Like hunting turkeys? You will miss at some point.

Turkey flying away

Turkey flying away

I truly believe that the Good Lord sent the wild turkey to keep hunters humbled. I just had finished writing “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting Book” (now available on Amazon/Kindle) some years ago, when Brad Harris of Neosho, Missouri, well-known videographer and outdoorsman, invited me on a turkey hunt. For my turkey book, I had hunted with and interviewed some of the greatest turkey hunters in the nation. I had double grand slammed on turkeys for a consecutive 2 years. I’d been taught by the best-of-the-best how to turkey hunt.

Harris and I heard three turkeys gobble, as I sat out in front of Harris against a big oak tree. The chorus of gobblers got closer, with the one in the back the strutter. I had my 12 gauge on my knee. Thank goodness that today you can buy a 12 gauge Bergara barrel to fit your CVA Apex, and use the same gun you’re using to hunt deer to hunt turkeys. All three gobblers had long beards and were fully mature birds. I knew I could do nothing less than take the dominant gobbler. As the three birds separated in front of me, I aimed at the first gobbler and shot. I jumped up to run and pick up my dead bird. But the bird wasn’t dead, and all three birds flew away. I was shocked, after having hunted 47 days each season for 2 years and having taken plenty of turkeys. Being a gentleman hunter and trying to soothe my wounded pride, Harris looked at me, smiled and said. “Don’t worry about that turkey. We’ll get us another one.”

Then at 10:00 am, a longbearded gobbler came walking up a cattle trail toward us on the side of a hill. The longbeard stuck his head up, I waited until he walked out, and I could see his beard, and then I fired. Fu-fu-fu!!! was the sound of the heavy wings of the gobbler I just had shot as he beat the air. Harris was frowning, and I felt lower than a snake’s belly. I told myself, “Nobody misses two turkeys in one morning.” I said to Harris, “I don’t know what happened. What do you think we ought to do now?” With a frown, Harris said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to lay down here, take a nap and try to forget this morning.” I hung my head like a whipped dog, went over next to a big tree and pretended to go to sleep.

After about 45 minutes, Harris told me, “Let’s go find another turkey, since we have to stop hunting at 1:00 pm.” At 12:30 pm, Harris yelped, and a close-by turkey gobbled that was walking down a hardwood stream bottom. In less than 10 heartbeats, that turkey walked right out in front of my gun barrel, but I wouldn’t pull the trigger. I was determined I wasn’t going to be the only man in the world who had missed three turkeys in one morning. The gobbler passed by me. He walked out of my sight toward Harris and

Persistance will allow you to tag that gobbler

Persistance will allow you to tag that gobbler

then back toward me. I prayed, “Please, Lord, let me take this turkey. I’ll be good. I’ll put more money in the collection plate.” I squeezed the trigger. To my surprise, the bird went down. I felt like I’d just been pardoned for all my sins.

Here’s what I learned from this turkey hunting experience:
1. You will get your feelings hurt sooner or later, when you hunt turkeys, so just prepare for it.
2. You’ll miss turkeys for no apparent reason at all. There’s no point in blaming the gun, your ammunition, your hunting buddy or God.
3. You know hunters miss turkeys. Remember, be kind, don’t tease, and don’t make fun of him. Your time will come too.

By John E. Phillips, turkey hunter for almost five decades.

Have you ever missed a turkey?

Have you ever admitted missing a turkey?

How many turkeys have you missed in one day?

What did you learn from the turkeys you missed?

Let us know.

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The Grey Ghost

Story by Dan Mortensen-Campfire Stories

Dan and Rusty with Dan's trophy Kudu

Dan and Rusty with Dan’s trophy Kudu

All too often, I find that some of the very best experiences in my life only happen once in a blue moon, or in many cases, only once.  From the gift of children, to a first buck, to fishing with grandpa that last time.  As so it is with hunting.  I often wonder if some of the places I see will ever be visited by me again–whether it be a secluded treestand in the depths of some dark swamp, to the auburn tundra of northern Alaska in August.  After bringing my CVA Apex to Africa in 2012, I had to ask myself the question–”Would I ever set foot here again?”.  And so, when my friends at Fig Tree Safaris asked me to return in 2013, I couldn’t possibly let that question be unanswered.

