his chest. Of course, with that event, fame and fortune would soon follow.
I have always paid attention to “The Book”, and to who shot what where. I wanted very badly to be one of those fellows with the 27 record-book entries, who had just returned from Montana or Mongolia, or that private ranch many hunters drool over. You know the ranch of which I speak, the one with a Boone and Crockett bull on every other ridge. I wanted all of it, the recognition from my peers and the life that would come with my great success. The more entries the better and as fast as possible. I ran for the goal and rarely looked back. I can’t say nothing else mattered, but by god it was close.
Then, one long-awaited day, I found myself hunting a special-permit area in Colorado. It was indeed the land of the big bull, a trophy area of epic proportions and about as fine a spot as one could hunt without paying the big money. The animals were there. I had a tag, and I would fill it. I would take what was mine and move on.
I hunted a grueling 10 days. The terrain was rocky and mostly open, with occasional brush patches and stunted cedars. It looked like a moonscape compared to the timbered high country I was used to hunting. Getting close enough for a shot was tough, yet I was able to pass up smaller bulls and often found myself within arrow range of elk that would make most hunters light-headed. They made me light-headed. They were the biggest-bodied elk I have ever seen, with towering, gleaming branches of bone. They looked like tractors with horns.
As so often happens in bowhunting, however, something always seemed to go wrong. I made so many stalks and had so many close calls, the events are just a blur. I eventually missed not one but two record-book animals. Each time a shaft went astray, I screamed and wailed with self-pity, cursing my rotten luck and the useless stick and string in my hand. The prize was so close, yet always so far away.
Toward the end of the season, I glassed a small herd a couple of miles below me. Two were big bulls. One had cows, and the other wanted them. They were bugling back and forth and generally sizing each other up. I hurriedly planned a stalk and rushed downhill toward my dream.
I stalked and weaved and became enmeshed in a moving, mile-long skirmish line. More than once I slipped between the two animals as they worked their way through the brush and cedars. I saw flashes and patches of hide but was never able to loose an arrow. I knew that within few minutes a monstrous set of headgear would be laying at my feet. I felt I had been waiting for this moment all my life.
Soon the largest bull swung into the open sagebrush a couple of hundred yards below me, followed closely by a small herd of cows. Words cannot describe his magnificence. He was one of the finest specimens of elkness I have ever seen, with muscles that bulged and rippled under his skin. He was a bull of unique and exceptional genetics with a massive and perfect rack that appeared to stretch behind forever as he laid his head back to bugle. He was certainly at his absolute prime and, if the truth were known, perhaps a bit passed it and didn’t know it. He took my breath away. Then I remembered why I had come.
Meanwhile, the smaller and closer of the two bulls had become even more vocal, and soon it became obvious he would pass very close to me on his way down the hill. He was not quite as large as the old bull, but he was big enough all the same. My bow was up and my muscles taut as I began my draw – and suddenly he was running and he was gone. I watched spellbound as he broke into the open and headed for the elk below us.
It was one of those unexplainable moments when time stands still, and you become something more than yourself. I could have been a rock or a tree or an insect in flight. I was at once both an observer and participant in the great mystery, a part of something far larger than myself.
The air was electric and my body tingled as the two warriors squared off. The cows felt it, too, and crashed crazily over the ridge. It was as if they knew something extraordinary was going down and wanted no part of it. The bulls screamed and grunted wildly at each other from close range, with quite a bit more intensity than I had ever witnessed. And suddenly they were one. They would have made any bighorn ram proud, as they seemed to rear up on their hind legs before rushing and clashing with a tremendous crack. I watched as they pushed and shoved with all their might, a solid mass of energy and immense power surrounded by flying dirt and debris.
They showed no signs of quitting. Soon it dawned on me that they were too preoccupied to notice what I was doing, even though there was virtually no cover for a stalk. My legs carried me effortlessly over the rough and broken ground, and I was giddy with the exhilaration of the end so close at hand. The larger of the two was obviously tiring, and I remember feeling a pang of sorrow for an animal that would soon be beaten, probably for the first time in a very long time, and would now have to slink off humiliated and cowless.
They pushed and they struggled and, for a few moments, seemed to have reached a stalemate as I neared bow range. The old bull hesitated, then pushed, and when the other bull responded, the old bull spun like a Sumo Wrestler, took the uphill advantage and charged. I stood dumbfounded as the two hit the top of a shallow ravine and disappeared from view.
