Monday, August 25, 2014

Prepping Your Hunting Site for the Wheelchair Hunter

This week’s article can mean the difference in whether you make a successful shot on that trophy buck or go through the remainder of the winter kicking yourself for what might have been.  There are enough variables that go into hunting an animal that smells everything, hears very well and spooks as easily as a White Tail. Site prep can at the maximum slant some of those variables to your favor if not at least level the playing field for the wheeled sportsman.

If the land you are hunting is really good, then it is also typically on the wilder side.  The place I am hunting this year was at one time a place where a family kept horses.  It has been two years since the horses have been on their place and the fields and groves have done exactly what God intended, they have taken over!  This leads to our first tip and goes for anyone whether disabled or not – only change what is absolutely necessary.  You do not want to make an overwhelming change to a deer’s environment.  Error on the side of the minimalist here.  We cut one main trail so I can get my wheelchair in and out with relative ease.  We will maintain this pathway until about mid-September and then not mow again until after the season is over.

The people who own the place offered to have it bush-hogged but we declined.  A major change would have been too much for the deer to feel comfortable in continuing to move through these fields have been doing.  The grass is about three and half to four feet tall.  This was going to be impossible for my chair to move through and as mentioned in last week’s article, I did get seriously stuck.  The flip side of this is the grass also showed very clearly where the deer had been moving through.  It provided them the cover they needed to continue to range all over this property.  Never take away the very thing that gives them that sense of security.  You want them to feel secure and confident.

Illustrated by Scott Anderson
The illustration above shows you my setup and kill zone.  The trail we cut into the grass from where we park runs right up to where my ground stand will be placed.  We then mowed a shooting lane through the tall grass to the spot we have viewed deer sign and trails.  In the picture, you see the forest, the field and then the big White Oak tree with Crab-Apple trees all around it.  Several of the apple bushes had been cleared in the lower levels and it was apparent that this would be a great spot for me to setup.  Deer love White-Oak acorns which should begin to drop in early October.  We are hoping that this will be the natural lure to bring them calling.

Shooting lane with Decoy
Again choosing to leave some natural environment, we did not mow the side lanes in the illustration above.  Instead, we simply ran over these with the mower to press the grass down some for a better view and possible shot.  With a crossbow or regular bow, the closer the shot the greater chance for a direct hit to the vitals and to humanely take the animal.

Anything else after we have created the trails and shooting lanes?  Absolutely!  For some strange reason, there always seems to be a difference when you move from the practice range to shooting with big trees, open fields.  The different objects that you have become accustomed to where you have been practicing are all gone and so is yardage clues.  It is critical to take a target to your hunting location and actually take some shots and see what subtle difference there may be.  Range your shots and be certain of your distances.  Is the ground rising or falling?  Is it a side hill, uphill or downhill shot?  All of these factors are variables in making great shots.  The good news is these are all variables that can be known with some practice and diligence.
Grouping at 35 Yards

Lastly, it will be critical to give your area a break for a good week or two before season starts.  It allows the deer to move naturally and lessens your scent in the area. This last point means you only have a few weeks left from the time of publishing to when the season starts depending on your State to get your site prepped.  So, get to krack-a-lackin people.

So lets recap – Prepping a site is important but be sure to not over do it.  Stage the area so that the deer are still moving naturally to a position you have ranged and have practiced shooting to so that you are completely comfortable with making THE shot.  Leave your area quiet a good week or more before season starts.  Go get‘em folks and please share your successes at our new Facebook Page!

- Scott Anderson

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Desire = The X-Factor

"Whether a man thinks he can or cannot - he is exactly right!"  - Henry Ford

How is your outlook?
There is no doubt that your outlook affects your outcome.  The outdoors is a tough wild place that is unforgiving and not easy to overcome. It's tough enough all by itself and then you multiply it with a physical handicap or disability or age and it can seem an impossible challenge.  However, your inner desire to remain out there is about as big as Mt. Everest in determining your success.  This weeks article is a break from the norm by design.  Sometimes we all need to hear the call to bravery, courage, and faith.