As I wrote about earlier last year, my trusty Apex rifle in .270/.50 cal traveled with me to take a number of plains game species.  It performed flawlessly, but I knew my caliber selection should be expanded if I was to return.  A .270 is wonderful for small to medium sized game on any continent, at ranges up to 400 yards.  But in this part of South Africa, especially at Fig Tree Safaris, shots rarely range over 100 yards, and the thick thorny brush makes for some challenging hunting conditions.  For my return trip, I added a new Apex barrel to my collection- a .45-70 gov’t.  Although factory loads for this 45-70 are somewhat anemic, handloads (especially in the 25″ Bergara barrel) are ‘lights out” on large game.  Capable of nearly 3,500 ft pounds of energy or more, the modern .45-70 loads are perfect for short range, dense brush conditions.

One of the most beautiful, and iconic critters lurking in the shadows of the South African bushvelt is the Kudu.  Appropriately titled “the grey ghost,” the Kudu is one of the most skittish and reclusive of the plains game species.  With a body size roughly equivalent to an elk, and with long spiraling horns of 5′ or more, the Kudu may be the pinnacle of the plains game species.  After 5 days of hunting at Fig Tree Safaris, it was obvious that it was going to be a challenge to get one on the ground, as we had yet to lay eyes on one.  Whether it be years of a devastating drought or the abnormally windy conditions, the Kudu had eluded us the whole trip.

I had “conned” my best friend from college Rusty Byrd into joining me on this African adventure, and after he had “tagged out” on his hunt package, I shoved a video camera in his hand and begged him to follow me the last few days.  My PH (Professional Hunter) Gert Brits, made the command decision to expand our already 20,000 acre + hunting grounds to a new piece of property a few miles farther to the east.  This property had more open areas of grass, but denser areas of brush than our previous hunting grounds.

About a mile down the dusty trail, the Land Crusier’s brakes halted the vehicle suddenly.   From the edge of the brush, and no more than 50 yards away, three Kudu bulls stood bug eyed at the three hunters scrambling around in the back of the truck.  In fact from the looks of the property we were on, we may have been the first humans these critters had seen in weeks—maybe months.  But there was no doubt in our minds that the Kudu knew exactly who we were and what we were up to.  In a matter of seconds, the three bulls vanished as quickly as they had materialized.  The red African dust drifted slowly from the once occupied opening, then quickly vanished as a sudden gust of wind burst past the truck and into the open space.

Gert knew this area well, and it didn’t take long to circle downwind of where the creatures had vanished.  Banking on the theory that the vehicle may not have spooked them terribly far, and that the dense brush offered them security, Gert picked a nearby trail downwind from their location, and pulled over.  We jumped off the truck, and with a skeptical look on his face, Gert warned Rusty and I that a Kudu’s ears are extremely large, and that we could make absolutely no noise.  As the sun worked low on the horizon, we anticipated the animals would start to feed, breaking branches to retrieve the leaves, and giving us the advantage of being able to hear them first–if we stayed silent.

For the remaining two hours of the afternoon, we stalked, making a zig-zag pattern into the wind.  The brush seemed devoid of any creatures at all.  Several times we cut Kudu tracks, but wind direction demanded we continued on our obscure route.  Just as the sun hit the horizon, we were alerted to a disturbance in the brush in front of us.  Deep in the middle of this expanse of thicket, a family of warthog was rooting in the dirt.  Although only 40 yards away, only flashes of hairy hides and feet were visible.

And then there came another sound.  Crack.  Crunch crunch.  Crack.  Gert’s eyes widened a bit when he turned to us, and I could already tell what it was.  He didn’t need to say a word as the look on his face told Rusty and I exactly what had made that noise.  We still didn’t dare move as any movement at this point before locating the animals exactly could be disastrous.   The wind had calmed to a standstill, offering us no cover noise to continue through the thicket.  After what seemed like an eternity, Gert slowly reached out to me with his left arm, grabbed my shirtsleeve and tugged me towards him, while at the same time, pointing at our 2 o’clock.  It was the biggest of the Kudu bulls, and I could tell by the look on his face, it was larger than most.  The 5′ tall spiraled horns were all that was visible at first.  As the beast lifted his head up to strip a branch, Gert and I sidestepped again about 6′ to a slight opening in the brush.  Now, I could see his head and neck, at about 45 yards.  The Apex slowly topped onto the shooting sticks that Gert had so quietly pre-arranged.  By the time I got him in the crosshairs, his head and neck had disappeared back into the brush, exposing his shoulder, and with the direction he was headed, that shoulder wasn’t going to be visible for much longer.