When I reached the edge of the drop-off, the fight was over. The old bull crawled slowly out of the ravine, managing to keep the only two trees between us all the while. He moved sorely and looked like he had just survived 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. I was probably the least of his problems.
I found the other bull where I knew he would be. I sent a shaft his way and ended what remained of his life, although his fate had already been sealed. A very long tine had done its job as well as any arrow ever could.
I collapsed by the side of that marvelous creature as if I were the one who’d just been beaten, and in a way I had. I stared off into space, confused, a little angry, and barely able to grope around in my pack for a gulp of water, half laughing, then crying. I don’t know how long I remained there before a distant bugle brought me back into the moment, reminding me of the work at hand and the long uphill walk back to my truck.
His head hangs in my den now, and I still stare at him in wonder and amazement. When my friends and family ask why I didn’t have him officially scored for the record book, I usually mumble some vague and incoherent answer, as the right words never seem to come.
For some reason, antler measurements have ceased to matter to me. It has something to do with realizing animals are much more than the sum of their parts. Hunting and the hunted remain a significant part of my life, but my reasons for hunting, and my life in general, have changed in some way I have yet to fully understand. Perhaps more than anything, I realize just how much I love to hunt. And that in itself is more than enough reason for doing it.
The bull’s proud head on my wall will always serve to remind me of that special place I have visited and hope to never forget.
I am, and will always be, forever humbled. Perhaps you have been there yourself.
“Elk hunting runs deep. Not that it’s always fun, because it isn’t. It’s a contrast in superlatives, ranging from agony to euphoria, and it will stretch your senses to the limit. It raises you higher, drops you lower, deep into your body, mind, emotions, and soul. You may like elk hunting, you may not, but definitely you won’t forget it”. – Dwight Schuh, Game Country, October, 1989
“A Bowhunter is a Hunter Reborn – Forever…” – Michael Patrick McCarty
Death Is A Most Serious Business
Unknown Artist Signature
Directly above is a photo of an original print from my personal collection. I have owned it for several years, and in fact found this at an antique store not long after I wrote this article. As you might imagine, it means a great deal to me.
I am unable to translate the title, nor identify the artist. I would love to do both, and also give proper attribution to the artist.
“A custom made, traditional bow is like a fine musical instrument in the hand. And no, not all recurve’s are created equal. Targets or game, just ask any Fedora shooter”.
Not all hunting bows are created equal, and that can certainly be said of my 64″ 560 Hunter Takedown Recurve built to order by Mike Fedora more than 20 years ago.
A friend who is a martial artist and fellow archer was duly impressed when I handed it to him last week. He realized immediately that he was holding something special, but what he said was not what I expected. He called it a “bow of war”, which gave me pause since I had never looked at it that way. I tend to evaluate it along more artistic and romantic lines, but I suppose I can see what he means. There is no doubt that this bow means business, and it has the look and feel of a serious broadhead delivery device.
With a draw weight of 73# at 29 1/2″, it is in fact somewhat of a battle to get it back to anchor point. As you may know, recurve’s do not break over to a lesser hold weight as you complete your draw, as do most modern compound bows. What you’ve got is what you get, right to the end, and anything over 70# can really get your attention. I also tend to stay at full draw before releasing much longer than the average bowhunter, an ingrained habit left over from my target shooting days that really does not make shooting it any easier.
So, at the risk of stating the obvious, you might say that I am a bit over-bowed at this time in my archery life. It’s not the bow’s fault, however, because it draws smoothly and doesn’t stack. The real problem lies in the fact that it was built for a much younger, and stronger man – which I no longer am. Still, I can manage to get by if I work my way up to it by staying in shape and shooting some lighter bows during the year.
It’s particularly good at mid-range and longer yardages, and for me it is point on at a more than surprising 70 yards. It casts a heavy arrow too, and very few recurve’s are capable of delivering that kind of punch downrange.
It is a joy to carry in the wide open spaces and rugged terrain of the west, and to be frank, it has become an old and trusted friend. Most importantly, it also tends to hit where you are looking, more often than not.
It just may be the perfect recurve for a mountain goat hunt, or big bears, or moose, or whitetails too.
I can’t wait for my next bowhunting adventure. In the meantime, I think that I will order a second, lighter set of limbs – just in case…
I should also take this time to give credit where credit is due, with heartfelt thanks and some long overdue praise. Mike Fedora has been a master bowyer for more years than most in his stock-in-trade, and I won a lot of tournaments with his target bows in the 1970’s too. I simply can’t say enough about the man and his line of archery products.
