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    • Bruce Smithhammer
      Post count: 2514

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we develop, and maintain, the skills needed for hunting.

      I’m not talking about target accuracy practice, and I’m not talking about fitness training. In fact, it’s because I see these two things focused on so much lately in bowhunting media, to the exclusion of just about everything else, that has prodded me into thinking more about all of the other skills needed to be a competent hunter, beyond being able to “run up a mountain with a 70lb pack on your back,” or consistently hit the 10 ring at 25 yards and winning archery competitions.

      Of course accuracy and fitness are important for the hunter, but I’m talking about the spectrum of skills beyond those two basic things – observation skills, tracking, reading and using terrain, calling (judiciously, of course), taking advantage of natural camoflage, practicing sitting quietly for long periods of time, intimately knowing the natural history and behavior of the species you pursue, etc.

      Personally, I work on all of these things year-round. Truth be told, it’s a huge impetus for me to get into the woods as much as possible, in every season, and it’s one of the biggest factors in why I’ve gravitated to bowhunting – because of how important being a well-rounded woodsman really is, rather than just being a shooter.

      But I’m curious to hear from the rest of you – what do you do to practice hunting skills, beyond target accuracy? Are there resources you recommend? Natural history and observation excercises that you regularly practice?

    • CareyE
      Member
      Post count: 111

      I would have to say, for me, it is simply going out and doing. As an example, hunting in PA where I do, mostly public land, you not only must figure out the game movement, you must figure out the hunters movement. Because hunting pressure is heavy where I hunt, you must look for the out of the way or the over-looked spots. It adds another factor to learning to hunt. Being a “10 ring shooter” or an Olympic Athlete Hunter is pointless if you are surrounded be nimrods who are not. I’m not sure if what I described is what you were asking, but I know it is a part of my year-round preparation.

    • Doc Nock
      Post count: 1150

      Bruce,

      You start the damndest head scratcher threads… since I’ll be AWOL for a while with this move, tonite, I’m anxious to weigh in.

      All my life, I spent every bit of time I could where there was a woods. Even growing up in the city, we had 8 square blocks of old cemetary with huge trees across the street…I’d climb the wrought iron fence and go climb a tree and try to call squirrels.

      Anytime I could, I spent in the woods or field…just walking and observing. On my grandad’s farm, too young to hunt, I once outwitted a ring neck pheasant and outflanked him and came around on him…he was looking back for me when I pounced and got tail feathers… Love that Memory! Had I caught him, he’s have spurred, pecked and throttled me good! But I counted coup.

      One reason I’m moving to TN is that the “outdoors” have dwindled to nothing but manicured parks around here…SE part of PA in Lancaster County. I drive 2.5 hrs to central PA and it’s not much better…development, development, development… wildlife has changed and patchwork of accessible land means you can’t follow critters to learn their ways or by ways.

      We have a good bit of public land, but it’s an hour at least. Lots of it butts to the river… you can only go so far till it’s a pretty steep drop off. I know deer hang there, on that steep sidehill, but it’s a long way down to the RR and river and now it’s ILLEGAL to trespass on the RR, so getting something OUT if it went DOWN… well, I leave that to the younger folks to figure out!

      I’m no great shot. I like my equipment well tuned. I try to be ethical. My bones / joints don’t go so good anymore. I can’t sit in stands like I did for 12 hrs…or 6…or 4… or walk over hill and dale most of the day sneaking along… and walk back at dark… Arthritis has had a say in that.

      I hope moving to TN will allow me more access to just get out and be a PART of the woods. I don’t think you can hone your hunter skills at home… becoming a part of nature, on HER TERMS, in her bedroom, is what I found made me think more like the quarry I sought, learn from them, the land…

      Lacking that access, civilization and the erosion of our senses reverts us back to something that is out of synch and place in the woods. Then it’s just dumb luck that puts a deer or any quarry in our path…where our hours of shooting practice take over and then the physical conditioning to help get it OUT!

      I have a cart for that! LOL…

      Good topic as always… the internet, DVD’s, seminars…can teach you INFORMATION, but “boots on the ground” seems the only way to develop SKILL

    • wojo14
      Post count: 325

      I am a new hunter, per say.

      I just try to spend as much time out in the woods/outdoors as much as possible.

