What Makes A Hunter Great?

By Amy Rutzen
As someone who is a perfectionist and more than a little passionate about the outdoors, hunting and conservation, I find myself asking over and over, “What makes a hunter great?

After struggling with this question for quite some time, I feel I am starting to better understand what goes into the answer. It’s a variety of different elements that can be separated into two main categories, the hunt and the kill. Each skill can and does exist on its own; however, to be great, you must be accomplished at both. To better understand my point let’s further dissect each category.

What does it mean to be a hunter? A hunter is defined as…
…someone who determinedly searches for someone or something.

It is the searching that makes one a hunter. Therefore, by definition, a successful hunt is one in which the hunter finds what he/she is searching for. What are the skills needed for this? How does a hunter increase his/her chances at a successful hunt? The skills and determination that go into the quest of finding animals are truly a convergence of science and art.

Science, as it applies to hunting, is the gathering of information and testing that data’s validity in the field, whereby proving its value. Information that proves valuable is squirreled away in that hunter’s Tool Box of Tricks. Smart, ever-improving hunters go through this process numerous times each season, adding more and more vested information to their box. Through this, he or she continues to grow, develop and adapt as the years go on.

Lesser hunters lack the skills and/or determination needed to determine which information is valuable, how to test it and/or are not able to properly apply the information as needed. Their Tool Box of Tricks looks like that tackle box we’ve all seen (or maybe you yourself have) that is disturbingly unorganized to the point that the owner can’t ever seem to find what he needs when he needs it. The box is filled with used line, broken bobbers, random snack wrappers and sharp things that undoubtedly carry tetanus. Very little of the cluttered content is useful.

Art, in the world of hunting, is knowing how, when and why to apply the tools accumulated through science. This element is roughly half instinct and half experience. Much like a fine wine, this factor truly develops over time. It is also the factor responsible for the greatest separation between someone who is good and someone who is great. Watching a hunter who has decades of science in his/her Box move through the woods or educate on matters pertaining to hunting is truly fascinating. The depth of their knowledge is something to be envied. They have developed and perfected their tools. Unlike that tackle box that makes you itch, the seasoned hunter’s box is one full of useful tools laid out in organizational bliss. Each time this magical case is opened, you know a problem will be solved because of the artful way a tool chosen.

Alright! We have defined hunting as a search for something specific and touched on the science and art needed to better your skills as a hunter. However, something is still missing from the equations of the happily ever after hunting stories that fills social media with selfies, the garage freezers with meat and campfire stories with the cathartic ending we all crave. This missing element is the kill.

The definition of kill is to…
…cause the death of (a person, animal, or other living thing).

The kill is an interesting element of hunting. It is fully executed in a matter of seconds by simply aiming and firing a weapon. These two components are absolutely necessary to possess in ones Box of Tricks. Each ought to be practiced and developed as they are crucial to the kill. However, they should be viewed as two proficiencies among a menagerie of equally important skills to be further developed every year.

Regrettably, the kill is valued the most by many “hunters”. For these individuals, a season’s success is measured solely by whether or not a tag is filled. This mindset has led to an unhealthy emphasis on the kill sending the message to inexperienced and non-hunters that a dead animal is why we, as hunters and conservationist, do what we do. Rightfully so, this is one of the main contributing factors in the general populations’ distrust of and disrespect for hunters.

Let us not allow this to be! Let us act responsibly. Let us get better each year. When we seek out the services of an outfitter/guide, let us not do so in hopes of make up for what we were too lazy to develop on our own, but rather for the additional expertise they offer on the unfamiliar or private hunting land they represent. As hunters who respect our art and the animals we harvest, let us take it upon ourselves to diligently add to our Box of Tricks with useful tools. Let us become great hunters!



Confession, this is by far my least favorite time of year! If you’re a big game hunter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Unless you are able to afford an international hunt, it’s been a number of months since you were able to get out into the high country glassing for tan hide and it will be a number more before you can really ramp up this year’s training and hunt prep…this is no man’s land!

Enter, the draw! It’s not boots-on-the-ground hunting, but it will scratch the itch and help ensure you have longer, more well-rounded hunting seasons in the future.  Some planning won’t pay off for over a decade. However, when it pays off, it pays BIG!