If you are looking for a traditional bow of beauty and unparalleled quality that will stand the test of time, than look no further than Fedora Custom Bows. You will be so glad that you did.
You can contact them by clicking on the link here.
The meat of the Pronghorn Antelope is a most precious commodity from my point of view, speaking as a hunter and a huge fan of all wild fish, game, and fowl. Yet, I think it safe to say that the beast is not common table fare in most American households; in fact, I would venture to guess that very few people have ever tried it. That is a great loss to those so interested, as the animal affords one of the greatest epicurean opportunities of the west. It is my favorite of all wild meats, and there are many, many others like me.
It is understandable why so few have had the opportunity to give it a try, for it is a main ingredient not easily obtained. Pronghorn hunting permits are limited in one form or another in most of the western states, and acquiring a tag is often the most difficult part of an antelope hunt. It can take several years for the hunting gods to smile, but I can assure you that is it well worth the wait.
To my taste the flesh is fine-grained, sweeter, and more refined than most big game animals. Most venison or beef recipes will work to some degree, but it is after all, a bit different. It may take a little experimentation at first, but not too much. And as with all venison as a general rule, it is best to cook it leaning on the rare side.
To me a Pronghorn is the untamed and free-roaming veal of the western horizons, as there are some basic similarities and shared culinary characteristics. Treat it as you would prepare a nice cut of veal and you may be pleasantly surprised. A dish of Breaded Pronghorn Cutlet, or “Antelope Wiener Schnitzel”, might just do the trick.
As for spices, sometimes simple is best. If you like your entrees with a touch more complexity, then the usual candidates for veal and venison apply. But be sure to try one dish with sage as a special attraction. It is, after all, a creature of the sagebrush flats and the high deserts of the west.
Above all, enjoy your prize and savor the catch of the day. That is if you can get one to stand still long enough!
* Pronghorn has a nasty reputation as tasting overly gamey, at best, and inedible, at worst. Don’t believe it for a second. Well harvested, properly cared for in the field, and prepared in an attentive manner, antelope is hard to beat. Generally hunted in hot weather far from commercial processing facilities, heat spoilage and tainted meat is your worst enemy. The old-time hunters who really knew their meat used to say that quick cooled meat was of the sweetest kind.
Plan accordingly – dress, skin, and quarter as soon as possible and store on ice until you can refrigerate or freeze. You will be more than rewarded for your efforts, and you may find that you have acquired some new and famished friends in the bargain. It’s a fine deal, anyway you slice it.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON PREPARATION
I am a proponent of offal, or organ meats – otherwise known as the heart, livers, kidneys, and assorted parts. Many hunters choose to leave these items behind, missing out on some truly great dining as a result.
Traditional venison recipes for the liver and kidneys work well here. As for the heart, I prefer mine cut in pieces, marinated, and splayed out on a very hot grill, finished medium rare. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will become extremely tough if you do.
Be extra sure to recover the tenderloins, which sit directly under the backbone and can be tricky to find. They are quite small but highly desirable, and many hunters have simply forgotten to cut them out. I’ve done it myself a time or two, much to my chagrin.
Tenderloin can be best cooked simply, and I like to celebrate success with a heavy black skillet and some salt and pepper. After a long day or more on the hunt, there is nothing like a simple feast to finish off the fun.
As for the rest – you’ve only just begun. Chops, roast, or stew, it’s all great any way you cook it.
Have any favorite recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about ’em….
My Colorado Pronghorn hunt this year was quite successful, and I could not have done it without my Club XXL. It may have been my most important piece of gear for that particular trip.
Ground blinds can be an important component of any bowhunting strategy. They are particularly useful when conditions are not well suited for tree stands, or when any other hunting method would simply not be effective. They can be absolutely essential when hunting antelope on a waterhole or at a well used fence crossing, for example.
There are, of course, a great many designs and options on the market offered by a variety of manufacturers. Choosing the best blind depends on the kind of game that you will be hunting, and in the type of terrain you will be hunting it in.
Perhaps you are looking for a certain type of camo pattern to blend in with the background vegetation common to your hunting area. Or maybe carry weight is your most important consideration. Some pop-ups are much easier to set-up and take down than others (and for those of you that have been there – you know exactly what I mean, all cursing aside).
I am a rather large guy to begin with, so inside dimensions are of primary importance to me. I like to be comfortable, and I have found many pop-up blinds to be simply too small for my 6 foot 1″ frame. A dawn to dusk sit can grow uncomfortable under the best conditions. It can become torturous in the wrong blind.
