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Whitetails Hunting Tips from the First Lite Pro Staff

Posted by Ford Van Fossan on

There are 30 Million White-tailed Deer in this country...

...but that doesn't mean that killing one of them is a cake walk. To celebrate North America's most popular game animal, here are some tips from the First Lite Pro Staff to help you fill your tag this season.

IMG_9507_600_400 Its important to have multiple stands to select from in varying conditions. Photo credit: Captured Creative.

Knock on doors

 For better or worse, the vast majority of whitetails harvested every year are killed on private lands. With today's burgeoning populations of deer many landowners are more than happy to have a few less on their property. It never hurts to ask.

IMG_6225_600_338 Many landowners are open to having hunters on there property especially if their soybeans or flowerbeds are being nibbled. Photo credit: Captured Creative.

Scout, Scout, Scout

Look for natural food sources, trails, scrapes and rubs. Set up cameras if you have access to them. Have several trees ready to go so that when the weather moves in or the rut begins you can take advantage of variable deer movement. Most of the work of harvesting whitetails occurs before the hunter ever climbs into the stand.

FL_IMG_2571_600_400 Trail cams reveal where and when deer are moving through a given area. Photo credit: Tight Lines and Big Tines.

Work the military crest

Deer tend to walk the "military crest" or the top 2/3rd's elevation line in hill country on the leeward (downwind side) of a ridge, and then will often bed on the points of ridges with the wind at their back. This allows the daytime's rising thermals to create a scent zone that allows the deer to smell what is behind them and see what is in front of them. Knowing these lines and bedding spots, intercept them in the morning or evening.

photo oct 06  7 15 54 am_600_399 (1) Discovering and taking advantage of consistent movement corridors helps put deer on the ground. Photo credit: Tight Line and Big Tines.

Find him, don't push him

When it comes to hunting a mature buck, locating deer while also putting very little pressure on the area is key. Get to vantage points and glass bean fields from long distances, let trail cameras sit for 8-10 weeks without checking them, and treat your hunting land as a sanctuary.

image1 (4)_600_339 Sometimes a vehicle drop off can help in bagging  cagey whitetails. Photo credit: Jon Sutherland.

The drive-by

Whitetails are very wary animals. Walking into the stand can alert them just enough to make them hunker down until dark. One technique is to have a buddy drive you in and drop you off, and drive away. The sound of the vehicle cruising away makes any bedded deer within hearing distance feel the danger has left.

image1 (2)_600_339 Pro Staffer Jon Sutherland with a whacker buck in Kentucky. Photo credit: Jon Sutherland.

That's all for now. From all of us here at FLHQ, best luck in the deer woods!

Preseason Fitness with Stefan Wilson of Hunting Fit

Posted by Ford Van Fossan on
DSC_0014 Dead lifts and other multi-joint exercises strengthen the posterior chain, helping to prevent injury and lower back pain in the woods.

Hunting seasons are fast approaching and with the right preparation you will be reaping the joys of a successful hunt. When preparing for hunts, it can be easy to overlook one aspect: Your fitness. Physical fitness is just as essential to hunting as practicing shooting. Without fitness, you very well might be going home empty handed. So what are some things you can do right now to get ready got the upcoming hunting seasons? There are two elements of physical fitness that are necessary for hunters: Cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

Cardiovascular Training Techniques

When considering how to train for cardiovascular endurance, you have to think about how you hike while you are hunting. Typically, it is a series of pauses followed by short bursts of hiking, then pausing again. It is essential to "practice how you play," or in other words, train the way you hunt. That is where high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) and tabata training come in.

H.I.I.T. is a form of cardio that focuses on sprints and active rest. With interval training, the sprinting portion of the workout is done at a high level of exertion. This should last for about 30 to 60 seconds, based on your fitness level. The active rest portion is done at a slower pace in which you are still moving, but slow enough that your body is able to recover; this period last for about one to two minutes. A typical H.I.I.T. workout should last around 20 minutes, cycling between sprints and active rest. You can do any cardio exercise you prefer; however, you should try to focus on those exercises that will emulate hiking (stair-stepper, jogging on an incline, etc.). H.I.I.T. cardio will train your body to be accustomed to the drastic changes in exertion that take place during a hunt. If you are new to this type of training, start with two minutes of warm-up, followed by eight cycles of 30 seconds of sprinting and 90 seconds of active rest. Finish up with two minutes of cool down. As your fitness level increases, increase the duration of time you are sprinting while decreasing the duration of your active rest.