Where there is a will...

Is your heart free?
Put simply, I will not accept that my days in the sun are over.  My body may have succumbed to a wheelchair but my heart is still free and so is yours!  If you have begun to believe the lie that your outdoors passion is over, then STOP IT!  Stop it right now.  Get into a mirror and give yourself a big 'ole pep-talk.  One thing I have learned in life is that whatever you set your mind to can be achieved.  It may take some extra time, planning, and determination but it still can be achieved nonetheless.  Your desire to continue, to last, to go beyond what you believe you can do is a major reason for living.  It gives you vitality. It compels you to keep on going and not give up...ever!

Seek the help you need...

In addition to extra time, planning and determination, you are going to likely need help. I have found that people really want to see me continue fishing and hunting and will go to great lengths to aid me in my quest.  People have graciously granted me access to their ponds and land.  Some have invited me to hunt with them and it was a great time on each and every occasion.  Multiple people have aided in fabricating things that assist me in hunting from a wheelchair.  In short, don't be prideful.  Pride is like a dam, it holds stuff up and doesn't allow things to flow naturally.  Although it's never fun to have to admit when you can't do something, it's even less fun to give up an entire area of your life simply because you won't humble yourself and ask for help.  This is stinking thinking.  It hurts nobody else but you.  Let it go!

Share your success...

You may not think of yourself as influential, but you have more influence than you know.  Social media allows everyone to be a writer of sorts.  Post your pics and your stories of adventure, your successes and your failures (more on this in a minute).  What you do matters!  You may be the kick in the seat someone else needs to re-engage in their journey.  Don't be afraid of being an inspiration to others.

Laugh at yourself...

Laugh at yourself, it helps!
Having a physical disability or handicap can be tough, I know.  No, I really know!  But ease up.  Don't slime everyone else around you.  By learning to giggle at your situation, you will cause others to feel at ease and want to be around you.  Case in point, last week I was out with my buddy Kyle.  We were prepping a site for deer season.  My wheelchair got so stuck in very tall grass that it popped the breaker on the chair.  I could've gotten all weird and panicky.  I mean, we were stuck and it was getting pretty dark. But, what good would that have done?  It would have only made Kyle nervous and not be able to get me unstuck.  Just LAUGH!  It's life.  It's not perfect but it sure is fun.  I called my wheelchair tech and with a minor flip of a switch we were back up and running.  We laughed all the way home about that moment and told others for several days afterwards.  Just as easily, I could have lost a hunting partner by being dramatic. Your failures will help endear people to you more than your successes ever could.  In the end, it's your choice of how you handle unforeseen obstacles.

I hope you have been encouraged by this piece.  I hope that in some way these words placed together have kindled a fire inside of you, stirred your heart, reminded you of the hunger you have for adventure.  It's out there.  The real question is: Are you?

- Scott Anderson

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shooting Tips for the Wheelchair Bound Hunter

So as promised, this article is a continuation from last week in which we discussed crossbows for handicapped or disabled hunters.  This week we will focus in on how to get you and your weapon shooting efficiently and accurately with consistency.  Everyone ready?  w00t...let's go!

First, if you are someone who has difficulty holding a gun or bow, you are going to need some type of shooting platform that you are comfortable with.  If you are going to shoot recreational, this can be a saw-horse or anything like it that will enable you to handle the weapon effectively.  If you are going to hunt however, you are going to need something that will be small enough for a ground blind.

Say hello to the old photographer's tripod!  I got mine from a pro photographer who had upgraded all of his gear and had several old ones lying around.  He gave it to me for free...suh-weeeet!  These tripods are awesome platforms for weapons because they have a swivel ball head at the top which will give you some flexibility when putting the sites on a moving animal.  A friend modified it for me by placing a block of wood and attaching a U-Hook to rest the gun or crossbow on.  As blind luck would have it, my Barnett RC-150 has a vented forearm stock design that rests perfectly on the U-Hook.  Additionally, it balances perfectly from front to rear, so I don't have to spend a lot of energy just holding the bow on the tripod.