Every state has its own laws regarding the acquiring of big game tags. These laws are tweaked annually, although the general structure/rules remain constant. Some are lotto (just pure luck of the draw). Some states are based on preference points. Some big game tags during certain seasons are OTC (over the counter) and don’t require any participation in the draw whatsoever.  Some states allow for the harvesting of multiple animals of a certain species, while others are one-bag limit or even lifetime tag. In order take full advantage of your state’s draw, educate yourself on the draw system. A great place to start is your state’s parks and wildlife website as well as talking to seasoned hunters within your state.

Colorado’s system is based on preference points. Each year in the spring, hunters can “purchase” points and/or put in for tags on certain animals in specific GMUs (game management unit). Each game animal and each season represents a separate point. The more desirable the hunt, the more points it will take before you are going to have any chance at acquiring the tag. For example, a first season rifle tag for elk in GMU 11 might only take one point. But a moose tag in GMU 6 might be a 12-point tag (meaning you will need to accumulate 12 years’ worth of moose preference points in order to have a chance at acquiring one of the very limited number of moose tags available in Colorado each year).

Every hunter should build a strategy to ensure they are maximizing their opportunities within the draw system. It’s quite frustrating to get three or four years into participating in the draw and realize you haven’t been putting in for points on a certain animal that you KNOW you are going to want to hunt in the future. Now you are four year behind where you would have been if you had been putting in for those points. It will cost you money for each point; however, the money (minus a small fee) that is spent on unsuccessful draws or simply preference points will be returned to you a few months following the end of the draw. So you can think of it as a kind of savings account!

For new hunters working within a point system, I would very much recommend simply purchasing preference points for elk, deer, sheep and moose.  You may also want to pick up points for bear and pronghorn. Then pick up a leftover tag or two (available in mid-July) for your hunt that year. That way you are going on hunts WHILE you are accumulating points for more desirable tags. By the time you are able to obtain more desirable hunts, you will have put in the practice and have a much better chance at notching that high-point tag.

The moral of the draw is just to participate, especially if your state is a point system! Each year represents future hunting opportunities. Don’t let those points go uncollected!

The Victory in Defeat

Okay, girls. Moment of truth: this week’s article is not the article I had thought I would be writing right after bow season. I planned to be able to tell stories of the high country possibly including random snow storms, huge bulls, 15-mile days, sore muscles and blistered feet, missed shots, kill shots, blood trails and packing out the meat in the dark. But…

blog-1…I can’t do that. My season didn’t include any of those things. Due to some unique circumstances that didn’t allow for me to hunt with seasoned outdoorsmen, this year I hunted with my dad, my 10-year old son and even, one morning, my mom. None of them had been bow hunting in the backcountry before. As much as the backdrop to our excursion was not the “backcountry” most hardcore hunters would think of, it was the farthest back my hunting buddies have ever gone, so it was (our) backcountry!

When you have a giant diesel pickup, an elk tag, a girl with a weapon, lots of snacks and three first-time wilderness-goers all thrown into a game unit with hundreds of square miles and endless possibilities, memories will be made. There were early mornings and late nights, trails taken, naps taken, pictures and videos taken, time lost, animals found, snack breaks, lunch breaks, conversations had, more naps had, teachable moments and priceless moments. No tags filled, but it was perfect!

When you train your mind and body for bow season, you are training towards certain ideals. I wonder if we would push as hard, finding satisfaction in the pain, if we’d plan, prepare and obsess over our season to the level that we do if we knew our hunt was going to result in empty game bags. Would we do it all anyways, year after year?

I know I would. I haven’t knocked anything down with my bow in the last 3 years I’ve gone out. Does that make me a lousy hunter? Maybe. I guess the answer depends on your perspective.

Our culture has been saturated with social media. So many things about it are positive, but I think some elements have had a negative effect on hopeful, young hunters. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are flooded with pictures and stories of monster elk, moose, mountain lions, deer, speed goats, mountain goats, wolves and whatever exotic animals are being bagged in Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Russia or South America.

blog-2With remarkable pictures of behemoth mammals and the unbelievable tales to go along with them it is easy to feel like a failure when the result of a hunt is anything less than legendary. I wonder that we, as hunters, are forgetting why we do what we do.  Why should the measure of achievement be determined by someone else’s idea of a successful hunt? Our competition isn’t with others. Our competition is with ourselves. If we create new memories, learn new lessons, are better this year than we were last year, then our seasons will always be a success.