The brush line was covering the bottom 1/3 of the animal, and this was going to be a tricky shot, and my time was running out on this window.  I knew my Apex was a tack driver, even with the large .45 caliber loads, and I knew that 300 gr Nosler Partition could do the job–as long as I was able to avoid the brush.

Instinctively I centered the crosshairs behind the shoulder, and aimed a bit higher than normal, but well within the animals vital region.  I can’t say I remember the sound of the shot, or the feel of the Crushzone recoil pad pound into my shoulder, but I’ll never forget the sight of that animal literally flying through the brush. Bounding over 6′ bushes with ease, the Kudu would appear, and vanish much like a 800 lb jackrabbit–except these bushes were taller than I was.  His horns were laid back along his sleek grey body as he gracefully disappeared into one final swirl of thorny limbs. The brush all around us was alive with unseen creatures dashing for safety, but the sound of my bull stood out over the rest.  As things calmed down, the silence was preceded by one large final “crash”.

The bull had disappeared a little too gracefully for my liking, and our sneak to where the Kudu stood may have been the longest 40 yards of my life.  A spot of blood confirmed my bullet had connected.  In fact, for the first time in all the African game I have seen shot, this animal was actually leaving a good blood trail.  Light for the first few leaps, it quickly developed into a red carpet of dark red blotches in the sand and on the bushes.

Less than 100 yards later, Gert turned to Rusty and I with a big grin.  “Congratulations Dan, that is a HUGE Kudu bull.”  Rusty and I silently walked up to without a doubt one of the most magnificent creatures either of us had ever seen.  Upon investigation, my bullet had not completely cleared the brush after all.  The 300 gr partition, somewhere in that 45 yards, had separated in two equal size portions.  One portion had zipped completely through the 800 lb animal, while the other one had landed within 3 inches and had also done significant damage.  I looked at my Apex, and that gaping .45 caliber hole in the end of the barrel, and breathed a sigh of thanks—and relief.  You can bet that this barrel will be following me on all my close range hunts from now on.

As the three of us marveled at this animal, and loaded it into the back of the truck, the top of the sun was just disappearing below the horizon.  As we made our way back to camp, under the dark, cloudless South African sky, the stars twinkled above me as we pulled off the trail onto the pavement.  Somewhere inside I wondered if I would ever be down this trail again.  A twinge of sadness was quickly replaced with a new realization that it would not matter.  There are more adventures with good friends, thickets, and creatures awaiting in the future.   And the anticipation of those experience is as good as the memory of them.

CVA Apex in Africa with Dan Mortensen

Posted in africa, apex, cva, general, hunting, kudo, Kudu, muzzleloader, muzzleloading, rifle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to take longer range Gobblers

Try turkey hunting with a scope this season

Try turkey hunting with a scope this season

Turkey hunting has changed drastically in the last 40 years. We have better shotguns, barrels shells, chokes and sighting systems than turkey hunters ever have had. Forty years ago 2-3/4-inch shells were the maximum load for hunting turkeys. A turkey hunter rarely would take more than a 30-yard shot at a gobbler. However, today many hunters are harvesting gobblers out to 40, 50 and even longer yardages.

Here are some ways you can extend the range at which you can take turkeys:

* Don’t buy just one 10-pack of turkey shells to pattern your shotgun. Each shotgun and each barrel can pattern shot differently from shells made from various manufacturers. To get the best and densest pattern over the longest distance, start by choosing turkey loads from several different manufacturers, and shoot these shells at 30, 40 and 50 yards. Determine for yourself which manufacturer’s shells produce the best patterns for you, at the ranges you want to take a turkey. A good, cost effective way to do this is go in with several buddies who need to pattern their gun. Have each person buy a different box, and share loads until each of you find the best one for their particular gun.

* Choose a sighting system with which you’re most comfortable. One of the biggest innovations in turkey shotguns occurred when barrel manufacturers put rear sights like deer hunters use on turkey shotguns. An even bigger-improvement was when hunters started putting rails or buying barrels with rails on their shotguns, so they could attach riflescopes and red dot scopes to their turkey shotguns. Some riflescopes have mil dots to help the hunter determine his or her range, and where to aim.

