Deer Cartridges – A Trio at the Top

by Wayne Vanzwoll

Name three fine deer cartridges? Easy! Name only three? Oh. That’s really, really hard!

Wayne shot his first deer with a SMLE in .303 British. He still hunts with the round, here in a Ruger. (Wayne Vanzwoll photo)

The deer was loping through Michigan poplars when a bullet from my $30 SMLE broke its neck. My first whitetail. The .303 British, now 130 years old, still works fine for deer. It has surely killed more Canadian moose than any other cartridge. It has downed elephants.

A pointed .303 British bullet outruns flat-points from the .30-30 and .32 Special popular in lever-action rifles for most of the 20th century. So do modern softpoints from the 6.5×55 and 7×57, also infantry rounds pre-dating the Great War. Fine deer cartridges, all.

Dating to 1892, the 7×57 with modern pointed bullets is a fine deer round. It gave Wayne this muley. (Wayne Vanzwoll photo)

But at its debut in 1925 the .270 Winchester started hunters on a different track. Since then, bolt-action deer rifles have chambered ever-friskier rounds, with flatter arcs and more punch.

The .270, introduced by Winchester in 1925, set hunters on a faster-is-better kick. Scopes contributed. (Wayne Vanzwoll)

Now the deer-cartridge bin bulges with options. The 7mm and 30-caliber magnums, while useful for bigger game, strike me as excessive. Like sending Junior to college in a $50,000 pickup. You needn’t have my blessing to hunt with a hotrod cartridge or spring for a new F-250. But I’ll stick with milder deer loads – say, those firing 100- to 140-grain bullets at 2,650 to 3,150 fps from bolt rifles with 6mm to 7mm bores. Specifically: the .243 and 6mm, the .257 Roberts and .25-06, the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×55 and .260 Remington, the .270, 7mm-08 and 7×57. Add the .300 Savage and .308 with 150-grain missiles to make it an even dozen. How can I include the .270 and not the .280? You’re right; they’re too similar. A baker’s dozen, now, these are easy to shoot, and with proper bullets deadly even on quartering shots to 300 yards.

But what about the .30-06, long America’s darling and arguably its most versatile round? Well, arbitrary lines must fall somewhere. The ’06 is a notch up in power and recoil from the .308, which itself has more punch than plaid-clad riflemen a century ago could have imagined using on deer.

Top trio? Perhaps the three 6.5s, ballistically very close. The .260 and the 6.5 Creedmoor work in short actions, the Swede not so much. The Creedmoor trumps the .260 for efficiency and paired with long bullets. But these are academic differences.

The .260 Remington, a necked-down .308, shoots flat, recoils gently, kills deer past 300 yards. Bravo! (Wayne Vanzwoll photo)

If you like lever rifles, sifting cartridges became harder after Hornady introduced LeverEvolution ammo. It sends spitzer bullets fast from hulls long shackled by flatpoints, almost doubling effective reach. Last fall I shot a buck at 80 yards with a .25-35 rifle predating women’s suffrage. The 110-grain Hornady carried 1,200 ft-lbs at impact – three times the energy of a .25-20 at the muzzle. You’ll recall it was a .25-20 that in 1914 killed the Jordan buck, a gigantic whitetail that topped Boone & Crockett lists until 1993.

The .308 with 150-grain bullets makes Wayne’s list. It creates wound cavities once hard to imagine! (Wayne Vanzwoll photo)

Favorite deer cartridges are like favorite songs, or favorite dogs. Your top picks depend largely on what you expect of them. I prefer to hunt close, increasingly with iron sights. Given a 100-yard limit imposed by cover or irons, a .25-35 makes sense. It’s about as light a cartridge as I’ll use. A humane kill matters to me, and not every buck is a ribcage awaiting a bullet from the side. I had to fire again to kill the deer I hit (obliquely) with the .25-35.

My favorite deer loads? Whatever’s in the chamber when my rifle comes to cheek, and the brass bead or the crosswire finds a forward rib.

