Summer Hunting Guide 2018

Written by Blake Johnson, Sellmark Marketing/Social Media Specialist

For many hunters, the summer months are used to prepare for fall, like checking feeders and getting stands into place. Some like to work on their accuracy at the range, and many turn to fishing. Still, there are those with the itch to get out and hunt, but with temperatures in the South reaching 100 degrees regularly, what is a hunter to do? Night hunting is becoming increasingly popular due to affordable night vision technology and more bearable temperatures. Below is a quick guide to popular summer hunting game, as well as appropriate gun set-ups. Be sure to check your state and local laws, as hunting laws do vary drastically by state.

What can you hunt in the summer?

Hogs

It is well known that the U.S. has a widespread hog problem. Found in over 75% of states, the invasive wild hog has an estimated population of over 5 million. There are no natural predators to hogs. Hog hunting is beneficial to farmers and landowners to which the hogs cost millions of dollars each year in damages.

Hogs cause huge problems for landowners and farmers. You can hunt them all year long and take as many as you want.
Hogs cause huge problems for landowners and farmers. You can hunt them all year long and take as many as you want. This picture is from the Sightmark Wraith.

Hogs can’t sweat so they need a way to cool down, which is why they are often found rolling in mud. Where you can find water, you can usually find hogs. The problem is that hogs are smarter than given credit for, and most have become nocturnal from hunting pressure and the hot daytime weather. Purchasing a night vision scope is a great investment to successfully eradicate your local hog population.

Hogs are fast, thus a semi-auto modern sporting rifle (MSR) is favorable to use. Picatinny/Weaver rails allow you to add many attachments useful for night hunting. A night vision riflescope like the Sightmark Photon XT allows for clear nighttime viewing and an accurate, precise shot, something you’ll need with hogs. When using a bolt-action gun, I usually prefer to use something in .30 caliber or above. I would also recommend keeping a larger caliber pistol on you just in case. Hogs are vicious and will sometimes run straight at you. It’s always better to have a back-up in case your gun jams or you don’t have time to reload.

Coyotes

Compared to other digital night vision scopes on the market, the Sightmark Photon XT offers incredible value.
Take the Photon from day to night hunting.

For deer hunters and farmers, coyotes are becoming an increasing nuisance. They will kill fawns, chickens, and house pets. It’s important to control coyote populations to ensure the survival of other animals. Though it’s entirely possible to spot one during the day, during hot months coyotes tend to limit their movements to the cool period between dusk and dawn. Yet again, you’re going to need a night vision scope of some kind to help spot them.

Using a call is a popular way to hunt coyotes. Electric calls utilizing pup in distress calls tend to work best and will have coyotes running in at a dead sprint. Even more so than hogs, you need to be covert, as ‘yotes are very smart in hiding behind terrain.

Bolt-action guns in lower calibers are well-suited for coyotes. My personal favorite caliber for coyotes is a .22-250 with a Photon XT 4.6x42S night vision riflescope when on a coyote hunt. I keep mentioning the Photon because, at the $500 price point, its value cannot be beaten. You can test Gen I scopes, but if you’re anything like me you will be disappointed until you try out the digital Photon XT’s.

Small Game and Varmints

Varmint hunting is another popular endeavor during the hot summer. Raccoons and other varmints are always getting into trouble: eating corn and other vegetation, getting into the trash and preying on ground-nesting birds. Most all raccoon hunting is done at night when they love to cause problems.

Nighttime hog hunts are even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.
Nighttime hog hunts are even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

A lot of people use hounds to hunt raccoons and other varmints, but it can be easily done without them. A .22 with iron sights or red dot sight is a popular small game gun. With ample stopping power for small game, dirt-cheap ammunition, and an incredibly lightweight, .22’s are perfect guns to take in the woods. While a night vision scope is not necessary, having a night vision device is very helpful. The Sightmark Ghost Hunter series offers a variety of night vision monoculars and binoculars at affordable prices and in different magnifications. Use the night vision sight to spot raccoons then shoot ‘em down with the .22. A powerful flashlight like the Sightmark SS600 Tactical is great for spotlighting coons in trees before you take your shot.