For that reason I prefer to keep a fair amount of gear and incidentals with me, particularly when I can drive up to, or fairly close to the blind. There is nothing like an ice-cold drink from the cooler when it is 95 degrees outside, and even hotter inside. A full size chair of some kind can really make the difference too, though it tends to use up quite a bit of floor space in most ground blinds.
I found the Club XXL’s 58″ x 58″ base width to be adequate for one bowhunter, at least after some trial and error and rearranging. A few inches more would have been O.K. too.
The type of bow you are shooting may be the most important consideration. Like most of today’s archer’s, I shoot my bow without any cant, even though I do carry a recurve. I also most often shoot while sitting on a five gallon bucket, so the relationship between the window height and the height of the blind is critical. At 77″, it is tall enough to shoot my 62″ recurve.
But for me, it really is all about the windows…and to put it bluntly – they just ain’t right…
I much prefer a square or rectangular opening, and as you can see these windows are more triangular-shaped. At first use, they are confusing…at least based on other ground blinds that I have used.
As most of you know it is extremely important to work out the shot routine and possible shot locations long before the animal ever arrives. Everything needs to be right the first time too, because that may be your only opportunity for success. These windows had me baffled, and it wasn’t until several animals had come and gone and I had tried several combinations that I felt comfortable with the location and size of the shooting window.
It wasn’t my first choice for the blind location either. At first I had tried to stake it on top of a small dam, since it was obvious that several trails intersected on that end of the pond. It was not that high of an embankment, but when I tried to take a practice shot I quickly found out that the bottom of the window was too high to clear an arrow pointed at a slightly downward angle. There was no amount of shooting gymnastics that would make it work either, and my only option was to move the blind. Fortunately, I was able to work that part out a week before the season.
I found the shape of the windows to be distracting too. As we know it is critical to pick a spot on the animal’s vitals, and I found it difficult to do that when I was constantly wondering if the arrow would or would not miss the changing angle of the window.
And last, but not least, I was not impressed with the ability to change the size of the window openings. When fully open they were simply too large, and it was not easy to make them smaller and still be able to shoot.
I generally like to have at least two windows open for shooting, but with this blind that did not seem possible. I had to pick one and leave everything else closed, and then close that one down a bit more too in order to limit the amount of light coming into the blind. At that point it was dark enough inside to prevent those sharp-eyed pronghorns from spotting my movement, but they had to be in exactly the right place for me to make a shot.
So, with all of that being said, the Club XXL does have several good points. And after all, I was able to harvest one heck of a pronghorn buck in the end, so I can’t be too hard on it.
The blind is well made, and it is easy to put up and take down. It holds up well in the wind, and it blends into the surroundings fairly well without any tell-tale shine.
It would probably work better in the timber or brush country too, rather than in the sage and wide open hills of the antelope lands. In that kind of vegetation zone it would be possible to add some branches and other concealment and control the size of the shooting windows much more easily.
All things considered, it is a good blind for the money.
I do recommend it for many hunting situations, particularly for those who prefer the gun. I recommend it for the bowhunter too, – with reservations…
But then again, we all need more than one blind anyway, right?
*In the last two years I have used the The Double Bull Deluxe Ground Blind, alo mde by Primos, and I have come to really like it. It does have a double wide, zipperless door for much easier access, and the window design is much more compatible for a bowhunter. It is just tall enough for me to be able to use my 60″ recurve bow when shooting from my knees, which I prefer to sitting on a bucket, stool, or chair. To be honest, I still have some trouble when setting it up, but perhaps that is more my problem than a design issue. After all, I just have never been that mechanically inclined, and I am not so good at puzzles. You…?
A seasoned and wise old billy of the mountain goat kind is many things, yet above all things, an extreme and elemental force defined by chilling winds, lightning, and mother nature in all her raw and naked glory. He can be found, if you dare, in that dizzying land of avalanche chutes, jumbled boulder fields, and rarefied air far above timberline. And find him you must, for he will not find you.
Add to this mix a man who longs to do just that, yet wonders if the body will still follow the wishes of the mind. Somehow the mountain slopes have become even steeper over the years, and the realities of the inevitable aging of flesh and bone are fast approaching like ominous, black-dark thunderheads over the peaks. This combination of animal and man may or may not be a match made in heaven. But it is a miraculous association none the less, built solidly upon a foundation of hope and lofty dreams.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I was successful in Colorado’s annual big game application lottery this year, and I don’t mind saying that I must have been a perplexing sight at the Post Office a few weeks ago. Only another big game hunter would recognize the shell-shocked posture, wide open mouth, and classic thousand yard stare of a person holding that coveted, newly printed tag.