      But like Doc, I too live in the suburbs, so it is not everyday I get to the woods.

      Doc, it was nice PMing you the other day. Good luck in TN. Hope it treats you well.

      I almost got a PA 6 point on Saturday….

      Keep in touch.

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      Yep, “Don’t gotta be a huntin to be a lookin and a learnin”. Quote from my old Daddy many years ago. πŸ™‚

    • Doc Nock
      Post count: 1150

      Almost got a 6 pt πŸ˜€

      The “almosts” in archery are what keep one coming back!!! That’s very cool. Being close to deer with a bow is a thrill. This area has gotten so developed, but lots of sportsman…so wherever there is public land, it’s hammered. We have a refuge next to a big State Game Land.

      Manager of the refuge said he does deer counts 3x/day year round and that by NOON on opening day of PA archery, his count doubles and stays that way till all seasons are CLOSED (late Jan). They know…they know… πŸ™‚

      Reading sign for most places I go is reading what happened LAST NIGHT…they come back at night to play, court and feed, but are gone well before first light…back to posted ground all around.

      Best time to “learn” IMHO, is off season. They let you see more of them, and watch where they run to escape… sometimes, you can even “trespass” onto private ground a ways during summer w/out seeing anyone ready to string you up by your thumbs… and see where deer go to bed, etc… and how they get there.

      Lotta time in your hunting area pays dividends… when you can make the time…other wise, you best be one lucky hunter!

    • Etter1
      Post count: 831

      Doc Nock wrote: Bruce,

      You start the damndest head scratcher threads… since I’ll be AWOL for a while with this move, tonite, I’m anxious to weigh in.

      All my life, I spent every bit of time I could where there was a woods. Even growing up in the city, we had 8 square blocks of old cemetary with huge trees across the street…I’d climb the wrought iron fence and go climb a tree and try to call squirrels.

      Anytime I could, I spent in the woods or field…just walking and observing. On my grandad’s farm, too young to hunt, I once outwitted a ring neck pheasant and outflanked him and came around on him…he was looking back for me when I pounced and got tail feathers… Love that Memory! Had I caught him, he’s have spurred, pecked and throttled me good! But I counted coup.

      One reason I’m moving to TN is that the “outdoors” have dwindled to nothing but manicured parks around here…SE part of PA in Lancaster County. I drive 2.5 hrs to central PA and it’s not much better…development, development, development… wildlife has changed and patchwork of accessible land means you can’t follow critters to learn their ways or by ways.

      We have a good bit of public land, but it’s an hour at least. Lots of it butts to the river… you can only go so far till it’s a pretty steep drop off. I know deer hang there, on that steep sidehill, but it’s a long way down to the RR and river and now it’s ILLEGAL to trespass on the RR, so getting something OUT if it went DOWN… well, I leave that to the younger folks to figure out!

      I’m no great shot. I like my equipment well tuned. I try to be ethical. My bones / joints don’t go so good anymore. I can’t sit in stands like I did for 12 hrs…or 6…or 4… or walk over hill and dale most of the day sneaking along… and walk back at dark… Arthritis has had a say in that.

      I hope moving to TN will allow me more access to just get out and be a PART of the woods. I don’t think you can hone your hunter skills at home… becoming a part of nature, on HER TERMS, in her bedroom, is what I found made me think more like the quarry I sought, learn from them, the land…

      Lacking that access, civilization and the erosion of our senses reverts us back to something that is out of synch and place in the woods. Then it’s just dumb luck that puts a deer or any quarry in our path…where our hours of shooting practice take over and then the physical conditioning to help get it OUT!

      I have a cart for that! LOL…

      Good topic as always… the internet, DVD’s, seminars…can teach you INFORMATION, but “boots on the ground” seems the only way to develop SKILL

      Really? No woods left in Lacaster County!?!?

      That seems crazy to me. I guess even Enola has changed A LOT but that’s no surprise as it is so close to Harrisburg. Lancaster used to be so rural. That’s a shame to hear.

      I sure do miss spending time up there but it’s just so hard to do anymore. Opening day at a PA deer camp is something everyone should experience one time. Really miss going upstate to float Pine Creek every year too.

      Sorry to derail the thread. That just shocked and saddened me.

