Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wild Turkey Feather Wreath Tutorial

By Sarah Honadel

It may still be winter, but that means spring turkey season is right around the corner. If you’re like me, you’re already starting to prep—and that includes figuring out what to do with your turkey. As a hunter, one of my goals is to use as much of my harvested animal as possible. This not only includes eating the meat, but also the antlers, hide, feathers, etc., depending on the animal.

After harvesting an Eastern Turkey during Kentucky’s spring turkey season, I wanted to find a way to make use of his beautiful wing and tail feathers. I already had a turkey tail fan mounted from the year before, so I decided to make a wreath.

The end result looks stunning, and I’ve received countless compliments on it. The best part: it was almost free, and really easy to make!

What you’ll need:
·         8” round floral foam
·         Variety of turkey wing and tail feathers
·         Masking tape
·         String/twine
·         Materials to add your own touch, such as ribbon, letters, antlers, etc.


Place the floral form on a flat surface and insert the longest wing and tail feathers around the middle of the form. I usually start with spacing them 2-3 inches apart, then continue going around and filling in that first layer. You should end up with about a half inch between each feather. Be careful not to insert the feathers to far, or you could break the form (like I did!).

Continue inserting feathers around the form, up the side and into the front until the wreath is full. For the feathers on the front of the form, you’ll want to insert them diagonally into the form (not straight in), so the wreath is flat. Just add feathers until it looks full and you can’t see any of the foam form. The shortest feathers should be in the front. I also like to slant mine a little to give it more of a circular look. There really is no right or wrong way.

Make sure to insert short feathers into the center to cover the form.

Once you have all of your feathers in place, you should have the basic wreath.

Because there are so many feathers in the form (and I actually broke my form), I use masking tape to cover the back to help hold it together and make it sturdier.

To finish, I added a simple burlap bow. You could use any type of ribbon to make a bow, or use something else like antlers or letters to make it match your own décor or style. Add a string or twine on the back to hang.

Now you just need to hang it! 

·         Hang your wreath inside (rather than on the front door), such as over the mantel, to prevent fading and to prevent the feathers from getting wet from condensation that can build up between doors.
·         To dust/clean, use a slightly damp cloth and gently wipe; you don’t want the feathers to get wet.
·         Change the bow and other décor to match the season, holiday or other room décor.
·         You could also make a similar wreath with duck and/or goose feathers, although you might need to use a larger foam form since the feathers aren’t as long.

What crafts have you made with your turkey feathers or other harvests? Share photos in the comments, or share on Instagram and tag @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Late Season Blues

By Samantha Andrews

This year, was the year that I would take one of the big bucks we had been seeing. I saved my vacation time in order to put more time in the stand. We put more food plots in and moved stands to new locations. We used cover scents and played the wind to our advantage. We passed on the small bucks in order to grow the herd and never educated the does. Sometimes, when you do everything right, everything is against you. 

Here in Minnesota, the archery season lasts from the middle of September to the last day of December. From the moment last season ended, I had been looking forward to getting back out and sitting in a stand. The private property that we hunt is a mixture of farm crops, woods, river bottom, and swamp. 

The season started off all wrong. Hot, humid and the mosquitoes had never been thicker. I think even the deer were looking for lounge chairs by the pool. Okay, that might have been where my mind had been wandering while I was sweating my camo off and a bit light headed from being a quart low on my own blood supply. I couldn’t wait for the temp to drop and a hard frost to happen. With my Thermacell packed and ready to go, I still went out. I saw plenty of small bucks and does with fawns in tow but wanted to see them grow. I grew frustrated as the weeks went by without as much as seeing more than forked horn. Time for a change up! Duck hunting opened and I’m able to not think about the tall ten I have been dreaming about. I was able to switch gears and still enjoy the outdoors while filling the freezer. After a couple weeks of successful of duck hunting, I was ready to get back to archery before rifle hunting began. 

