I set up for an afternoon hunt on day 1 in Ohio about 2/3 the way to the top of the ridge on a small parcel of land. I used six stepps, a battlement platform, and the berserker, put my face to the wind and hunkered in. As soon as the squirrels accepted my arrival and the woods returned to life, I began a short, blind call sequence of doe bleats and grunts.
Not 3 minutes later, a nice buck emerged from the treeline and tended to a scrape at the edge of the field. I grunted again, more aggressively this time. I had his attention. He turned and headed my way - 100 yards, 80, 60... But, he was angling toward a weak side shot. Slowly, I began to rotate around the tree in what felt like a series of impossibly small movements. Suddenly, the old buck disappeared from the hardwoods and back into thick cover. Defeated, I readjusted my position, racked my bow, and spent the next hour replaying the encounter. I made a mental note to add a stepp on the right side of the battlement to improve the stability of another potential weakside shot.
As the golden hour approached, I saw a doe feeding 70 yards out at the field edge and reached for my grunt call, hoping to create one more opportunity before dusk. Not halfway through another grunt sequence, a giant body cruised along the field edge, adding his own series of short, throaty grunts. I froze and watched him tear up a line of saplings. I grunted again to no avail; he was no longer concerned with my threat and chased his doe as the last light faded.
I took my platform with me but left my stepps in the tree, unsure if I would hunt the same stand the following morning or wait until the afternoon to return. Back at camp, I recounted every detail to my boyfriend, Taylor, who had his own exciting encounter with a nice 8 not 500 yards from my set. We called my brother, Drew (@wildedgeinc). His advice - get your ass back in that stand in the AM and don't forget to snort wheeze; this was obviously a dominant buck. Taylor and I spent the next hour laughing at my sad attempt to practice a snort wheeze, until we finally deemed it *good enough.*
The following day, we were up early, wanting to return to our stands well before the first light. I headed back equipped with a set of 5 steps. I knew if that buck were going to come down off the field, I would need to be a few feet higher. So, I added two steps to my original set and used the remaining three to build a ring of stepps as my platform, which would give me the most stability to counter this tree's slight, downhill lean.
Anticipation was high as the sun began to rise, and three grey shadows fed along the field edge. They needed to stay put just a little longer. Finally, I had enough light to clearly see the big body from last night's hunt pushing two does back and forth. I grunted more aggressively than before. He turned and faced me before running to rip up that same line of trees. This time I knew what to do and let out my best snort wheeze.
The big-bodied buck wasted no time, descending the ridge directly to me - 60 yards, 50... I grabbed my bow and was ready to draw. He was closing the distance - 40, 35... more slowly now, more tentatively. I grunted quietly once more, pointing the tube in the opposite direction. He continued - 30, 20, 10... We were now face to face. Realizing his error, he stomped once and turned broadside to leave. I drew immediately, bleated to stop him, and sent the broadhead through his heart. I held my breath - 40, 50, 60 yards, and the adrenaline flew from my body, leaving me shaking uncontrollably. I did it. At 7:46 AM on Day 2 of our Ohio hunt, I texted Taylor and Drew, "BIG BUCK DOWN!!"
Lots of people dream of going on out-of-state hunts; it’s probably one of the top five things my hunting buddies and I discuss. The problem is heading off in pursuit of bear, elk or a lot of times even deer in other states can become fairly expensive pretty quickly. Factoring in care for the animal once you’re successful can bring in a host of other logistical challenges into the mix… it’s enough to make the average person give up and say “One day…” as the years pass on by. My next few blogs are going to focus on an out-of-state hunting adventure that IS incredibly doable, and the steps that we’ve taken to make it happen. For the past seven years in a row, I’ve taken my boys on an annual “turkey tour”, covering multiple states and allowing for a wide variety of adventure! What’s even better is I’m going to show you how to do this on a very meager DIY shoestring budget!
“Turkey tours” seem to be almost normal these days. In large part, that’s due to the wildly popular adventures “The Hunting Public” guys chronicle on their YouTube channel. Trust me, when we went on our first one seven years ago, they weren’t. To think of hitting multiple states in succession without coming home and perhaps being gone up to a couple weeks at a time was a stretch for me when I first started contemplating it… but the more I looked into it, researched it and began looking at my available resources, the more it looked doable. Here’s how I started to put it together:
Author: Greg Staggs
I’m a trapper. Let me clarify: I’m a HARD-CORE trapper. For many, that elicits a wide range of emotions right off the bat. There isn’t hardly an outdoor activity as misunderstood as trapping. Many people have very preconceived notions of what trapping is – and what it isn’t.
Largely, that’s due to one of two things: First, let’s be brutally honest – trapping is a dying art. There’s almost nothing in the outdoor spectrum that takes as much work, as much attention to detail, and as much unmitigated discipline as trapping does. Let’s face it; in today’s “microwave society”, we outdoorsmen like success to come quickly – and easily. It’s one of the reasons food plots are a multi-million dollar industry in the world of deer hunting; it sure is a whole lot easier to sit in an elegant box blind overlooking a lush green field as opposed to diving in to the undergrowth and emerging with briar cuts across your face and cheeks. Trapping puts you on the ANIMAL’s terms more than anything else out there – not yours.
Secondly, it’s been the easiest for animal-rights activists and PETA-type wackos to attack thus far. Because the numbers of actual trappers are dwindling, there’s more and more people in our country who are truly ignorant of both the skillset it takes to catch a target animal, and what actually happens when you do. That makes it very easy to misconstrue the truth and spread false propaganda. In other words, it makes it very easy to spread lies about trapping. Ever heard the old adage that you don’t know what you don’t know? Or even better, as the great Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that hurts. It’s what we know that ain’t so.”