My recommendation is that you play and tweak until you find your perfect solution.  If anyone has designed something, let me know.  I would be happy to test it and write an article on it.

All right. You have your crossbow and a platform.  So, how do I become accurate?  Let's start with the correct form.  Shooting in general is a game of doing the exact same things again and again and making minute changes when you make mistakes.  Regardless if it is a bow, crossbow or rifle, these concepts remain true.  The picture to the right is from the site and is an excellent example of a key concept in archery - Anchor Points.  On a crossbow with a scope, you should hold it the same, touch the stock with your cheek at the exact same point, and be looking with the same angle in the scope each time you shoot.  Because weapons are rarely accurate straight out of the box, using anchor points will allow you discover how and why your weapon is shooting inaccurately so that you can make the proper adjustments. Once you know where it is missing consistently, you can zero it in as they say.

Ok, so we have our anchor points and are consistently missing the target in the same spot now what? Sighting your crossbow in is exciting because you begin to see the immediate results as you make the adjustments.  Begin at a distance of only about 10 yards to get your elevation (up/down) and windage (left/right) correct.  By adjusting these knobs on the side and top of the scope it moves the cross hairs to correct the miss you have been experiencing at first.

The dial on the right side of the scope is windage.  It is important to get this one dialed in first.  You don't want to miss the tartget completely and kill the neighborhood squirrel.  Make a shot or two for consistency and then make some adjustments and repeat until the target you are aiming at is in line and not left or right.  Once you've got your windage, begin working on elevation which is the top dial on the scope.  A typical 4x30 crossbow scope is meant to be dialed in at about 20-25 yards, meaning that the main cross hairs is spot on at that distance.  Again, make several shots and then adjust until you are right on at 20 yards in a nice tight grouping.

Now you are all set, and the real fun can begin.  Looking at the reticle, not rectal (pronunciation is very key - LOL), picture at the right you see the main cross hairs with additional lines below it.  You know the main cross hair is set for 20 yards, so now you can begin moving your target further out until you know what yardage each reticle line consistently shoots at maintaining the same anchor points you have been using.  When you get these mastered, you then should play a game where the target is placed at  random, unknown distances. This will make you have to guess which reticle like is the best to make an accurate shot.  This is as close to hunting as you are going to get before going out and aiming at a real live deer or hog so make it challenging.

Any last minute tidbits?  Yep!  For those of you in a powered wheelchair that has the ability to elevate up and down be sure to shoot with your chair always at its bottom most position.  I experienced a sudden problem with inaccuracies because my chair was slightly elevated one day. I was shooting everything very low on the target where I had been spot on just minutes before.  After discovering the issue, I bottomed my chair out.  I began shooting flawlessly again.  The difference of being elevated had caused my eye to look through the scope at a different angle than I had been.  Those anchor points are very important.

Lastly, shoot a lot.  Shoot at targets on different type of terrains - uphill, downhill, side-hill.  Every shot has minor differences. If you haven't experienced it, you are more likely to miss when the critical moment comes.

Here are some pictures of my setup:
The third picture above is a shot at 50 yards with a slight wind coming from in front and to the right.  Shots will never be taken on animals at this distance; however, I did have to win the game - hehehe.

- Scott Anderson

Monday, August 4, 2014

Crossbows for the Handicapped or Disabled

Update January 13, 2015 - Barnett's introductory crossbow is now called the Recruit. I would highly recommend the PSE Fang for the same price but much better performance.

Scott, Stephanie and Rivers
Fresh off of a family vacation to the red-neck riviera resort-town of Panama City Beach, FL.  It was a great time and a much needed break to spend amazing moments with my wife and son.  Soooo, with batteries recharged let's get you ready for the upcoming fall hunting season - w00h00!

For a very long time, I was envious of bow-hunters.  They got to hunt deer early, rarely wear hunters-orange, and usually did very well.  In my teens, I had friends that hunted this way but reality was, and still is, that I simply cannot pull a bow back.  Over time guns were also becoming heavy and difficult to manage.  So, when I went to college, my hunting career just faded into distant memory.