Another little snag happened shortly before the rifle opened. My husband discovered that three of our ladder stands and two trail cameras had been stolen from the property. I was heartbroken and felt as though someone came into my home and stole from me. All that time I had spent in those stands and the deer that we saw on those cameras, it was gone. After a police report was filed, my husband and I hunted elsewhere and tried to hold our heads up high. During the time, residents that surrounded the acreage that we hunted tagged out on three of the bucks that we saw on the cameras. Another kick to the gut. Although it’s better seeing a neighbor take them rather than road kill, it still hurts. It was prime time and we had nothing to show for the hours spent out in the stand.

After a Thanksgiving trip to western Minnesota, we were re-energized and ready to get back out there. Tyler wanted to get out for a quick hunt when we got back home. On the night that I decided to stay home, I get the text from him saying, “BUCK DOWN”. Finally! He took a nice eight pointer and we have meat in the freezer. 

There is something about archery hunting that I just don’t understand. When I don’t see anything after a long sit in the stand, the walk back to the truck is frustrating. I consider selling my all my equipment to take up some other crazy hobby like underwater basket weaving. As I drive away from the property, I wonder where I should sit the next day. Even though it’s a good possibility that I might be eating tag soup this season, I can’t give up. When life doesn’t go your way, you look at life and say, it all works out in the end. It’s been a cold winter so far and ice fishing has started. It will be a great way to close out archery season.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ready. Aim. Fire. Tips for Getting the Right Shot.

By Sarah Honadel

I recently saw a post on a Kentucky deer hunting Facebook page, where someone asked the following: 
“Thoughts to ponder…quick humane kills, or shoot and hope it’s wounded enough to find later?”

As I read this, I didn’t know what to think. Every shot I take, I hope for a quick, humane kill. I want the animal to drop in its tracks and die quickly so there is no suffering. I responded with the following: 

“I think (well, hope) that every hunter aims for a quick, humane kill. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. And it’s not always the hunter’s fault or bad judgment. In the fraction of a second between the arrow leaving the rest or the bullet leaving the barrel, the animal can turn, step, jump, etc. An unnoticeable twig or blade of grass can deflect an arrow or bullet, causing a bad shot. It happens. Even the most experienced hunters don’t always make the perfect shot. But when a shot goes wrong, it’s important to learn from the mistake and be conscious of that for the next hunt. Every trip to the field or woods can be a learning experience.”

This question and my response got me thinking about the perfect shot and all of the things that can go wrong. Is there really such a thing as the “perfect shot,” and does it depend on the weapon, angle, animal, time of day, weather, and, of course, the hunter? To me, the perfect shot is double-lung pass through, the deer drops in its tracks and dies within seconds of the impact. This is immediate, and the least amount of suffering. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

There are so many factors that hunters should account for when getting ready to take their shot, and ways that we can prepare before we ever step foot into the field.

Below are tips on how to prepare before the hunt and what to look out for while in the field.

Before the hunt

·         Practice, practice, practice! Probably the most important tip of all. When you practice at different distances, angles, positions, wearing different clothes, and in different weather and lighting conditions, you improve your chances of making a good shot when in the field.

·         Look at hunting magazines or game-camera pictures and practice pointing out the best shot placement on the pictures of animals. There are usually pictures at many different angles and you can judge where the bullet or arrow will hit.

·         Prep your hunting area by clearing shooting lanes, removing tall grass and low-hanging branches, and any other brush that could get in the way of a bullet or arrow.

·         Range find landmarks, such as trees, around your tree stand or blind prior to the season and mark them with paint or ribbons. In the event you don’t have a range finder with you during the hunt, or don’t have time to use it, you have a starting point for determining your distance.

·         Familiarize yourself with the animal’s anatomy so you can visualize where the vital organs are in relation to shoulder blades, ribs and non-vital organs.

Bow hunting tips

·         If possible, go to a 3-D archery range that has different animal targets to practice shooting. This provides a more realistic scenario since many times they are set up in the woods, allowing you to judge distances and shoot at different angles.

Practice at 3-D archery ranges for a more realistic shooting scenario.
·         Account for any arch when you shoot your arrows. When looking from your tree stand or blind, you must be aware of not only what’s in your shooting lane when looking through the sights, but also what’s above your line of sight.