Wayne Van Zwoll
Journalist, Gun Writer
The Outdoor Line 
710 ESPN Seattle

EXO Mountain Gear Backcountry Hunting Packs - Boise, Idaho

5 Turkey Musts For This Coming Season

Make sure to have the scales tipped in your favor come this April and you’ll surely find yourself packing more birds out of the field. (Troy Rodakowski)

By Troy Rodakowski

In general, extreme weather patterns are not beneficial for wild turkeys.  In particular, winters with deep snow at lower elevations can impact overwinter survival when turkeys can’t dig down for their favorite foods. “We have actually seen them stay in the roost for days at a time when snow is too deep to feed,” says Mikal Moore NWTF Biologist for the Pacific Northwest. The other big driver of turkey population’s dynamics is wet springs, which can inhibit hatching success.  For those poults that do hatch, protein-rich insects will be plentiful in wet years, a critical component of bone, muscle, and feather growth in young wild turkeys,” adds Moore.

The yin and yang of a severe winter in the Pacific Northwest may keep some from hunting turkeys while others will find success. My advice is that there’s never a better time than the present to pursue these handsome birds.

A spring gobbler searches through the grass for other turkeys while listening carefully for hens and keeping an eye out for danger. (Troy Rodakowsk)

Over the years I have made plenty of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons when hunting turkeys. Here are a few tips of what not to do on opening day to help you be a more successful turkey hunter.

1.) Don’t expect to pull into a place that you have seen turkeys and find them in the same location during season. This has happened to me a few times and is a lot like going to a job interview without your resume. Locating a prospective spot, not taking the time to scout it out and still hoping for positive results just doesn’t work. Unfortunately, most of us have been in this position at least once, had a lack of time to spend in the woods prior to season and hurried out on opening day only to find disappointment. The lesson here is get out before season, get out often, scout and you will be rewarded with more birds for the freezer.

2.) If you hear a gobble don’t get excited and over call. Hunters need to remember that it is natural for a hen to go seek out a tom. We as hunters are trying to convince these birds the opposite of what comes naturally to them. When first encountering a bird I like to gently test him out with just some light yelps and purring. If he doesn’t respond then hit him with a couple cutts and cackles to see if he will shock gobble.

I like to mimic what a hen is saying. If she yelps at you yelp right back with the same tone and cadence. If she cackles and cutts make sure to do it right back at her, make her mad, you are there to steal that gobbler from her.

3.) After a long morning, find a tree, take a short nap, get a bite to eat, drink some water and relax. I have harvested countless birds in the afternoon and just prior to sunset. Many hunters get frustrated and call it a day after hiking a few miles without hearing any gobbles or even seeing a bird. Remember, most of the breeding occurs in the morning within the first few hours after fly down. Gobblers urge to breed and their potency is higher during the morning hours and they will usually, try to locate a receptive hen immediately after fly down. Afternoon hunts are great because many of the hens will return to their established nesting sites to lay and incubate eggs. This leaves Mr. Tom lonely and in search for any hens that are still wandering about and feeding.

Gobblers are smart. Getting one to make a mistake isn’t always easy. (Troy Rodakowski)

4.) Be prepared to cover lots of ground. Nesting hens usually stay within a radius of 1 mile spending the day feeding, laying and sitting on eggs. Gobblers on the other hand can cover ground often times wandering up to 2 miles from their roosting site looking for receptive hens. Hearing a gobble over a ridge doesn’t mean you will find that bird in the original location that he sounded off from. I remember one year I contacted a bird and ended up killing him 3 miles from where I had first heard him. Wear good base layer clothing and plan on sweating a little.

5.) When hunting from a blind make sure to know what stage of the breeding cycle the birds are in. Don’t “over –do” your decoy spread and make sure not to over call. Larger breeding groups of turkeys and birds at fly down are very vocal but solo gobblers are not always keen to radical calling techniques. Infrequent calling and silence can be exactly what a bird is looking for as it stirs their curiosity and seems more natural especially later in the day when birds are a somewhat less vocal.

Troy Rodakowski is an award winning outdoor writer based out of Western Oregon.

The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Shed Hunting 101

As the snow melts it’s time to go find some sheds-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With deer and elk dropping their antlers and the snow level climbing above 5,000 feet it’s time to go shed hunting. This long and harsh winter is finally coming to an end and before green-up occurs the matted-down vegetation found in the woods right now makes it easier to find the prized bone. Here are a few tips as well as some reminders on shed hunting here in Washington.