There is no reason to hang up the hunting gear just because it’s summer. Though the days are hot, a night vision device enables you to scratch your hunting itch without having to wait until fall.  It also gives you something to look forward to during those long summer days. So, get out there and hunt!

Click here to shop Sightmark’s night vision products.

 

Trailing Blood: 7 Steps to Find Your Deer

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.

Following a blood trail is one of the last things a hunter wants to do. Knowing that you wounded a deer is not a pleasant feeling to have. It takes a lot of blood trails and experience to become a talented tracker. Helping other people locate their deer is a great way to gain experience. Check out these seven tips to help you become a more experienced and successful blood tracker.

If your shot isn’t perfect, you will have to trail your deer
If your shot isn’t perfect, you will have to trail your deer

Point of Impact

One of the most important things you can do when you shoot is to watch your arrow or bullet hit the deer. Slow down your breathing and focus when you take the shot. Knowing the point of impact can help you establish if it was a good shot or not. An alternative option is to record your hunts and watch where the impact is. Additionally, watch how the deer reacts when they are hit. If the deer kicks like a bronco, it is sometimes a lung or heart shot. However, if the deer hunches over like it is sick, it is usually a gunshot.

Stay Put

Many hunters rush out of their stand filled with excitement after they shoot. Deer are strong animals and sometimes take multiple hours to die. The length of time it takes for a deer to die depends on your shot placement. Make sure you give the deer enough time in case you made a bad shot. As a rifle hunter, I like to wait 30 minutes after I shoot to let the deer die. If you are too quick to approach the deer, you risk spooking the deer and causing them to run further. This results in more work for the hunter.

Starting Point

To save time and effort, always start blood trailing where the deer was standing when you shot. Use a physical marker to help you remember that location. Starting from the beginning allows you to get a feel for what the blood trail is like. It is much easier to start there because when you climb down from the stand your perception of everything is changed.

Blood Analysis

The color of the blood is the dead giveaway to your shot placement. Seeing red or pink blood is a positive sign that you placed a good shot on the deer. Dark red blood indicates you hit the heart or liver. Pink blood can mean you hit the lungs and you will also see bubbles within the blood. Green matter indicates you have a gunshot. Obviously, the more blood the better. Sometimes high lung shots will not bleed as much because it takes longer for the body cavity to fill up. When looking for blood, do not look for a definite trail, sometimes the smallest droplets can help you locate the deer.

Tracking

Getting low to the ground can help you see small blood droplets easier. It might be painful on your knees, but you will forget about that when you find your deer. The most important thing to do when tracking blood is to mark the last spot of blood. As you are trailing and looking down at the ground, it is easy to get turned around with directions. Flagging tape is a great way to mark the last blood. You will slowly establish a general idea of the direction the deer is traveling in with the flagging tape. Do not move forward until you have located more blood. Walking aimlessly through the woods will wear you down and cause you to become hopeless. When walking pointlessly through the woods, you have the chance to smear blood or cover blood up with vegetation. If you lose the blood trail, continue in the same direction walking in small half circles looking for the next drop of blood. Many times you will find blood on the side of vegetation, not just on the ground. Getting down at the deer’s level is a great way to locate additional blood

Habits

Many hunters have noticed that deer have circle backed, or double backed on themselves. If a deer does a hard double back, it adds difficulty to the tracker. If the blood trail suddenly stops, turn around and see if the trail continues in a different direction.

Help

Having multiple sets of eyes looking for blood greatly increases the chances of finding more blood. Make sure you do not have too many helpers or you will all be walking on top of each other. I have found that one or two additional people is a good compromise on extra eyes verses too many people. If needed, you can use a dog to find your deer. This is not legal in some states, so double-check with your local hunting laws before using a dog.