    • Doc Nock
      Post count: 1150

      Of course, like I said there are Game Landis, but Far northern end…big Game Lands up along 322… I’ve coursed over 90% of that and sign by hunting season is very, very old…farms adjacent…POSTED.

      More Game LANDS down along Susquehanna River in S Lanc Co.

      I’m in between… travel is an hour minimum to either end… congestion is unbelievable. The farmers are all calling quits and at LEAST selling off all frontage road property for housing…those crowned roads are twisty and turning… heavy traffic is the pits on them… so travel time to undeveloped areas is a huge factor.

      As for the more local woodlots, they’ve been cut, fence lines torn out and made into one giant corn/soybean fields. Big farming is only way to make it I guess… More and more shopping centers, development on every road, housing on every nook and cranny.

      After harvest, one hunting buddy said here, “They take in the topsoil to the barn. Small game (squirrels) only in the “burbs” (chewing on car wiring and brake lines!!:twisted: Hard for them to find a living anywhere else…

      Alas, we’ll see what TN has to offer… at least a little less developed… Tough starting over when the pins don’t go so good anymore, but I’m going to give it a good try!

    • Bruce Smithhammer
      Post count: 2514

      Ok you jokers, let’s get this back on track. Two resources that I think are great for practicing hunting-related skills are:

      One of the best books I’ve seen on the subject, and it has certainly enhanced the way that I read and try to interpret animal sign all the time when I’m out in the woods.

      and:

      Also (obviously) lots of good info on tracking and reading sign from one of the best, but what I really like in this book is that he goes beyond this to talk about broader observation skills which I think are of benefit to the hunter, and he devotes a fair bit of space in the book to discussing techniques for moving quietly, including different techniques for walking, foot placement, etc. I gained a lot from this one, which I use all the time in trying to move through the woods as quietly as possible – another skill that can be practiced anytime.

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      And while you’re out their tracking and studying wildlife and enjoying nature, here’s a tune you can sing to yourself, over and over and over and over and…………………:D

      Thanks Bruce for bringing it up. πŸ™„

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG8__QLAcng

      Now y’all can sing it all night too. πŸ˜€

    • grumpygrumpy
      Member
      Post count: 962

      The ants go marching one by one…

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      Seriously, every time I’m out, not only am I shooting, I’m “snooping” too. I check out tracks, I find beds, I sometimes see things I knew not what they are or were. Sometimes I find a puzzle, what happened here? I try to figure who did what to who. Sometimes I find artifacts and occasionally some petrified bones. Speaking of, I have one I need to get some help on figuring out what it was.

      The computer is my friend in satisfying my curiosity, most of the time. I have had to have help identifying a few things and thankfully there are some kind professors at WTAMU in Canyon, TX.

      Like a piece of ivory stuff I found. Turns out it’s a piece of a saber toothed tigers big tooth. Glad they’re not chomping on us anymore.

      My lease is big and I can use it all year, not just for hunting season, so I spend a lot of time up there just being there trying to blend in and just be.

    • Ptaylor
      Member
      Post count: 573

      I’m in total agreement with you Bruce. There should be more of a focus on the other skills than just shooting or physical fitness. I thought I had been practicing these other things, but after a couple stalks this season I realized I need to take my off season practice more serious. I’m going to work on moving as if I’m bow hunting and trying to stalk animals I see. Often outside of the season I’ll watch animals from however far I am when I see them. I think my goal this year will be to practice stalking more, get within 15 yards of elk, bear, and deer when I spot them, instead of watch them from afar.

      But the hunting season is not over for me yet. Its still the real deal right now!

    • James HarveyJames Harvey
      Member
      Post count: 1130

      Like others said above, just being out there, being quiet and patient, with big ears, big eyes and a little mouth pays big dividends. I just spent two weeks in very close jungle doing army stuff, which was two weeks of never talking above a whisper and always moving slowly and quietly. I’ve seen cassowaries before in built up areas where they’re used to people but never a wild one. Well there was plenty of sign of them out there and my two scouts and I got the jump on one (at bowhunting range) while leading an entire platoon through the jungle. That’s about 30 guys, all carrying rifles, machine guns, HE weapons and carrying packs of around 20-30kg. Goes to show how far a little field discipline, quiet deliberate movement, can go.