My Hungarian Vizsla “Lucy” helps me find sheds-Jason Brooks

Use your dog! One way to increase your antler cache is to train your dog to look for sheds. Play fetch or force break retrieving using an antler and heavily reward your dog when they find it and bring it back. It won’t take long and they’ll be out searching for sheds and bringing them back to you in trade for a small treat. You will note my Hungarian Vizsla Lucy is wearing her hunting vest by Browning. This helps me keep tabs on her as she races across the hillsides. If we stumble across some deer or elk I can easily see her and call her back, leaving the animals alone.

When you find one shed look around for the other side nearby-Jason Brooks

When you find one shed, look for the other. The bases loosen and they fall off, which often happens simultaneously. If you find one shed search around and you might pick up a match set.

Leave winter kill skulls and antlers in the field-Jason Brooks

Leave winter kill animals alone. In Washington you can only collect naturally shed antlers so if you come across a winter kill leave it for the coyotes and other animals.

Leave deer and elk alone so they can recover from the long winter-Jason Brooks

If you find a group of deer or herd of elk then back out and come back another day. You might be out stretching your legs and getting a good workout in while hiking the hills but the animals are still enduring the harsh winter. Their fat reserves are gone and until the grasses and brush start to green up they don’t have much of a food source. It’s best to leave animals alone, even if you see a nice buck and hope to follow him until the antlers drop. Mark the spot on your GPS and come back next week.

Finding sheds is a great way to get afield in the springtime-Jason Brooks

Remember that shed hunting is a business for some and it can be very competitive. If you find an open slope and are lucky enough to find a shed or two then remember the spot for next year and keep it to yourself. Popular places near known wintering grounds can be very competitive. Only shed hunt on public lands or where you have permission and check the WDFW website regarding WDFW lands as most of them are closed until later in the spring to allow wintering animals a place to rest.

I love shed hunting because it’s a chance to work with my dog, get some excersice, and spend some quality time outside with my kids. After the winter we’ve had here in Washington it’s about time all of us get outside anyway. It’s been a long one!

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line-Blogger
Jason Brooks Photography

 

Montana Mule Deer “Matriculation”…

Anytime one ventures outdoors in search of fish or game and returns without learning anything, it is an opportunity lost indeed. One of my favorite aspects of this wonderful lifestyle we call hunting and fishing is the fact that no one can possibly “know it all” and as such, every single one of us can add to our knowledge base literally every day afield. That’s a long-winded way of explaining my use of the word “matriculation” in the title of this post as I learned much on this hunt that will allow me to become a better deer hunter.

The planning of this hunt began in March when we applied for non-resident deer tags and then we had to wait until the November rut to make the 12+ hour drive to our Montana area. It was a uniquely challenging and fun hunt on many fronts from the minus 20 degree temperatures, the unfamiliar landscape, my first hunt using the Outlander 450L Max ATV and Lord willing, it will not be my last!

Mule deer or “muleys” as they are known to most hunters, get their name from an pronounced set of ears that are well suited to picking up any -and every- noise within a wide radius.

abigbuckThe first morning of our hunt we were “greeted” with temperatures in the minus 20 degree range and a breathtaking snowy landscape. We unloaded the 4-wheelers and got to it!

aOulanderSnVintage Montana: The landscape is littered with abandoned artifacts of days gone by. In this case, a loosely assembled pile of wood that was once someone’s boat!

aBoat

One of the most fun and unique aspects of this hunt was the use of our Outlander ATV’s. We were able to reach remote areas and once we hopped off our energy was intact to fully devote to the hunt! Our Triton ATV trailer made loading and unloading the ATV’s a snap and towed like a dream!

aTriton

The trailer made long hauls on mountain passes and gravel roads look easy…until you looked at our license plate that is…

aPlate

The State of Montana does a great job of opening up blocks of private land known as BMA’s or Block Management Areas. Here Robbo signs in at the registration box allowing us to hunt the area.