Final Remarks

Make sure to use all the legal tools you can to help you find the deer. Watching your point of impact will help you understand the situation that the deer is in. Make sure to give the deer enough time to lay down before you pursue the deer. Always stat trailing where the deer was standing when you shot. Identifying the color of the blood will help you know where your shot placement was, and possibly the state of health that the deer is in. Make sure to grab an extra pair of eyes, so you do not overlook any blood. Make sure you find your deer before the predators do!

About the Author

Clayton was born and raised in Cypress, Texas just outside of Houston and is currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. Clayton hopes to pursue a career with Sellmark, or continue his education after graduation. Clayton is an avid deer, waterfowl, dove, turkey and exotics hunter. Growing up around guns, Clayton’s dad and grandfather are hunters as well. When Clayton isn’t in the office, at school or in the field, he’s on the water pursuing another favorite hobby—fishing. Clayton says, “Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.”

Six Ways to Sabotage Your Deer Hunt

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.

Many articles share how to have a successful deer hunt but finding one that reminds you of what not to do are few and far between. Busting your hunt can be one of the worst feelings for a hunter. Hunting season is only for a limited time, so make each hunt count.

Tardy to the Party

Arriving fashionably late to the deer stand is a great way to start off a miserable hunt. Beauty sleep isn’t necessarily essential for a successful hunt. So wake up early and have some coffee… but not too much. It’s okay to be early, but never okay to be late. If you are tardy to the party, sneak into your stand as quietly as you can. Try not to startle anything by taking it slow and quiet. Being on time for a morning hunt means slipping in under the cover of darkness. It is one of your best advantages. Once you get situated in the stand, you are ready to go and your prey is none the wiser.

The Munchies

Munchin' down on burgers in the stand is not a great idea.
Munchin’ down on burgers in the stand is not a great idea.

If the deer are eating, you can eat, right? It depends. Make sure you find quiet snacks to eat in the stand like jerky, sausage or trail mix. Test them out at home before you take them to the stand and see how quietly you can eat. Some loud snack options to refrain from eating are carrots, chips and apples. Smacking is also prohibited in the deer stand. Equally as important, play the wind. Do not bring food that smells, like a sandwich. Deer have keen senses and can zero in on your Whataburger from quite a distance. The two senses deer rely on the most are smelling and hearing. The sandwich you eat might smell good to you, but its an alert to the deer.

Smells

If you cannot go anywhere without bringing your lucky perfume, then hunting may not be for you. The sense of smell is one of the main tools deer use for navigating their habitat. Deer tend to avoid unfamiliar scents. They’re pretty smart animals and are known to maneuver downwind of you in an effort to pick up your scent. Make sure you do not spray any extra scents on yourself and avoid washing your clothes in a detergent that smells like spring cleaning. Suppressing your scent is crucial for bow hunters, as you have to get close to the deer. Rifle hunters have an easier time hiding their scent, typically because of sheer distance. Many companies make an earth scent spray to cover your scent. I recommend using it.

Hibernation

While I said no beauty sleep, you still need rest. Sleep is crucial when hunting; waking up early and going to bed late drains the body of energy. Taking a snooze in the deer stand might seem like it will help solve the problem. I know the stand can get boring, but avoid sleeping at all costs. Many hunters have slept through hunts and missed shooting a deer that they never knew came out. Your chances of seeing a deer dramatically drop when your eyes are closed; If you want to sleep, stay in bed while the rest of us get out and enjoy nature.

Social Media

Everyone gets lonely in the stand waiting for a deer to show. Many hunters use this time to Facebook and update everyone on their adventures. This is a costly mistake because your eyes are on your phone and not on the field. More than one deer has slipped into view and left without Facebooking hunters and you ever noticing. Additionally, always keep watch on the deer to make sure one of them does not sneak up on you and give away your position. The deer aren’t prone to sending Facebook messages to announce their arrival.

Dance Party

Moving inside the blind can be noticed by a deer’s keen eyesight. Even the smallest movements can spook a deer and cause them to run off. Keep movements to a minimum and consider stand positions that obscure your silhouette. Deer can see the image of your head and upper body through the stand, especially if you move. Hiding in front of a structure, like a tree or corner of the stand will help break up your image and perhaps some light movement.  Don’t bust a move of any kind while hunting.