Now that we have an understanding of H.I.I.T., we need to look at tabata training. Tabata training is a shorter, time efficient form of H.I.I.T. Tabata training is often used with one multi-joint cardio exercise (burpees, high knees, mountain climbers, etc.) and should last between 4 to 10 minutes.

To perform a tabata workout, perform the selected move at absolute full intensity for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then go right back to full intensity for another 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and so on until your time is up. You should begin by doing this for four minutes until your body can adapt to the training style at which point you can increase the time each week. In terms of intensity during the workout, you should be exhausted by the end of the workout. The active 20-second intervals should be performed at the fastest possible pace while staying safe and maintaining good form. If you feel like you can keep going when the time is up, you either did not give 100% or you need to increase your time. When performed correctly, this is one of the most effective (and efficient) forms of interval training for losing weight and improving your cardio level.

Ideally, you should be performing an H.I.I.T. or tabata workout three to four times per week. You will see the greatest benefit in these workouts by doing them immediately after a resistance workout. Combining H.I.I.T. and tabata training will prepare you for the cardiovascular demands of hunting, especially when hunting at high elevations.

Strength Training – Muscle Groups

Now that we have discussed cardiovascular endurance and how to train for it, let's move on to muscular strength. Muscular strength is developed through resistance training, often with weights but other times with body weight and isometric techniques. However, building muscular strength is not just a matter of building bigger muscles. It is a process of strengthening the foundation of your body and then building from that foundation. This foundation is made up of the posterior chain and core muscles. The posterior chain is the series of muscles that run along the backside of the lower half of your body. They include all of the major muscles and stabilizer muscles in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. These muscles are responsible for giving you a solid base. They involve your core (abdominals, obliques, lower back, etc.) and help to stabilize your body. A strong posterior chain will also help prevent injury and lower back pain. Exercises that will help strengthen your posterior chain are often multi-joint exercises that involve multiple lower body muscles (deadlift, barbell squat, lunges, straight-legged deadlift, etc.).

Your core muscles are those muscles around your midsection that stabilize your body (abdominals, obliques, lower back, etc.). Strengthening these muscles is essential to preventing injury, especially when carrying a pack and hiking through hills. Exercises that use the core's full-range of motion (Russian twists, woodchops, decline sit-ups, etc.) will help strengthen your entire core.

Other exercises for upper body muscle groups are also beneficial and everyone has their own flavor for how to train their upper body. Just always remember to use proper form, value functional fitness over bodybuilding, and do the exercises that are going to help you to succeed in the field.

DSC_0026 Solid core strength is essential for long hunts in rugged country.

Strength Training Techniques

When it comes to repetitions and sets, lower weight, higher rep sets are always better for the hunter. A one-rep max with 5 minutes of rest is not going to help you on the backside of a mountain, but three grueling sets of 20 reps with only 60 seconds rest between sets will. Sets in the 12-20 rep range will not only help to build muscular strength, they will also increase muscular endurance as well.

Rest between sets is another factor. 2-3 minute rest is primarily used for powerlifting. For our purposes as hunters, the less rest, the better (Remember, practice how you play…). You need a bare minimum of 30 seconds rest between sets to give your muscles time to recover, but 90 seconds should be the maximum amount of rest.

Advanced techniques for resistance training can be great tools for building muscular strength and endurance. Isometric training is a great tool, especially with bodyweight exercises. To perform an isometric rep, raise or lower (depending on the exercise) your body or the weight to the contracted portion of the movement (when your muscles are completely engaged) and hold it for 8-10 seconds. Then slowly return to the rest position. Continue this for 10-15 reps and do 2-3 sets. This is a great tool for promoting blood flow, muscle recruitment, and improving muscle endurance.

One last thing about strength training: Do you remember tabata? It is great for weight lifting as well. To perform a tabata resistance workout, choose a weight for a given exercise that you could do 15-20 times (start on machines until you get the hang of it. Using free weights right away with tabata techniques could result in injury when fatigue sets in). Start the timer and do as many reps as you can with proper form during the working portion, then rest during the rest period. When you reach the point where you can't do full reps anymore, do partial reps. Just make sure you are working until the time is up (I like to use an interval timer app to help me keep track; when I hear the beep, it's time to go again).