I learned this the hard way! I shoot a Mission Craze bow at 55 lbs., and at 40 and 50 yards, the arrow has a pretty high arch. During my first Idaho elk hunt, a cow elk stepped out perfectly broadside at 50 yards. I got ready, aimed and fired. Then watched my arrow hit a branch and fly left. Then watched the elk run off. Lesson learned.

·         If shooting from a ground blind, make sure your arrow clears the opening in the window so the arrow doesn’t hit once it’s released. Remember, your sight pins are higher than the arrow. Just because it looks clear, doesn’t mean it actually is.

·         Avoid pulling back too early to prevent muscle fatigue if the deer doesn’t step into range or a clear spot fast enough.

·         Make sure your broadheads are razor sharp. Dull broadheads will push or pass by blood vessels instead of severing them, likely resulting in little or no blood trail. Sharp broadheads will result in better pass through and bleeding, resulting in a quicker kill and better blood trail.   

Razor-sharp broadheads ensure a complete pass through and good blood trail.

·         Be conscious of the wind. Wind can have a major effect on where your arrow lands. If you’re hunting on a windy day, try to wait for a break in the wind before shooting.

·         Invest in your own bow. If you’re going to bow hunt, you should have your own bow. Every archer shoots differently and if you’re using someone else’s bow that was set up for them and their shooting style, you’re likely to shoot inconsistently and you’ll have a higher chance of bad shot placement.

Gun hunting tips

·         If you’ve traveled with your gun prior to a hunt, make a practice shot to ensure the scope hasn’t been bumped in transit. A small bump can have a huge impact in a good shot to the lungs or a bad shot to the guts, or a total miss.

·         Make sure you have a steady rest. Whether you use a tree, shooting sticks or sit in a position to use your own body, you should be able to hold the gun steady with very little movement in any direction.

Use shooting sticks for a steady rest, but be sure to practice with them prior to your hunt.

·         Wait for the right shot. Just because you’re using a gun, doesn’t mean you can take any shot. Straight-on shots are difficult because the target area is very small. It’s best to wait for the deer to turn to get an angled or broadside shot.

·         Shoot at a distance you feel comfortable with. If you’ve never shot 200 yards, are you willing to risk shooting a deer when it steps out at 200 yards? If you do, make sure you have a solid rest and a reasonable amount of time to get set up and aim properly.

·         Don’t rush your shot. Rushed shots often times end in bad placement. Steady yourself and your gun, look through the scope and confirm there is nothing that could deflect the bullet, such as twigs, fence wire or tall grass. Once you’re ready, squeeze the trigger slowly and don’t jerk the gun. 

·         Make sure your gun barrel clears your rest or blind. Remember that your scope is higher than your barrel, and just because you have a clear visual through the scope, doesn’t mean your barrel is clear.

Regardless of the weapon of choice, another huge factor in making a good shot is getting your nerves under control when it’s time to focus. I admit that when I see a deer from my stand, I feel a rush of adrenaline take over. I take a deep breath and tell myself to calm down. Huntress View team member Jenny Burden knows well what effect nerves can have on shooting. In regards to a recent deer hunt, she said, “I was so nervous that I focused through my non-dominant eye and missed way wide.” It happens to the best of us!

And remember, some things can’t be avoided no matter how much you practice and how diligent you are about making the perfect shot. Unfortunately, that comes along with hunting. It’s the harsh reality hunters face, and one that isn’t usually shown on hunting shows on TV. Animals move when you don’t expect it, they duck arrows and bullets, and turn at just the right (or wrong!) moment. Huntress View founder Andrea Haas had a deer duck her arrow, which resulted in a shot to the spine and required a follow-up, close-range shot. Team member Emily Worthy Edwards wasn’t as lucky to get a follow-up shot when her target buck ducked and turned, resulting in a gut shot. She followed the blood trail until it ended, and continued to search for three days, unable to recover the deer.

All wasn’t lost for Emily. Weeks after her shot, while walking her hunting property, she found the deer carcass and was at least able to recover the antlers.

Ultimately, a lethal shot should be the goal of all hunters. It’s important to work hard to achieve that “perfect shot” with every arrow or bullet that you release, but it’s also important to understand that not everything is within your control.

Happy hunting, and good luck!