* Beware of some of the reasons turkey hunters miss gobblers when they’re shooting with just beads on the ends of their shotguns. They don’t put their cheeks squarely on their stocks in the same place every time they prepare to take the shots. If you have a scope on your turkey shotgun and don’t have a full field of view, then when you look through your scope, you may move your cheek back on the stock. But your cheek needs to be at the exact same place it always has been when you’ve shot accurately. Also, because the riflescope restricts your field of view, you won’t be looking anywhere except right through the scope, when it’s time to make the shot. You can’t make the shot, until you see the turkey’s head in the riflescope. With only a bead on the end of a shotgun, a hunter may miss, since he’s looking at the turkey’s head – not looking at the bead and making sure the bead on the end of the shotgun is on the spot on the turkey’s wattle to place the densest part of their pattern.

As an avid turkey hunter, I feel very fortunate to have been able to watch and utilize all the improvements being made

While the average turkey killed is close, sometimes you need something to kill that henned up gobbler

While the average turkey killed is close, sometimes you need something to kill that hung up gobbler

in turkey shotguns. For me, one of the best innovations to come out for hunters who use muzzleloading or center-fire rifles during deer season has been the addition of the 12-gauge turkey barrel to the Apex CVA frame. This deer rifle with interchangeable barrels now features a turkey shotgun barrel that fits on the same frame as your deer rifle. You can shoot the same rifle with different calibers of barrels and extend your hunting season by adding a 12-gauge extra-full choke turkey barrel that has rails for mounting a turkey scope and/or a red dot scope.

by: John E. Phillips, avid blackpowder hunter and turkey hunter for 50 years.

Question: What’s the longest distance at which you’ve taken a turkey? What’s the average range at which you usually take turkeys?

Posted in apex, cva, general, hunting, muzzleloader, muzzleloading, rifle, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Use Optics for Turkey Hunting

Big Merriam's Turkey

Big Merriam’s Turkey

The big Merriam’s gobbler was less than 30-yards from me in full strut, facing away from me. I had my shotgun on my knee. All I had to do was move the barrel slightly to the left and squeeze the trigger, and I knew that gobbler would be riding in the back of my truck to camp. So, I clucked on my diaphragm turkey call and watched the gobbler drop his strut and turn broadside to me. With a bead on the gobbler’s wattles, I squeezed the trigger. Then, I saw one of the most horrific sights a turkey hunter ever will see – the gobbler took flight. In less than five heartbeats, the gobbler was out of sight and back into the timber. “I can’t believe that,” I told my guide. “There’s no way I could have missed that turkey. You saw the pattern I was shooting back at camp. My gun is dead-on, and I have a good shot pattern. There’s no way I could miss that turkey.” I tried to explain the miss to myself, but I really realized there was no explanation.

After the guide quit laughing, he said, “Sit exactly where you were sitting when you took the shot. Pretend the turkey is still where he was, and make the moves you made just before you squeezed the trigger.” I sat back down. I had my shotgun pointed right at the little sapling directly in front of me. Next, I moved to my left slightly, like I did just before I pulled the trigger. Then, I heard my guide say, “That’s it. That’s the reason you missed the turkey.” “What’s it? I should have killed that turkey,” I said. The guide looked at me, smiled and explained, “You didn’t have a chance to kill that turkey.” Now, I was totally frustrated, because I knew I was the reason I missed the turkey, not the gun, not the shells and not the guide. But I couldn’t understand why. Finally, the guide said, “When you moved your barrel from behind that little sapling, you didn’t just physically move the barrel. You canted (turned the shotgun) to the left. The barrel wasn’t pointed at the turkey’s head. It wasn’t square and level on your shoulder.” I didn’t want to believe I had made a mistake. However, when I looked at my shotgun on my shoulder, I realized my guide was absolutely right.

No one likes to talk about his or her misses. But more than likely, canting may have been my problem with other turkeys I had missed. As I began to think about what had caused my miss, a day or two later I had the opportunity to bag a different Merriam’s gobbler. I made certain my gun was where it should be to make an accurate shot. As I began to think about the problem of canting, I decided there was one sure way to keep that from happening. When I looked through my riflescope, I could see the crosshairs. Then I could determine if my rifle was level or not, by looking at the crosshairs in the scope. If one crosshair was higher than the other, my rifle wasn’t level.