aBMA

Glassing, glassing and more glassing. Learning to pick an area apart and find an ear, antler tip, tail or patch of hair is an invaluable skill to a mule deer hunter. Patience and persistence is the key…and hand warmers…Brrrr…

aGlassin

Robbo and his beautiful mulie buck taken on the final day of our hunt. Robbo passed up more bucks than I could keep track of and his patience and discipline were rewarded when he spotted and stalked this dandy deer!

aRobucks

Although I wasn’t able to fill my tag this time around, I learned more by hunting hard each day of this trip than I would of otherwise. Learning what to look for and where to look is a huge part of the mule deer equation and seeing numbers of Montana mule deer each day is a great way to learn to spot deer when few are around. I’m looking forward to next hunting season to test what I learned on this hunt and to answer the challenge of becoming a better hunter!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Montana Spot and Stalk Mule Deer Hunt

I just returned from a fulfilling mule deer hunt in the Missouri River breaks of Central Montana. Hunting here means hours and hours behind the glass searching for mule deer in the open sage country of the breaks. A great set of field glasses, a spotting scope, and an eye for locating deer is a must in this country.

Glassing the Missouri Breaks - photo by Rob EndsleyMy eyes are accustomed to gazing thru my binoculars for long periods of time and I’ll usually use them to locate deer at great distances before I jump on the spotting scope to take a closer look. In this country a spotting scope gives you a huge advantage in determining whether you want to go after a buck or take a pass in hopes of a bigger one.

I happened to grab the photo below by placing my small digital camera over the eyepiece of my spotting scope. I spotted this buck in his bed at around 900 yards.  It was one of many on this trip.

Bedded Down Mule Deer - Photo by Rob EndsleyAfter you find a mule deer that you want to take comes the hard part…closing the distance. My good friend Jim Heins and I spotted a good 4 point from around 500 yards away and then Jim used the cover of a knoll to close the distance to 250 yards. You can’t just walk up on a knoll like this and shoot your buck though.

Deer that live in open country depend on their eyesight just as much as their sense of smell to detect danger. Even the sight of the top of your hat peaking over a ridge can send them hauling ass for the next county.

Once Jim got to the knoll he was going to shoot from he slowly pushed his pack and rifle up to the edge of the small ridge to get in position for a shot. There’s also plenty of cactus here, which can literally be a pain in the ass when you’re putting the sneak on a mule deer.

Spot and Stalk Mule Deer HuntingLuckily I was along to range this mule deer at 245 yards before Jim took the shot. He used a Kimber .300 WSM with a Leupold VX-3L that was nothing short of a tack driver. This load carries plenty of energy to knock a muley down at great distances.

Kimber .300 WSM with Leupold VX 3L Rifle Scope - Photo by Rob EndsleyHere’s a little better view of the ravine Jim was shooting across. The mule deer was standing at the top of the dark patch that looks like “Z” on the right side of the ravine. This is a chip shot for a .300 WSM!

Mule deer hunting in open country means long shots - photo by Rob EndsleyJim made a perfect shot and the mule deer went down immediately. Off we went to go check it out.

jim_mule_deer_ravine_webThis deer was down alright…all the way down in the bottom of the canyon. Here’s Jim looking down to the bottom of the canyon where his first deer is laying.

spot and stalk mule deer hunting - outdoor line rob endsleyJim “Bucket” Heins first deer turned out to be a heavy-bodied 4 point with a single eye guard. All that time at the rifle range payed off for this happy hunter. Not too shabby Mr. Heins!

Jim Heins with his Montana mule deer - photo by Rob EndsleyJim cutting his Montana deer tag before we field dressed his muley and hauled it out of the canyon. It took some work but before too long we had it back up to the road where we could pick it up with one of the four wheelers. Well worth the effort if you ask me and Jim was more than happy with his first deer.

Jim Heins cutting his Montana deer tag - photo by Rob EndsleyI’ve hunted deer most of my life but I hate to admit that this was my first out of state deer hunt. It definitely won’t be my last though. The hunting was very challenging and on average I would see around four to five bucks a day with a couple of good shooters in the bunch. For the guys with little to no experience hunting deer that daily buck count can quickly go down to a single buck a day or less. These animals blend into their environment perfectly and more often that not if you see them…they see you!