Abandon Ship

Being the captain of the ship means you leave whenever you like; however, leaving the stand early can alert deer of your presence. Never leave the field when there are still deer in the area. Scaring deer away is one of the worst ways to ruin a current and future hunt. Having a human emerge from the stand is not natural for the deer to see. Making the environment look as natural as possible is key to success.

Final Remarks

Sleep is important when hunting but never press snooze. Bring snacks that are quiet in case you get the munchies. Find natural scents around you like cedar to rub on you to help mask your scent. Do not sleep in the stand. Stay off of social media– the deer are not going to message you. Stay still as deer can see even the smallest movements. Never abandon ship early. Show up early, leave late and hunt hard!

Have you ever missed a shot due to something you weren’t paying attention? Tell us about your hunting mishaps in the comment section.

Click here to shop Sightmark.

About the Author

I was born and raised in Cypress, Texas which is just outside of Houston. I am currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. I plan on either pursuing a career with Sellmark or continuing my education after I graduate. I am an avid hunter in which I pursue deer, waterfowl, dove, turkeys, and exotics. I have been around guns my entire life because my dad and grandfather are hunters as well. Another one of my favorite hobbies is fishing. Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.

Successfully Hunting Spring Turkey in Oklahoma

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

Every year in late winter, as cabin fever begins to set in, we start to think about spring turkey season. As Mother Nature allows, we gradually begin to disc plots, frost-seed our clover and chicory and use prescribed fire on our native warm-season grasses. Fire, in addition to management practices such as food plots, timber management and predator control, can dramatically increase turkey activity on your property. Fire suppresses unwanted plants and weeds, increases the palatability by encouraging new tender growth and improves wildlife habitat. In early spring, turkeys find these areas to be a great source of food. While predators such as coyotes and bobcats are much easier to avoid in freshly burned warm-season grasses, mature toms find these burns irresistible—they are incredible places to seek out hens and put on a show, fans out, in full strut.

Spring turkey hunting at its finest with the Sightmark Wolverine.
Spring turkey hunting at its finest.

A few days into the Oklahoma spring turkey season, we found ourselves set up on an area we had burned several weeks prior. While driving into the property, we located a big tom strutting in the middle of the burn. He had a single hen with him but she was giving him the cold shoulder as she fed along the edge of a creek. Several fingers of mature oaks separated us from the birds and we used them to our advantage as we cut the distance using woodlots for cover. A small pond at the edge of the woods meant the end of the road for us. We had cut the distance as much as possible and now only a few hundred yards separated us from where we had seen the strutting tom just 30 minutes earlier.

I crawled across the burned grasses to get the decoys in place—hen and jake decoys were now easily visible from nearly every direction. As I set up, questions began to flood my head. Is the tom still in this area?  Will he hear my calling in the wind? Which way will he come from? We settled into a large clump of partially burned cedars and began to call.  I was slightly forward of my buddy, Chris Walls, who had volunteered to run the camera that day. Several minutes went by with no movement and no response from the tom we had seen earlier.  After nearly 30 minutes of periodic calling, I heard a faint gobble in the distance. Chris and I shared a quick glance to confirm that we had both heard what we thought we had heard. The tom was a long way away and had quite a distance to cover. Yet, still he had answered my call and that alone boosted our spirits considerably.

After that first gobble, things happened fast. As I called, the tom would immediately respond and occasionally cut me off. All the while, we could tell he was getting close with each subsequent gobble. The bird had committed and, within just a few minutes, had closed the distance by several hundred yards. I had to shift positions slightly. The tom decided he was coming right over the top of the pond dam to look for the hen that was making all of that sweet racket.

I heard him before I saw him. Although the tom neared, he remained hidden—the unmistakable sound of drumming just over the lip of the pond dam meant that he was close…real close!

The Sightmark Wolverine helps hunters take aim quickly.
The Sightmark Wolverine red dot sight helps hunters take aim quickly.