At that time years ago, I never had heard or read about anyone mounting a riflescope on a shotgun, for any reason, nor had the gunsmith who tapped and drilled my shotgun, mounted the rails, rings and bases and helped me adjust the scope. When I mounted the scope on the shotgun, I had a full clear field of view. I decided as I experimented with this hybrid shotgun, that I didn’t really need any magnification, because I was taking turkeys with 2-3/4-inch shells, and I rarely, if ever, took a shot at more than 30 yards. I learned that I had a finer aiming point with the crosshairs in the riflescope than I had with the bead on the shotgun. Now, this was long before people started using red dot scopes.

Try a scope on your shotgun this season to be more successful

Try a scope on your shotgun this season to be more successful

After that, whenever I showed up at turkey camp, I always got the usual, “John, we’re turkey hunting. We’re not deer hunting. What in the world are you doing with a riflescope on your shotgun?” So I started writing articles on using a riflescope on a shotgun to hunt turkeys.

I tell this story to explain why CVA sells a 12 gauge barrel for its Apex rifles. These barrels have rails for a turkey scope or a red dot scope, instead of front and rear sights. I’m convinced and so are the people at CVA that using a red dot scope and/or a turkey scope, especially a scope with mil dots in it, is the best sighting system for harvesting gobblers. It also reduces the number of misses that turkey hunters have. Once I put a riflescope on my shotgun, I began to miss far fewer turkeys than when I was using the conventional bead with no rear sight on my shotgun. If you have a CVA Apex rifle, you can extend your hunting season into turkey season by simply purchasing a 12 gauge Bergara shotgun barrel that comes with an extra-full turkey choke and will accommodate any of the Browning Invector type chokes.

By: John E. Phillips, outdoor writer and blackpowder enthusiast.

Question: Do you hunt turkeys? What sighting system do you use on your gun to hunt turkeys, and what shell size works best in your gun? We want to hear from you.

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Itching for Turkey Season?

Spring in many sections of the country was late last year due to a late winter and cold weather. Across the

Take your Gobbler this season

Take your Gobbler this season

country, turkey hunters reported hearing less gobbling than they had in previous years. According to harvest records, in most states, fewer turkeys were taken. But you can enjoy great times outdoors hunting turkeys with your CVA Apex with a 12 gauge Bergara shotgun barrel this spring.

Most turkey hunters go into the woods during the first week or two of turkey season. They either listen for a turkey to gobble or try and make a turkey gobble. But if the weather’s cold, and we’ve had ice and snow across much of the U.S. this March, the gobblers will be staying with their hens most of the day and won’t want to gobble. To solve this problem, you have to become a turkey hunter instead of a turkey shooter.

Legendary turkey hunter, David Hale, told me one time, “I believe I bagged more gobblers before I knew how to call to them than I did for 10 years after I learned to call to them. I hunted them like they were deer.” And that’s the secret of being a turkey hunter instead of a turkey shooter. Before the season, a turkey hunter will use his binoculars, his spotting scope and his naked eye to find turkeys. He’ll look for them in fields, along logging roads and in open woods where they feed. He’ll follow them through the day and see where the turkeys like to strut, and where they like to roost. The next morning, before fly-down time, the turkey hunter will set-up close to the roost. Before the season, he’ll listen to the turkeys fly down and follow them on their daily routine.

On opening morning, if the weather is cool or in many places cold, and the longbeards aren’t talking to the timber with ferocious gobbles, the hunter will go to the places that he’s learned a turkey goes to and wait on the bird to show up. If he calls at all, he’ll give soft clucks and soft purrs about every 15 to 20 minutes. When he sees a longbeard gobbler, he’ll let the turkey get in close enough for him to draw a bead on the bird’s wattles. Then he touches off his

Hunt turkeys like you hunt deer

Hunt turkeys like you hunt deer

CVA rifle with a 12 ga turkey barrel.

Some old timers will say bagging a gobbler that’s not gobbling isn’t sporting – it’s bushwhacking. That makes about as much sense as saying you shouldn’t take the shot after calling to a deer with a grunt call that doesn’t come to you and then taking him through an opening where you can get a clear shot.

The real fun of turkey hunting is listening to the toms gobble, trying to outflank them and then calling them in to our calls. But last year across much of the country, I think probably there were more days turkeys didn’t gobble than there were days that turkeys did gobble. I believe, if you’re going to get a gobbler this season, more than likely, you’ll have to try and take him when he’s not gobbling, if we continue to have cold weather like we’ve had for the last several weeks.