Thanks for stopping by and good luck on the remainder of your hunting season everyone. Go get’em!!!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Middle Schooler Scores First Black Bear

After two years of perseverance hunting the rugged west slope of the Cascades in Whatcom County 14 year old Justin Miedema finally got a chance at his first black bear. Justin took the 250 pound black bear at 370 yards with a 140 grain bullet from his .270. “The bear just folded after the shot,” said Eric Vanhofwegen who was along on the hunt.

I’m sure Justin was already hooked on hunting to begin with, but after this great black bear I know exactly what he’ll be doing every fall from here on out. He’ll be hunting!

Kudos to his dad Brian for getting him hooked on hunting at such an early age. Great job you guys!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Blacktail Scouting With Our 2 Year Old

It kind of sounds like an oxymoron when you first read it. Scouting with a 2 year old…really???

She isn’t actually two yet, but at 20 months she’s close enough. This is our third trip into the woods now and I’ll admit the first two were a little rough.

On our first voyage we walked around two miles behind a locked gate with Ava riding in our Bob jogging stroller. I picked some chantrelle mushrooms along the way and I scoped out the edge of a clear cut before we had to go…like right now. If you’ve got little ones at home you can probably guess what happened. It was bad, really bad. Thankfully I brought a change of clothes for Ava. I wasn’t so lucky though and ended up shirtless all the way back to the truck. Wow!

Our second adventure went much more smoothly and we were able to ride in on the mountain bike this time with Ava riding shotgun in the kiddo trailer. It was her first time in the trailer and she enjoyed the ride as long as she had her favorite sippy cup, a snack cup full of Goldfish, and her favorite stuffed monkey.

We rode approximately 3 miles behind a gate to an old clear cut that’s grown up a lot the last couple of years. It holds a lot of blacktails, however, so I tossed her up onto my shoulders and we did a rather quick half hour lap around the entire clear cut looking for sign. Nada…nothing…not a damn thing!

She was getting a little fussy so we piled back onto the bike and cruised back to the truck to head home and have some Spaghetti’O’s!

Since then she’s been climbing in the kiddo bike trailer on a near-daily basis and yelling “Go!” along with some other jibberish that I can’t quite make out. She’s already turning into a little outdoor girl, so I hope.

With that encouragement from Ava I loaded up the truck this morning with the bike, trailer, kiddo snacks, stuffed animals, and a diaper bag full of necessities and we once again headed for the hills.

Upon arriving at the gate I got Ava all geared up with animal cookies, Goldfish, her sippy cup, and her monkey and off we went on another scouting mission cloaked as a bike ride. She was quite content in the trailer today so I rode as quickly as I could, getting us in about four miles behind the locked gate. It’s a fairly easy ride behind this gate and it didn’t take us long to cover the distance.

Ava ended up on my shoulders again and off we went for a lap around yet another clear cut in search of the elusive blacktail deer. We didn’t walk 25 feet before we ran into our first blacktail rub…

We poked around the area a little bit and found more rubs like this one on the backside of this small alder tree.

Here’s where the buck stopped to tickle this alder with his antlers before heading on down the trail. It’s not a huge rub, but it’s blacktail sign that you definitely can’t ignore.

The weather was absolutely perfect today and Ava sang the whole time as we walked around this big clear cut looking for sign. There were doe tracks all over the place and also a few more rubs on small saplings in the clear cut. I think we found what we were looking for!

Towards the end of our walkabout I noticed a subtle disturbance in the pine needles and dirt that turned out to be a really good blacktail buck track. It’s kind of hard to tell from the photo, but you can definitely make out the dew claws and the hooves in the pine needles. This is a dandy!

Even though Ava was happy as a lark I figured we had better get going so as not to push it too far with her today.

I’m constantly scanning for sign on these forays into the forest and on the way out I spotted this rub on a small tree. I took the picture from the road to show you how well these rubs can blend in. If you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s easy to walk right on by. It’s on the bottom of the largest branch in the photo. After checking it out I used my binoc’s to scan the tree line along the edge of the clear cut and sure ‘nuf…there were more rubs on quite a few of the alders. When the rut starts this place will be crawling with blacktails.