Finally, the glimpse of a patriotic red, white and blue head over the edge of the pond damn made my heart race even faster! One last gobble and the body language of the old tom completely changed. He had seen the decoys! The tom was now focused on fighting his competition.  He cruised into the decoys at a brisk pace, dragging his wingtips and puffing out his chest. He passed by the Avian hen decoy without a second look and immediately began to beat up on the poor jake with well-placed wings and spurs!

As he continued, I stared intently, directly down my shotgun barrel at the unsuspecting gobbler. The Sightmark Wolverine’s bright red-dot reticle followed the tom’s head as he danced around the jake. Chris whispered the confirmation I needed that he was on the bird and rolling. While Chris was ready, I was not. I needed to let him clear the decoy just a bit to avoid putting pellets in my plastic prizefighter!

The click of the safety and a slight squeeze of the trigger left the tom laying on the ground between the decoys. A quick high-five with my cameraman and I ran out to gather what turned out to be another incredible bird off one of our Oklahoma properties. Property management and the right equipment played a huge role once again in the form of another successful turkey hunt. They don’t always end with smiles and high-fives but they do always end in an education. Make an effort to learn something every time you are out in the woods or on the water and it is sure to make you more successful in the future.

It was a successful spring turkey hunt for all.
It was a successful hunt for all.

About Brian

Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared that same interest. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bowhunting was born. He has been bowhunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.

Do you have a successful spring turkey hunt story? Share it in the comment section.

Alaska Caribou—The Hunt of a Lifetime

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

In 2015, Pulsar and Sightmark Pro Staffer Brian Magee and his friend and business partner Chris Walls from Fired Up Outdoors went on a drop-style hunt of a lifetime near Deadhorse, Alaska— an unincorporated community in North Slope Borough, 495 miles from Fairbanks. Here is Brian’s story.

We spent a great deal of time planning and preparing for our Alaska Caribou hunt! Well over a year in the making, we headed to Alaska to hunt Caribou north of the Arctic Circle. We chose to do a drop style-hunt—no guides, no knowledge of what to expect and no experience on the tundra.  It was sure to be an adventure and a learning experience.

The Dalton Highway is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It ends at Deadhorse, Alaska.
The Dalton Highway is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It ends at Deadhorse, Alaska.

We packed and repacked everything we would need for the trip—checking our gear and then checking it again. To keep weight down, we chose to take only one rifle with us. We headed to the range the day before our departure to double-check the accuracy and zero.  Everything was in order and our excitement and anxiety were high.

We arrived in Fairbanks without incident.  Baggage and weapons were accounted for—our first obstacle overcome! We looked forward to the long but scenic drive along the Dalton Highway to our destination near Deadhorse, Alaska. The drive was amazing as we crossed numerous types of terrain and habitat. The Brooks Range was absolutely breathtaking. No picture taken could ever do this place justice.

Stopping at several river and creek crossings to stretch our legs, we caught grayling and saw bear and moose tracks in the mud. I was having the time of my life and we were still making the journey north. Upon arriving at the Happy Valley airstrip, we met with our pilots and began condensing gear to fit in the small compartments of our bush planes.  In Alaska, you are not allowed to fly and hunt on the same day, so we were anxious to get into camp, set up and begin to glass and scout our area for caribou. As always anytime we travel, double-checking the rifle and bows is a top priority. There was a target and bench set up next to the airstrip for exactly that.  Despite the best efforts of the commercial airlines, the .270 WSM was exactly as we had left it in Oklahoma!

Day 1

We took a bush plane to our We took a bush plane to our campsite location.
We took a bush plane to our campsite location.

After a quick but very beautiful flight in the bush planes, we landed on a small gravel bar in the middle of a river. During the flight, I couldn’t help but notice several caribou and even a grizzly in the immediate area.  We thanked our pilots and began to set up camp. The area we were in seemed to be perfect. Several peaks with large bowls fed down into the river bottom where we had set up camp. Our optics would be able to do a good deal of work right from where we were. Tents went up, water was gathered, and the spotting scopes came out. Several small groups of cows and calves worked their way through the area that afternoon and anticipation was high for the next morning.