Ten years are a long time to wait for a hunting permit, so I hope you will forgive me for not being able to think too clearly just yet. The receipt of what is most likely a once in a lifetime permission slip has a way of immediately reorganizing one’s pressing list of priorities.
You might say that the mere thought of this adventure gives me considerable pause, as well as a strange and vague uneasiness in the innards. After all, mountain goat hunting is not for the faint of heart under almost any circumstances. Stories of its practical difficulty and sheer physicality are legendary, and in fact, sometimes terrifying.
Just two years ago a goat hunter died not far from where I will be hunting, and I doubt that I will be able to discount that kind of fact. He had been successful too, but then fell from a cliff while packing out his goat.
My license is for Game Management Unit 12 in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area near Aspen, and it would be hard to find a more picturesque backdrop for a backcountry expedition. It may also be one of the more challenging units in the state due to limited access and other factors. In other words, it is brutally rugged and unapologetically unforgiving. The goats are a long, hard hike with a heavy pack from most almost any trailhead.
Legally, I may harvest a male or female goat, and it is a rifle tag. However, in Colorado the regulations allow me to hunt with a bow & arrow if I so choose, and I do. I was born a bowhunter, and a man must stay true to himself in matters such as this
Perhaps it is testing the fates to leave the rifle at home, since it is not easy to get the job done no matter what the weapon. I would also like to locate a mature billy and place myself within range of my recurve bow, a short-range instrument to say the least. But I’ve never had trouble creating boundary stretching goals for myself, and there’s nothing wrong with setting the sights on high.
It would be easy to become overwhelmed with all of the logistics involved. A great deal of contingencies must come together to be successful, which means of course that a lot of things can also go wrong. It would be fair to say that this hunt begins when you open that long-awaited envelope, and I suspect that I will never really feel fully prepared. And the fact is, even though I hunted them in Alaska forty years ago, I really don’t know all that much about goats.
Luckily, Douglas Chadwick does. A wildlife biologist, Chadwick spent many years studying this fascinating animal and famously called him “The Beast The Color of Winter”, in his book so aptly named. He was the first biologist to immerse himself in their everyday doings so completely, and to read his words about his life among the goats leaves one in awe and admiration of an animal that frolics so easily upon a place of such majesty and formidable beauty.
Every aspect of a mountain goat is improbable. At first glance their outward appearance can severely contrast with the splendor around them, for they do seem to be built from an odd and incongruent collection of body parts. They perform highly impossible, unbelievable feats in impassable terrain, clinging to tiny footholds on cliffs where even angels fear to tread.
Few people get to spend much time with them, if at all. If you do the encounters are more like the desperate escapades of a tethered astronaut who must return to base after a measured length of time, or face terminal consequences. To hunt them is a hard-won and precious gift.
Yet, Chadwick also refers to them as creatures of habit, perhaps to a fault. Throughout the year they move from winter and summer ranges as conditions dictate, returning to the same areas each season. In late summer and early fall they will often feed in the same sunlit meadow in the early morning, and then return along a well-worn path to bed for the day on the same protective ledge.
That’s a very exciting bit of news, since I am a creature of habit myself. I also have a large reservoir of patience, gathered over a lifetime of hunting experiences.
There’s some other things I know too. Concealment and ambush are the bowhunter’s stock in trade, and it is an extremely effective hunting strategy under the right circumstances. It is one of the few advantages in our little bag of tricks, and if you know anything at all about the severe limitations of archery equipment, you will know that we need and welcome any advantage that we can find. It’s not much, but it is…enough.
And so, the time is at hand. The exercise program and the preparations have begun.
“Let the games begin”, I cry, and I pray that the arrow flies swift and true. I plan to savor every breathless, lung-busting, leg-muscles-turned-to-jelly thrill of it all.
You can believe that I will be in that special place called mountain goat country this September; watching, high on a ridge where brilliant blue sky crashes hard against rock and snow. I shall sit with back to granite, eternally waiting for that great white beast to turn in my direction. Hanging there on the mountain, part of it, with a shining smile upon my face and a razor-sharp shaft on the string.
Wish for me to possess, if just for a moment, the fortitude and wilderness spirit of the goats themselves. Wish me the providence and predatory skills of all high country hunters everywhere, be they two-legged or four. I am no doubt going to need all the moral support I can muster, and perhaps a portable oxygen tank to go.
It is what mountain dreams and big adventures are all about, and it looks like I am on my way at last, god willing…