It takes some extra effort and obviously a lot of precautions, but it’s definitely possible to get out with your kids and get some exercise all the while scouting for deer. I chose the right weather days and always made the trip mid-morning so that we wouldn’t blow any deer out of the area. And of course I didn’t expect to stay out all day…just a few hours at best.

I’ll do my usual trip to eastern Washington for opening weekend in search of mule deer and won’t worry too much about these blacktails until they really start to rut in a couple of weeks. You simply won’t see many mature blacktails until then anyway. Towards the end of the regular season, however, I’ll be out just about every day in search of these elusive deer. After today’s clues they’ll be a lot easier to find when that time comes.

If you’re still looking for you’re first blacktail here’s a few tips that might help…6 Tips for Taking a Late Season Blacktail.

With hunting season starting this weekend I won’t make any more trips into the woods with Ava this fall. Our adventures thus far have been wonderful though and I’m looking forward to our next one…whatever it may be.

Best of luck to everyone this hunting season. This is by far my favorite time of year!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

6 Tips for Taking a Late Season Blacktail

I’ve developed a real passion for blacktail hunting because I live in blacktail country and I’m a glutton for punishment. Taking a mature blacktail buck is like catching a winter steelhead on the fly. It takes a lot of work and patience but when it all comes together and you get one…oh how sweet it is!

If you haven’t taken a blacktail yet this season the best is yet to come. The latter part of the general season and the late buck hunt in November are the two best times to tag out on a blacktail. While blacktail inhabit many different habitats in Western Washington the industrial logging areas and the clear cuts they produce offer the best chance to find one of these illusive deer.

Here’s a few strategies that have helped me tag quite a few nice blacktails here in Washington:

Look for Sign

There’s a ton of great blacktail habitat in Western Washington but unfortunately they don’t use all of it. The best thing you can do is to check multiple clear cuts early in the season and see which ones have the most sign. Look for fresh rubs on small trees, tracks in the mud, and tracks crossing the roads that surround the clear cuts.

If you can’t find fresh rubs indicating that a buck is using the area it might not be the end of the world though. You do need to find the ladies though as the bucks will find them as soon as they come into heat. If you’ve located good numbers of does in your favorite clear cut the chances are good that a buck will eventually show up. The does almost act as a live decoy once the rut starts. And if you’ve found both does and fresh buck rubs in the same area I’d plan on spending quite a bit of time there once the ruth gets going.

Get Into Their Kitchen

The nice thing about blacktails is that they usually won’t run for miles after they are spooked. Where you find them is where they live, much like whitetails in the Midwest. If I’m dead certain that a clear cut is going to produce a buck (i.e. sign, rubs, etc) I’ll sit tight and glass it for a few hours, but if I’m not entirely confident in the cut I’m usually on the move to the next cut.

I’ll cruise as many as four or five clear cuts in a day of hunting and I’ll usually check the timber around them for sign as well. By doing this you may jump a deer or two, but you’re doing some great scouting in the process and you’ll possibly find yourself a sweet spot full of blacktails. If you jump a good buck chances are he’s going to be right back in the same place within a day or two. If they’ve got food, cover, and does they aren’t going to journey too far away from the goodies.

Glassing

Now that you’ve found a great clear cut with lots of sign you need to park your fanny on a stump or landing with a great view and do some glassing. I generally use my naked eye to scan the areas closest to me and then I start slowly scanning the clear cut in a grid pattern until I’ve covered every square inch out to about 400 or 500 yards. After I’ve done this I’ll take a break for a few minutes and then do it again, and again, and again.

Most good clear cuts will have quite a bit of brush to hide a blacktail, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t glass any deer right away. Blacktails will often bed down in the same clear cut they are feeding in and it could be an hour or two before they get out of their beds. When you’re glassing look for the flick of an ear, antler tips, legs, or the swish of a tail. Any small movement can be a blacktail feeding thru the undergrowth. I glassed for over two hours before the mature blacktail I took three years ago presented himself. He was bedded down in a gulley in the clear cut and finally stood up to feed.