Here are some secrets to being able to take those hushed-mouth gobblers:
* Learn all you can about the land you’ll be hunting and the turkeys that live on that land.
* Locate three or four gobblers, and learn their daily routines. One of the best ways to keep up with a turkey’s routine is to give the turkey a name, use a hand-held GPS receiver, to mark the areas close to his roost tree and the place he flies down to when he leaves the roost as waypoints. Mark the fields, roads, clear cuts, pastures and green fields where he goes to feed as waypoints. Mark the spot where he likes to loaf or strut in the middle of the day, and where he likes to fly up to the roost late in the afternoon as waypoints. By each waypoint, put the approximate time the turkey likes to be there. Now you have a map of the turkey’s travels.

Don’t forget though that hunters, other turkeys and/or dominant gobbler can break up a turkey’s routine, keeping him from showing up where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there. I recommend you try to get to each of your waypoints at least an hour or two before you expect the turkey to arrive to nail down a non-gobbling tom.

Several years ago, I was hunting at Bent Creek Lodge in Jachin, Alabama, and had spotted a gobbler out in the field at 1:30 pm, when I was leaving the woods. After an unsuccessful hunt the following morning, I returned to the lodge, ate lunch and started gathering together my turkey vest and my CVA shotgun. I was going out the door, when the lodge manager asked me why I was in such a rush. I told him about the gobbler I’d seen, the time I’d seen him, and my plan to get to the field before the gobbler did. John Lanier, the lodge manager, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “John, turkeys don’t carry pocket watches under their wings. They don’t know what time they’re supposed to show up in a field.”

From many experiences, I’ve learned that the one thing you can depend on when you’re turkey hunting is that nine times out of 10 turkeys won’t be dependable.

By John E. Phillips, outdoor writer and avid turkey hunter

Question: Are you using a turkey choke on your CVA Apex with a Bergara barrel? If so, what brand are you using, and why do you like it?

Posted in apex, cva, hunting, muzzleloader, muzzleloading, Turkey | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Blake Garrett’s First Muzzleloading Mule Deer Buck

Author with his trophy mule deer

Author with his trophy mule deer

Since my hunting partner Robbie O’Bryan had taken his mule deer buck on the first day of our hunt, the next 3 days I was going to hunt and try to take my buck. Although we saw quite a few really-big whitetails, I never had taken a mule deer. I was hoping to get my first mule deer buck at the Rosebud.

We went to South Dakota to hunt with Double K Guide Service (,, 1-605-930-2091). Robbie and I each had a tag for the Rosebud Indian Reservation to take either a mule deer or a whitetail. For my hunt, we left the area where Robbie had taken his buck and went to a new location. When we reached the region we were going to hunt, Robbie was filming, and I was the shooter. We spotted eight or nine mule deer does and two bucks coming-out of an alfalfa field, into the canyons to bed. But we saw a coyote, and the mule deer smelled it. The coyote pushed them down into the canyon quicker than we had anticipated. We were unable to get ahead of them to make the shot. Instead, we opted to get on a high point above the canyon, so we could watch them. We were trying to determine whether the bucks would stay in the canyon and bed there or work their way through the canyon and come out the bottom end of the ravine.

The mule deer came out of the canyon and one of the bucks bedded-down in an open plain. At that time of the year, the bucks were usually bedding in the small patches of cattails 30-yards long and 30-yards wide in the bottom of the canyon. This buck had bedded on the hillside rather than in the cattails, possibly, hoping to spot the coyote, if the varmint tried to sneak in to the cattails, and take down one of the mule deer. The buck was about 500-yards away from us. As we studied the terrain, we saw that we easily could stalk within 300 yards of the buck. Then the terrain flattened out, and getting any closer would be difficult. Robbie stayed on the high point with the camera to video the hunt from that vantage point. I moved down and used the terrain to get within about 200 yards of the buck. We watched each other through binoculars. Robbie saw the route that I had taken to get to the place where I thought I might get a shot at the buck. When he saw me give him a thumbs-up, he came down along the same route I’d taken and got right behind me, so he could film over my shoulder. When we got within 250 yards of the buck, Robbie set the camera up, and I started crawling toward that buck.