      The point I’m struggling to make is that being out there, quiet and observant, regardless of what you’re actually out there for, affords you the greatest opportunity for learning. At least in my experience.

      That being said, having an experienced mentor, even someone who is only more experienced in a particular environment, to go out with would be of immense value as well.

      Jim

      PS

      The height of field discipline was shown by one of my guys. After laying still on our stomachs for about 8 hours in pouring rain, the rain let up, sun came out and a snake came slithering out of the undergrowth and snaked it’s way across this fella’s back. He didn’t move a muscle, make a noise or anything. And this was a day after one of my guys was casevac’d for a serious snakebite!

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      ausjim wrote: Like others said above, just being out there, being quiet and patient, with big ears, big eyes and a little mouth pays big dividends. I just spent two weeks in very close jungle doing army stuff, which was two weeks of never talking above a whisper and always moving slowly and quietly. I’ve seen cassowaries before in built up areas where they’re used to people but never a wild one. Well there was plenty of sign of them out there and my two scouts and I got the jump on one (at bowhunting range) while leading an entire platoon through the jungle. That’s about 30 guys, all carrying rifles, machine guns, HE weapons and carrying packs of around 20-30kg. Goes to show how far a little field discipline, quiet deliberate movement, can go.

      The point I’m struggling to make is that being out there, quiet and observant, regardless of what you’re actually out there for, affords you the greatest opportunity for learning. At least in my experience.

      That being said, having an experienced mentor, even someone who is only more experienced in a particular environment, to go out with would be of immense value as well.

      Jim

      PS

      The height of field discipline was shown by one of my guys. After laying still on our stomachs for about 8 hours in pouring rain, the rain let up, sun came out and a snake came slithering out of the undergrowth and snaked it’s way across this fella’s back. He didn’t move a muscle, make a noise or anything. And this was a day after one of my guys was casevac’d for a serious snakebite!

      Ha! Peer pressure on your P.S. part maybe:lol:? I’m guessing if he ran off screaming he may have suffered more than if the snake bit him? My old world Grandmother made me associate the word “snake” with “ax”. I know better now, but snakes are too ‘other” for me to warm up to.

    • Bruce Smithhammer
      Post count: 2514

      I’d say you’re off the hook, Jim – from everything I can gather, you spend a fair bit of your time in “hunting” practice. πŸ˜‰

      While it may not be the most glorious or exciting, I honestly think that one of the best things to practice for hunting is sitting. And I really do think that it is something one can/should practice, because the reality of sitting when hunting is that you’re not just plopping down in some random place and sitting there doing nothing – you’re deliberately choosing the right location, one that may afford a combination of some concealment while still offering visibility. A location that takes advantage of terrain features. And you’re sitting and keeping movement to a minimum, while observing and listening intently for sometimes long periods of time. And putting all that together well, and combining it with the practiced patience that it requires, really is a skill, imo – one that will directly lead to seeing a lot more animals. But I see many hunters struggle with being able to do it for any length of time before they get restless, bored, etc.

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      Clearing your mind so it’s like an open channel can’t hurt in hunting. Let it be a receiver and not full of static. I like the analogy of a quiet, clear night, filled with brilliant stars. That once in a great while shooting star being the intruding thought. If I can sit and think as much as the trees, I’m good:D.

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      That’s a good place, in the woods, for trees and peoples πŸ™‚ to think!

      Works good too on the prairie for mesquites, sagebrush and this old people.

      Wonder what the wind thinks about stuff as it blows by?

    • paleoman
      Member
      Post count: 918

      Eveerybody knows the wind just blows things off:lol:

    • RalphRalph
      Moderator
      Post count: 2544

      Well blow me down mate. Good one:D

    • grumpygrumpy
      Member
      Post count: 962

      I was asked today how I can sit still in the woods, when I cannot sit still in the kitchen having a cup of tea, or in church. I think it goes back to my childhood. I grew up in a dysfunctional home, and the woods were “safer” than home. Thus, even today, even after dark the woods are safe, and relaxing. That is my home. No, it is not sad. Even though I feel happy at home and there hasn’t been dysfunction at home for decades, I am still more at home in the woods. One would think I would have “gotten over it” by now, but some things never change.

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