Scent Control

I just started using the Scent Away system a few years ago and I am totally sold on it. The local Hunter’s Specialties rep asked me if I’d ever wished I had a couple of extra seconds to get a shot off at an animal. Heck yes I would! Scent control does just that, it gives you a little more time to get a shot off and allows you to move thru the blacktail woods without alerting the troops of your presence.

Two of the last three years I’ve taken nice blacktails that should have winded me. Because I used scent control, however, I was able to get shots on two great bucks that I might not have otherwise gotten. Most shots you’ll get on blacktail are less than 100 yards in fairly tight cover. It’s usually close-quarters hunting and every second counts. If you can get a buck to hold for an extra second or two you’re likely to get a shot off and tag a nice buck. After a couple of experiences like this I’m a firm believer in Scent Away.

Hunt the Rut

Most of the blacktails taken in Washington aren’t harvested on opening weekend. They are tagged either late in the general season or on the late hunt in November. Mature blacktails are extremely nocturnal and simply don’t travel around much during the daylight hours. When they go into the rut, however, the odds of seeing one of these wary critters goes up substantially. My advice is to pass up all the spikes and forkies early in the season and spend some quality time later in the season when the rut is on. That’s when you want to be out there and that’s when it gets fun!

Know Your Ground

Clear cuts that are 2 to 8 years old are generally the best place to find a blacktail. If there are draws or ravines in a clear cut chances are blacktails will use those areas as travel lanes and bedding areas. After a morning of glassing don’t be afraid to hike into these areas and do a bit of bird dogging. It’ll be tough going but often times you’ll find that all the blacktails are in the only part of the clear cut you can’t see into.

When I make a trip thru the middle or along the edge of a clear I’m making a note of the trails that lead thru the clear cut. If you can generate a mental map of these trails you can come back during the rut and access some of these difficult areas without making a bunch of noise.

Another great place to find blacktails is in timbered areas that border a clear cut especially if the timbered area is full of mature cedar and douglas fir trees. Western cedar and douglas fir are both a favorite food item of blacktail deer. We hunt the same general area every year and have gotten to know quite a few of their escape routes and “honey holes” by spending a lot of time there.

Quite often we’ll find blacktails bedded down just on the edge of a juicy clear cut near timber like this. They can see quite a ways from their bed and they have a quick escape route if something spooks them. The edges are also where the big boys are most likely to hang out. With a few steps they can quickly disappear into the jungle. Pay close attention to the sign in these areas.

If you get a nice blacktail this fall and don’t mind sharing a photo I’d love to see it. Shoot me an email at “rendsley@earthlink.net” and share your story or better yet, post it on the Outdoor Line forums. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment but I love hunting blacktails!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Words You Never Want to Hear in a Duck Blind

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog of any significance. I write the Northwest Outdoor Report every week, but other than that my blog writing time has been limited for a month plus. By what? You axe. The usual culprits. Fishing, hunting, preparing for our busy summer charter season in Alaska, and the arrival of our new bundle of joy literally any day now, to name a few.

What on earth prompted me to write a truly worthy blog then. Well, I was sitting in a duck blind with some chums last weekend and a word was spoken that made me cringe. It wasn’t a four-letter word, nor was it a curse word of any kind. It was just one of those words that just doesn’t belong in a duck blind, or a boat, or spoken amongst outdoorsman in any setting for that matter.

That word was “probe” and it got’s me thinkin’ about a few other words that hit me in the funny bone. When a fellow outdoorsman speaks these words in any context I always think…well, lets forget what I think.

Heres a few words that don’t belong in the duck blind:

Ointment
Moist
Alimony
Fester
PETA
Probe
Rad
Panties
Stoked
Sick (Not ill…Sick!)
Cope
Job
Phat
Home
Now

There you have it. A truly meaningful blog packed with invaluable information. I bet you have some words. I know you do. Lets hear’em!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

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Another Mar Don Medley

This weeks adventure took us to Mar Don Resort on the Potholes Reservoir for a combination duck and goose hunt with the Meseberg's, owners of the Duck Taxi. Seven of us hit the road on Monday afternoon for two days of fun in one of the Pacific Northwest's most productive regions for waterfowl hunting. Here we go!  