I knew if the buck saw me he would stand up, and I would have to take a quick shot. I knew the way my .45 caliber V2 Accura was set-up, I could make a 250-yard shot. We had a pretty good crosswind. I continued to range the buck as I crawled. When I was 207 yards from the buck, I noticed that he’d started stretching and acting like he was about to get up. Before the buck finally stood up, I went ahead and put my gun on the tripod and looked back at Robbie. He gave me the thumbs-up, indicating, that he could see both me and the buck in the video camera. Next, I readied for the shot. When the buck stood up, I squeezed the trigger. I saw the buck go down right where he’d stood up.

I really like that thumbhole stock on the .45 caliber CVA Accura Muzzleloader. I believe that the thumbhole makes the gun much easier to maneuver and much-more solid. When I squeeze the trigger, if there was recoil, I never feel it. So, Robbie and I both took nice mule deer bucks at the Rosebud Indian Reservation. What a great hunt.

Editor’s Note: Blake Garrett’s filming partner is Robbie O’Bryan. They hunt and film for “Campfire Stories” TV, which airs on the Pursuit Channel.

Posted in accura, Deer, general, hunting, muzzleloader, muzzleloading, Outdoor Television, rifle, tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving Deer and Hunting Scrapes

Learn to take wary deer by doing 2-man drives

Learn to take wary deer by doing 2-man drives

Through my many years of finding deer to hunt with my CVA muzzleloader, I’ve learned that using bedding-area deer drives can be productive and that identifying a buck’s scrape line may or may not work to locate bucks.

* Hold a bedding-area deer drive if you can find escape routes leading away from bedding areas. Many hunters disregard bedding sites as likely places to take bucks with their muzzleloaders. The chances of taking an undisturbed buck in his bed are remote. However, if you find the escape trails whitetails use when they are spooked from their beds, you often can bag a buck. Deer beds can be distinguished by locating areas where leaves are packed-down in the outline of a deer’s body. By midmorning, deer usually have bedded-down after feeding. In an hour, deer can eat their fill, bed in a safe place, regurgitate the partially-chewed food and chew it again before finally swallowing it.

Here’s how the drive can work. One hunter takes a stand along a deer’s escape route downwind from the bedding site. The second hunter walks slowly and quietly into the bedding cover from the opposite side, allowing his human odor to drift into the bedding area to spook the deer and drive it down the escape trail and into the sights of the first hunter.

I remember a buck I hunted in a soybean field a few seasons ago. As I approached the field, I always saw his high rack and large body, but he was out of range every time. Whenever I attempted to get closer, the buck left the field by an escape trail – no matter how carefully I stalked him. I then got a friend to help me. We crawled up to the edge of the field and saw the white antlers above the beans. “Give me 30 minutes,” I whispered. “Then stand up, and walk toward the buck.” I circled the field, and positioned myself on the escape trail 50-yards from the field and 30-yards from the trail. I heard the beans swishing and spotted the buck on the run. Twenty yards from the edge of the field, he slowed his gait and began to walk down the escape trail that led into the woods and thick cover and right into the center of my scope. I squeezed the trigger on my CVA Muzzleloader, and the buck dropped. That was a simple, successful two-man drive.

* Locate a buck’s line of scrapes, and take a stand near the line or between the scrapes and the feeding area. Many articles have been written on hunting deer during the rut, and many of them discuss scrape hunting. Scrapes are bare, pawed-up places with a strong smell of deer urine. Hooked, splintered twigs and crushed leaves over the scrape act as a stop sign for does ready to breed. A doe is in heat for 30 hours and then comes back into heat 28 days later. Bucks make scrapes and frequent them to meet willing does. The bucks return periodically to freshen-up their scrapes.

Former wildlife specialist for the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service Dr. Ross Shelton, however, believes that scrapes aren’t always sure bets for hunters. “Suppose a buck has a line of six scrapes,” Shelton explains, “and the hunter takes a stand close to scrape No. 3. If the buck comes to check for a doe, he may find a female at scrape No. 6. The buck may spend a lot of time with that doe, walking with

Use drives to kill your buck next season

Use drives to kill your buck next season

her and waiting for her to stop so he can service her. The buck may stay with her until the third day, hoping she will permit him to breed her. Meanwhile, the hunter doesn’t see anything for 3 days. On the fourth day, the buck may work his scrapes again, but he may stop at scrape No. 1 first and find a doe. Hunting scrapes is not always a sure way to take a buck.”

by: John E. Phillips, avid muzzleloading hunter for 35 years.

Can you tell us about your experience for using man-drives in taking deer with your CVA rifle?

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