Day 2

Drop-style hunts require careful consideration of what to pack for camp, considering safety, weight and space in the bush plane.
Drop-style hunts require careful consideration of what to pack for camp, considering safety, weight and space in the bush plane.

We woke to heavy fog and less than desirable conditions. Visibility was reduced to the first few hundred yards from our tents. Mountain House biscuits and gravy and several cups of instant coffee broke the chill in the air and really tasted good. Despite the fog and drizzle, spirits were high, and we were just enjoying the entire experience.

Days 3-5

Days passed, and we experienced every possible weather condition from fog and drizzle to snow and even had a bright sunny day mixed in.

Day 6

Day six started out pretty much like most of the others, fog and light drizzle. However, the fog quickly lifted, and we were excited to see several bulls feeding in the bowl about two miles from camp. There were several good bulls in the group and we decided to attempt a stalk on the group in hopes of getting within range of one particular bull. The tundra is tough walking, especially uphill! The bulls casually fed across the tundra and it seemed like we needed to jog just to keep up with them. We worked a small drain that was bordered by blueberries on both sides and eventually found ourselves within rifle range of the group. I was running the camera and allowed my friend Chris the opportunity to put the .270 WSM to work. The wind was right, the distance was right and there was a bull in the group that Chris really liked.

Chris worked to a position where he could clear some of the leaves and limbs from the blueberry bushes and eventually settle on a tundra hummock that offered a good rest. He pressed the stock of the .270 WSM down into the tundra to give himself a solid rest and eased his cheek into position. He went over all the little details of the bull aloud: “good tops, good mass, big shovel.” The next question was, “Are you on him?” I quickly replied “yes,” and the deafening muzzle blast almost caught me off guard.

We watched as the giant bull only took a few steps and then fell over dead. We were celebrating and swapping high-fives in some of the most beautiful country we have ever set foot. Two point-of-view cameras captured Chris getting settled as well as the look right down the barrel. The big bull lay motionless in the viewfinder of the main camera.  What an amazing hunt in some amazing country! I recommend trying a drop hunt on the North Slope of the Brooks Range if you love adventure and beautiful scenery.

What is your most memorable hunt? Share it with us in the comment section.

About Brian
Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting, and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared that same interest. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bowhunting was born. He has been bowhunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals with a bow. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.

First Time Hog Hunt, Lifetime of Memories

I remember the first time I set my gaze upon feral hogs like it was yesterday. Dense morning fog had just lifted to reveal an unruly sounder rooting under an oak tree on the edge of a steep finger well off the beaten path in California’s La Panza range. It was my first hog hunt and while I did not kill that weekend, the hunt stayed with me, gnawing at me like a tick to get back out there. Seriously—and not from experience mind you—I liken hog hunting to crack or some other stranglehold drug—you absolutely can get addicted your first time out. I didn’t kill on my second, third or fourth time out either. Even my fifth, sixth and seventh time were exercises in futility; however, my addiction stayed. Every hog I saw fanned the fire.

Writer Kevin Reese recalls his first nighttime hog hunt, made even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.
Nighttime hog hunting is even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

To be honest, I don’t recall how many hunts it took to drop my first hog, but I do remember the experience well. It was an early morning rifle hunt and I was walking to the corner of a wheat field when I heard the grunts. I had seen pigs from afar but this was the first time I heard them. I froze and scanned to my right to see a half-dozen rooting up a soft patch of dirt at a tree line some 50 yards from my position. I shot a large sow and learned quickly how little they sometimes bleed. With virtually no blood trail to go on, I conducted a methodical sweep of the area. After a solid two hours of combing, I had to laugh silently to myself. While I thought she had made good distance before she expired, I found her less than 15 yards from where she was shot; she had bolted out of sight then circled back.