Author: Greg Staggs
If you’re on social media as much as I am, you inevitably notice new trends. One of my favorites that started popping up in my feed this past fall was a series of memes which started with the phrase “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…” Usually they were supportive, uplifting and encouraging words that were intended to raise the spirts of someone who might be undergoing a challenging situation of their own.
So, here’s my take on it: I don’t know who needs to hear this, but… the end goal isn’t saddle hunting. The end goal is to kill your target animal. Yep, I said it.
So far this season, I’ve regaled you with a collection of stories about my outdoors experiences… most of those have been singular in nature – meaning, each story has been about one topic, i.e., turkey hunting, or growing up in the outdoors, or chasing public-land bucks. I thought I’d change it up this time and throw out a hodgepodge of tips and tricks for you guys to consider. Take them or leave them as you need!
Tips and Tricks for Bowhunters
Author: Greg Staggs
As a long-time moderator on one of the most popular bowhunting forums on the internet, I consistently see two questions come across the screen from beginning bowhunters: How many pins should I use, and what colors should they be? Given that the large majority of bowhunters harvest their quarry at a distance of around 20 yards, I offer up a system that has worked extremely well for me chasing whitetails across the Midwest...
Author: Greg Staggs
“Hey, I’m hunting over here,” called out the voice from above. I stopped and quickly scanned the skyline before spotting the figure perched atop the platform in the tree. I closed the remaining distance between us and we quietly greeted one another before he dropped the bombshell. “Just so you know, my buddy and I are accessing this area through that field” he said, pointing past the low-water creek and in the direction of a cut bean field.
“THAT field?!” I asked incredulously...
Author: Greg Staggs
The icon alerting me that I had an instant message waiting to be read lit up as innocently as all the other times it ever had when someone messaged me through Facebook. I stole another glance to my left and identified the squirrel shuffling through the crisp November leaves, periodically burying his nose deep enough to hide his eyes from the still morning air. A pair of wood ducks raucously lifted off the slough to my right, and I scanned the water’s edge where it came up and lapped at the trees that marched out into its depths with extra care, looking for an animal that may have spooked them from their floating perches.
Satisfied I was alone for the present time, I turned my focus toward the phone in my hand and tapped the little button to open my message folder. A few seconds later that aforementioned innocence was gone. “Hey man, I think I’m pretty sure I know exactly where that spot is… Good luck to you.” Or something like that. It could have said I want to send you a million dollars; frankly, I couldn’t see past “I know where that spot is…”
Author: Greg Staggs
Three simple words ended a three-year quest. Of course, even those couldn’t be that simple.
Three years earlier, I accompanied the man who had moved in next door to my family to Colorado for his 34th straight trip to the Rocky Mountains. I had met Larry Pierce at what we affectionately called “Crappie Camp”, where a few friends of mine had a cabin on one of the local lakes. Somewhat of a crappie-fishing legend, he came in a week early every year and caught all the fish for the fry that would feed upwards of 30 grown men with nothing but filets on a weekend night.
He had sought out the owner of the vehicle with the personalized BOHNTR plates pulled to the side, and we had formed a fast friendship. When he and his wife, Jo, moved in next door a couple years later, it was a true Godsend as they quickly became a very special, loving third set of grandparents to my two boys.
Tagging along those first two years with Larry, I came so agonizingly close to punching my tag each year. Once, I was working my way back from a remote meadow up the draw back to camp when I had a nice 5x5 come down and slip in behind me across the canyon bottom. A quick cow-call with my mouth stopped him in his tracks as I snapped to full draw, but...
Author: Greg Staggs
The question probably came from as far out of left field as she would have ever expected. It was more of a statement, actually.
“I grew up hunting. I bowhunt. I’m going to have mounted animals in my house. I’m not saying this relationship will ever get to that point…” I trailed off. Then I picked back up again, diving full-steam ahead. No sense in stopping now. “But if it ever does,” I began again, “Is that going to be a problem?”
She thought for the briefest of moments before giving her answer. “As long as you don’t put them in the bedroom, bathroom or the kitchen.” I paused just as briefly. “Fair enough,” I answered before we both started scanning our menus in prelude to the meal on our first date.
It had been the second question of the night for my future wife, right after the one asking when she wanted to have kids. We were both a bit older: She had been in the work force for a while and I was in my last year of graduate school. We had both been in enough relationships to know what we didn’t want, and neither one of us danced around issues important to us. We dove headlong into a beautiful relationship that after 24 years of marriage and counting has continued to provide me with the most supportive bowhunting spouse who doesn’t hunt that I could have ever hoped for.
Author: Greg Staggs
The twin set of taillights quickly gained speed on the gravel road, disappearing in a cloud of dust and leaving the darkness to quickly envelope me and the gear stowed beneath the bridge. The water quietly lapped at the side of the boat, making soft plinking noises, and I managed to make out its form below me in the soft moonlight. I plopped lazily onto the concrete bridge, settling in for what was sure to be a thirty-minute wait as Dad drove his white pickup to drop off at our destination. Mom was following in the car so she could bring him back to the boat, then she would go home – her night over even as ours was barely beginning.
A chorus of insects slowly gained volume to accompany the cascade of fireworks hanging in the distance over town. I swung my feet slowly to the rhythm of the screaming cicadas and katydids and enjoyed the show until my parents returned.
“There’s a pretty big one sitting up that way about sixty or seventy yards,” I told Dad after we said our good-byes to Mom. “I may have spooked him off, though. I walked up that field row to see if I could place him a little better when y’all guys first left. I haven’t heard him since.”