It's impossible to drive thru Cle Elum, Washington without stopping at Owen's Meats to grab some goodies for a hunting or fishing trip. They have a wide variety of quality smoked meats at this awesome little shop, but the lanjager is my all time favorite. The shop has been in Cle Elum since 1897 and here's one of the 5th generation of Owen's showing off what's left of the lanjager supply after we rolled thru.

Seven of us checked in at Mar Don Resort at around 6:00 p.m. on Monday night. After a quick meal at the Beach restaurant right in the resort we hit the sack early to rest up for our 5:00 a.m. departure with the Duck Taxi. Levi had already set out all of the dekes at both blinds, so all we had to do was jump out and get situated. He dropped us off first and then headed off to blind #2 with Doug Spadey from Dougs Boats, Nick Kester from All Star Charters and his lifelong buddy Rory, and Tom Nelson.   

It didn't long for the action to heat up in our blind. Here's Frank Reed from Poulsbo with a nice pintail and guide Mike Meseberg in the background. I got to hunt with Frank, my dad, and Mike who is a pleasure to spend the day with. 

Here's Calvin, who did all the heavy lifting in our blind. Here's the old boy in action retrieving a drake mallard.

Calvin always kept an eye out for the next group of birds heading our way.

We were fortunate to have a lot of action in our blind in the morning, with numerous flights of mallards and pintails keeping the barrels warm. By around 11:00 a.m. the action tapered off and bluebird conditions settled in and it was time to cook up some chow for our always hungry crew. Mike got the briquets going and it wasn't long before we were feeding our faces with Mar Don's famous duck kabobs. The Meseberg's are some of the best waterfowl guides in the Pacific Northwest and they also have the service end of the guiding business nailed!

With the shoot over for the day we gladly washed down the duck kabobs with some local red wine.

I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be able to take my dad and "Uncle" Frank hunting with Mike Meseberg. When I was old enough to hold a shotgun Dad brought me to Mar Don to hunt ducks in the dunes with the Mesebergs. That was in 1980!

The four of us ended up downing 26 mallards and pintails in our blind on Tuesday morning and, as usual, there were plenty of ducks that got away. More great memories made on this trip!

Capt. Nick Kester is always along on these hunting trips. He's a salty old bugger like the rest of us!

Now that the work is complete it's time to spoil the dogs!

Walleye anyone? We capped off an incredible day of hunting by fishing for walleye off the dock at Mar Don in the evening. Pops was lucky enough to nab this whopping six pounder on a swim bait that Levi had set us up with. We had quite a few more bites and both dad and I each lost a nice walleye apiece before we called it quits. The Mar Don dock used to be open to the public, but after numerous problems with vandalism and burglary it's now only open to guests staying at the resort. Welcome news if you're headed over for some hunting! 

Wednesday morning found us in the goose field watching a beautiful sunrise. 

Here's Doug Spadey with a bunch of lesser Canada geese. We had plenty of action in the morning, downing 17 honkers and we had more than enough opportunities for more. It seemed like the flights were on about a 30 minute schedule and it wasn't exactly warm, so we'd all invariably end up out of our layout blinds pacing around and shooting the b.s. when a flock would appear out of nowhere. I can't tell you how many large flocks of geese we fouled up…it was quite a few. The only one we couldn't blame was Nelly, who was sound asleep during these out-of-blind b.s. sessions.

Dad and I with our honkers. We had one helluva good time as usual!

Nick Anderson shows us the snow front moving towards us. Gotta love technology. I think it's time to pack up and got on outa here!

Nothing like a cold Blue Moon with ice chunks in it to polish off a totally awesome day in the goose field with these guys. 

Tommy Crotchlow shows off his vintage 80's MC Hammer duck hunting waders. 

The duck and goose hunting is just starting to heat up around the Potholes region. We experienced the first push of northern mallards and pintails on Tuesday and with the weather shaping up the way it is the next few weeks over there the hunting should be lights out. You can bet I'll be making another run over just as soon as my busy schedule allows for it!

While you're here check out this blog I wrote from a hunting trip to Mar Don last fall:

Waterfowl Weekend at Mar Don Resort

And here's the Best Damn Duck Recipe Ever!!!

Bacon Braised Goose in Honey Mustard Sauce

Until the next adventure…good hunting to you!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com