I also remember my first night hunts—first with a bow, then with night vision and thermal. What is spooky to some, simply added excitement to my nighttime experience. New sounds shattered the silence in every direction—locusts, the intensified volume of lulling cattle, even the shrill scream of a cougar rose the hair on the back of my neck on that first dusk ‘til dawn hunt. And, of course, the screeches, barks and grunts from agitated hogs crashing into a freshly rooted area had my heart beating out of my chest. Admittedly, I bow hunted hogs for years before stumbling upon the thrill of night hunting with digital night vision with a Sightmark Photon.

While my firsts have been many and decades of chasing critters and filling freezers in the making, nowadays, my favorite pursuits are those spent with new hunters and reveling in their firsts, especially those late-night experiences where an entirely different outdoor world is busy playing out. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing a first hunt. The hunter was equipped with an AR-platform rifle and Photon RT Digital Night Vision Scope as we scouted on freshly planted crop fields just south of Waxahachie, Texas. With amazing folks at Three Curl Outfitters at the reigns, we rolled down a handful of farm roads, scanning with thermal monoculars. As the night rolled on, we continued glassing fields and adding to the collection of empty energy drink cans on the truck floor. The time was right, the weather was right… but our timing had not been right at all. I laughed to myself several times as I imagined large sounders of hogs dropping down into the fields we scouted just seconds after we passed—who knows? They may have. Just as we began to tucker out it happened. “Pigs!” Our guide stopped the truck and glassed with his thermal monocular to confirm. Yes, finally, they were there, a half-dozen or so near a tree line on the opposite side of a field nearly 1,000 yards out. We parked the truck, slid out onto the road, then quickly and quietly filed out onto the field.

Hog hunting at night is easier with thermal scanners and scopes from Pulsar and digital riflescopes from Sightmark.
My first hog fell 15 yards from where I shot it.

With the wind in our favor, we closed the distance pretty quickly—especially given the trek across uneven terrain was over a half-mile—the last few hundred yards in stalk-mode. When the guide finally stopped us, we were no more than 75 yards away from the few remaining pigs—half had ventured back into the trees during our stalk. We quietly fanned out side-by-side, lowered the handguard of the rifle down into the cradle of the monopod and settled in.

I stood close by. Instead of a rifle this time, I had my smartphone. Amazingly enough, the Photon RT, Sightmark’s latest model, includes built-in video and Wi-Fi. Most importantly at this moment of truth, the Wi-Fi had allowed me to connect to the scope and to watch the first-time hunter’s display remotely on my device. The beauty of it was obvious—I was better able to coach him quietly while maintaining a shooter’s perspective of his reticle, overall field of view and the small sounder of pigs completely unaware of our presence.

Once we were set, the guide asked us to confirm when we had “eyes” on the targets. We confirmed and I watched his reticle on my phone lower and settle onto a sweet spot just behind the largest pig’s ear. The guide counted down, “three, two, one.”

At one, the first shot shattered the deafening silence, dropping the first pig where it stood, it never budged an inch. As hog hunting sometimes goes, especially with new hunters, the rest of the hogs made it into nearby trees, disappearing instantly under the cloak of a tangled thicket.

It was his first kill ever and on a wily old sow. I smiled to myself in the darkness as a flurry of high-fives and hugs made a quick round. Decades later, I still recall the sudden rush of adrenaline, when my emotions suddenly were not my own… and a mix of tears and laughter, perhaps best described as elation, reverence plain old uncontrollable jitters. I had been a mess and now some of those feeling had rushed back being fortunate enough to share this defining moment with him. There, on that field trimmed neatly in hues of midnight blue and silver, another hunter was born.

We would love to hear your first hunt stories. Share them with us in the comment section.

Living and Leaving: It’s all About a Legacy

Revelation

The heat from his little body radiated into mine as beads of sweat raced down his cheeks, mixing with the stream of tears carving their course for the tip of his tiny chin. “Hold me tight, Daddy!  Hold me tight! Please, hold me tight!” His pleas filled the room as he continued to sink into me, pulling my arms ever tighter around his chest. Finally, the nurse had her sample; with a little luck, we would have our answer within a week. After all, how long should a father have to wait to find out if his son has Leukemia?