The good news is the sun didn't fully set on my hunting experience after all.  In recent years, I have been fortunate to acquire some friends who were avid hunters, and they reignited the bug in me.  With some assistance, I have returned to the field, and it has been a blast - no pun intended.

One in particular, Kyle, is a bow-hunter and kept insisting that I should look at a crossbow as my option "A" instead of a rifle.  At our local Academy Sports and Outdoors, we were shopping for fishing lures and decided to just take a look at the crossbows.  The young man behind the counter saw me and immediately became excited.  He told me how his father was also in a wheelchair and that he uses a crossbow and quite effectively.  Ahh, the sun is shining again!

After holding one and looking through the scope I was falling in love, but the price-tag was causing my heart to have palpitations.  He then told me about his father's crossbow.  How it was light, deadly and inexpensive...YES!!!  Barnett's RC-150 was exactly what I had been looking for.
Barnett RC-150

They had just one left and it had been there a while so the price had been reduced.  To say the least, I got a great deal and have been extremely pleased with the purchase.  Although the box and paperwork says it shoots 18 inch bolts, we contacted Barnett directly and they explained that it absolutely can shoot the more common 20 inch bolts. This saves you from having to get the longer shafts cut down to 18 inches and makes it easier to find an arrow you might like.

So what are the advantages of a crossbow over a rifle?  For starters they are very similar.  Archery can be difficult because there is a certain amount of feel that goes into it.  With a crossbow, you can take all of your knowledge from the land of guns and bring into the world of archery which makes the transition smooth.

Secondly, they are different - LOL!  I know...I know, it sounds like I am contradicting myself but keep your cammo on, and you will understand.  There is no recoil!  In rifles, the lighter the gun (which makes it easier for people with disabilities to maneuver the weapon) then the more your shoulder is going to hurt because the recoil is more violent.  Not so with a crossbow, there is no recoil, so you can be extremely confident in getting on the weapon and not hurting after you have shot for hours.

Also, the trigger squeeze is a bit different.  If a rifle is truly field ready, a gentle amount of trigger pressure will discharge the weapon.  A crossbow is designed around tension and the future release of that tension.  The bow string sits firmly on the release mechanism and holds all of that potential energy.  In turn, it requires more trigger pressure to release it.  This however is not a downfall but rather something that simply takes some practice getting accustomed to.

The last big difference is that a crossbow can never be dry fired (no arrow).  You can break the arms of a bow or crossbow by doing this.  Be sure to match your arrows correctly to the bow you buy.  They require a certain amount of weight called grains to fire correctly and consistently.

Ok, so lets say you buy one from Academy or order it online, are there any tidbits you need to know?  You bet your sweet bippy there is.  First, the arrows that come in the package are absolutely worthless.  They will bend after only a few shots, so be sure to pick up some decent bolts.  I happen to use Easton Bloodline bolts with a low profile fletching (the feathers at the rear of the arrow).  I have shot them repeatedly with no defects.  They are strong, dependable and will deliver the impact force accurately so that you humanely kill the animal being targeted.
Example Only

Secondly, the sight that typically comes with the RC-150 is a red dot style.  If you can pay to have someone sight it in for you, it will work.  I personally like the rifle style scope with reticle lines for a good sight picture.  The additional lines helps you range your weapon. Once you are actually hunting, you KNOW which line is for whatever distance that your target happens to wonder in at.  It's less feel and more skill much like a rifle.

Lastly, the rail is the part of the bow that you mount your scope on.  The one that comes with this crossbow is designed for the red-dot scope in the package.  You can either purchase a new rail or get a rail-adapter that will enable you to mount other styles of scopes onto your bow.  Remember that the majority of your shots will be less than 40 yards, which means you will not require a super-zoom scope.  A 4x32 scope will do just fine and not break the bank.

As we close, in case you were curious as to how well you can shoot with this weapon.  I wanted to leave you with this image so that you will know that if I can do can you my friend. I can taste deer already!
From 25 yards

Next week we will be talking about ideas for shooting from a  wheelchair and getting your weapon dialed in to make that awesome shot.

- Scott Anderson