Sample Workout

Deadlift – 3 sets of 12 reps (90 seconds rest between sets)

Leg press (tabata) – 4 minutes

Wall Squat (isometric) – 3 sets of 1 minute

Dumbbell lunges – 3 sets of 15 (60 seconds rest between sets)

Russian Twist – 3 sets of 30 reps

Reverse crunch – 3 sets of 30 reps

Cardio: 20 minutes on Stairmaster (H.I.I.T.) or 6 minute burpees (tabata)

These are some techniques that you can use to prepare in the next few weeks for the hunts you have coming up this season. Even though you might not have a lot of time left, these techniques will help you make the most of the time that you do have. It is all about preparation; taking the time to prepare now can pay big dividends down the line. Don't let fitness be the reason you came home empty handed. Get in shape, get out there, and get that tag filled!

Stefan Wilson is a First Lite Pro Staffer and the founder of Hunting Fit, a site dedicated to holistic preparation for big game hunting. You can read more of Stefan's articles on fitness, nutrition and strategy at the link above.


Season Openers By First Lite Team Member Nick Muche

Posted by Ryan Callaghan on
Pronghorn Nick Muche Idaho Pronghorn
Spot and Stalk Pronghorn
If you plan to take on the challenge of hunting Pronghorn spot and stalk with a bow you'd better be ready for some humble pie.  I remember the first few times I tried stalking goats, there was a lot to learn.
Finding the RIGHT animal...  If you are like me, any mature animal will suffice, especially on public land with an OTC tag.  What I mean about finding the RIGHT animal is try your best to hold off stalking a goat in a spot that you have little chance of getting close.  Some examples would be goats that are within a herd of doe's and other bucks (too many eyes), goats out in the middle of flat expanses or in the middle of Ag fields.  You'd be wasting your time trying to get into bow range of goats in these situations, especially in the early season when a decoy may not work like they do later on.  I am not saying don't do it, but your chances of success are greatly diminished in these cases.
Ideally you'd like to find a goat that is in a place ripe for a stealthy
stalk.  One bedded in a coolie or just on the other side of a hill.  Find a
goat that has some brush or sage in and around it that you can use as cover and concealment along your stalk.  These situations will provide you with a very good chance at getting an arrow into one and they will be high percentage stalks.
If you should find a buck worthy of a stalk that has a bunch of does and fawns with him, this could be a great opportunity for an ambush.  Last year I played cat and mouse with a buck that had 17 doe's with him.  I watched him for quite a while and then the entire situation made sense.  There was a lead doe in the group and the entire herd followed her.  Where she went, they went too.  In this case, it would be best to stalk her and then wait for the buck to come by.  I did this and was amazed at how well it worked, though I had picked the wrong location to set up had I been 30 yards closer I would have had a great opportunity.
Use any terrain feature possible to stay hidden along your route to the animal.  I've found that keeping some sage in between you and the animal will work.  Most times if you are hunting agriculture fields there will be ditches along the side that you can use.  Also, fence lines often provide ample overgrown brush that you can use as cover.
A tip that was told to me a few years ago has changed the way I hunt goats and I don't see many people doing it.  It seems that their eye sight is weakest at first and last light.  Use these times of the day to your advantage and slip in when they are susceptible to a stalk.  I like to find a buck and wait until the last few minutes of daylight and then move in for the shot.  It works very well.  The very first time I did this after being told it, I was able to get into 18 yards of a lone buck.  Mornings are great as well, especially if you have goats located the evening before, they shouldn't move very much at night and will be in the same general area at dawn.
The buck in the photo attached met his demise in a wide open Idaho prairie that had intermittent pockets of sage brush. It was bordered on a few sides by Alfalfa fields.  The buck was feeding in the Ag field when his doe's went to leave, heading towards the prairie and sage.  I got ahead of them and when they crossed a ditch, they came by at 45 yards.  The ditch allowed me to move freely without giving away my position and I used the does to pin point where he would eventually walk as well.
Good luck out there this summer, take your time, find the RIGHT buck and shoot straight.
Interested in following Nick?  Check him out on the team page.

Jim's Turkey Tips 2014

Posted by Ross Copperman on


ASAT crushes beaks. ASAT crushes beaks.

1) How to keep your good spots! Don’t put those elk, deer, turkey or any kind of sticker on the rear window of your truck that makes you stand out as a hunter. When I’m looking at new country and see a truck with hunting stickers I make a note and may stop back by when nobody is around.