That day I realized there is no lifetime guarantee on tomorrow, what we do today must outlast us. Building my legacy, and helping him begin his own, has become more than just a sappy dad’s goal; it has become the very fabric of our bond.

A child will never forget their first hunting trip.
Form the fabric of your bond outdoors by teaching your children valuable lessons of love, freedom and heritage.

Just a few nights after receiving the miraculous news our son had tested negative, I tucked my son in with a kiss and headed toward his doorway.

“Daddy?” I watched him search his bedroom wall for the right words. “When I get older, can I have your truck?”

I smiled, “Why do you want daddy’s truck?”

Still searching the wall, he responded with an answer that took my breath away, “So I can take you hunting.”

It never dawned on me, what he was taking from our trips to the woods was something he wanted to give back to me; our trips were really something special to him. I hadn’t realized the most precious aspects of my legacy were being formed in the woods. If you’ve ever wondered what your purpose is, keep reading!

Why on Earth Are We Here?

Introspection and outdoor observations revealed opportunities as obvious as the blood-trail of a heart-shot hog. Appreciation for life – including wildlife, love, family, freedom, heritage, stewardship, ethics, integrity, conservation, preservation and yes, even death, all play out here upon the majestic stage of our great outdoors.

The first time my son sat with me in a blind on a hog hunt, we watched several does walk across the field with two fawns in tow.

“Which one would you shoot, Daddy?”

 “The big doe in front, son.”

“Why that one?”

“Because the other two are younger and the one in back has those two fawns to look after.”

“Why don’t you shoot it then?”

“It’s not deer season. We have to wait until the season opens.”

In 30 seconds of conversation, he learned I genuinely love both wildlife and the outdoors. It was a lesson in both ethics and stewardship. He also learned about integrity; he’s heard me many times, “What you do when no one’s looking is what really matters. That’s the stuff character is made of.”

He saw my words in action and they stuck like glue.

Hunting with a McRees Precision .308 rifle and Sightmark Photon digital night vision riflescope.
Hunting with a McRees Precision .308 rifle and Sightmark Photon digital night vision riflescope.

Jacob was with me when I caught the biggest bass of my life. You should have seen the look on his face when I pulled the fish from the water. He touched it repeatedly before finally petting it down its slick side. I reveled in his nervous excitement as he watched my entire fist disappear into the fish’s mouth. His excitement quickly turned to doom and gloom when I told him to say goodbye as I lowered the bruiser back into the water.  “Maybe someone else will get to catch their biggest fish now.”  He smiled, “Maybe me?”

“Maybe so, he’s in there waiting for you to catch him.”

Purple, gold and scarlet hues of a sleepy sun gave way to silver light dancing on the water as we finished cleaning our fish and stowed our gear. Great memories and another lesson were born; my son understood what giving back to our outdoor heritage is all about.

The opportunities to teach our children the core values our country was founded upon are endless when you search for them outdoors. Whether you are fishing, hunting, camping or hiking, never lose an opportunity to teach your children lessons, they shape the men and women our children become.

An Ounce of Reflection

While hunting together, I’ve taught my son ethics, stewardship and integrity.
While hunting together, I’ve taught my son ethics, stewardship and integrity.

To this day, Jacob’s pleas to hold him tight still haunt me; recalling those few minutes still invokes emotions that are tough to swallow back. Yet, my darkest hour gave way to my greatest awakening; realizing I am not promised another day with my son shattered my someday-soon attitude and replaced it with the hope that my legacy will add to a mosaic of memories and actions serving to build his legacy for what I hope is many, many years to come.

My son once told me I was his hero. It wasn’t long ago my words echoed his as we sat and hunted together, watching lessons unfold for both of us. Our outdoor world, whether a stone’s throw from suburbia or seemingly endless miles off the grid, is exceedingly special. Out there, in wild places brimming with untamed creatures and still void of man’s industrial “touch”, our legacies grow together.

And, for this particular dad, the notion that the fabric of his own legacy—woven with mine in those special moments we shared—now veils him in such character there seems little left to teach him, means if tomorrow didn’t come for me, I would be alright with that.