So much life is sorted out on the side of a mountain. Up there things are clearer. The lessons learned go far beyond hunting animals. There is a safety in the high country. A security that allows us to find a place of vulnerability where we can be honest with ourselves and others in a way that touches the core of who we are as people, as athletes, as hunters. The moments spent examining and challenging ourselves at that level are few and precious. Those are the times when we claim our victory, even in defeat.

Next Generation Conservation


Blog 1

Hunters are some of the greatest conservationist on the planet. They are dedicated, passionate and educated about the animals they hunt, their gear and the outdoors.

But what about the next generation of hunters? Hunting is a way of life. If that it is going to be preserved, this generation of hunters has to bring up the next generation to love and respect this way of life. This is any outdoorsman’s true legacy.

This article is going to combine two of my greatest passions, hunting and my kids.

Being a stay-at-home mother of three munchkins means whatever I do my kids do with me.  Hunting included.  As with most things with kids, this can make for some unusual challenges and incredible opportunities.  

Teach. Lead. Inspire.Blog 2

Just like introducing a new math concept to a room full of first graders, when it comes to kids and hunting, we must teach them how. Communicate with them. When you are doing something related to gear, the outdoors, shooting, etc., don’t tell your toddler “not to touch” or push your inquisitive 5-year-old away. Teach them about what you are doing and why.

Teach them what it means to kill their own meat, what wildlife conservation is, why it’s so important and how hunters fit into this very delicate system. Involve them in the process. Keep communication age-appropriate but start them off as young as possible. Make up games. Quiz them on animal species, parts of a bow and how to care for your gear. I reward my kids for spotting big game animals when we are driving. Certain animals are worth a sticker (mule deer) while other are worth a new Lego set (mountain lions).

Next, lead your kids. Show them by example. When I go shooting, I bring one of the kids with me (yes, it’s easier to get a tight grouping at 50 yards with 1 “helper” instead of all three). If I am going on a run, my kids are strapping on their helmets and biking along with me. They come scouting. On occasion, my son comes on hunts. The older they get, the more they will do with me.

When an outdoorsman separates hunting and kids, he/she is robbing both parties of a vital component for a strong, healthy future. I’m not saying EVERYTHING has to involve your kids (there is a lot to be said for hunting and alone time), but I’m sure with a little creativity and a LOT of patience, you’ll find that hunting and the next generation fit perfectly together!

Finally, inspire. Teaching is done with your words. Leading is done by your actions. Inspiring is done with your soul. I can think of few things more powerful in shaping a child’s future than the inspiration of a significant person’s passion.

Dropping an animal is an experience that taps into the core of your being. It shapes us. It pulls us to the mountains. It drives us to train, focus, to push harder and go farther than we did last season. If you know why you do what you do, as any true hunter does, your children will see that passion. They will be inspired by your soul.  They will see your connection to the high country and the animals that live there.  And they will want to be a part of it too.

Teach. Lead. Inspire…a kid to hunt!Blog 3




Preparing for a Successful Scouting Trip

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I’m pretty darn jazzed about this, so let’s just dive right in! Scouting is super fun. An elk scouting trip means that you get to go on a hunt in the near future, you are going to be in the mountains (no better place on earth) AND you are upping your chances of a successful hunt. It’s a win, win, WIN.

However, before we can tie our boots and go jump in the truck, there are a few things we need to check off our listen order to ensure a successful scouting trip. What are the things you will need to do? What are the things you will need to have Glad you asked…


Blog writer Amy Rutzen

For the sake this particular blog, let’s assume that we are scouting a new area (mostly because I love expanding my fluency in the mountains by finding new areas to hunt…and I’m the one writing this so I get to make the rules). First, know which GMU (game management unit) and season you’re hunting

If you have been lucky enough to have drawn a tag, the GMU will have already been determined for you. If you are hunting over-the-counter bow, your GMU options will be much greater. Don’t get overwhelmed. Think of this as a library of options to be explored over a lifetime.

Picking a unit can be done through online research, looking at the harvest stats of your season from previous years, reading forums, blogs and articles about the areas you are considering and talking to people. One thing I like to do is call Parks and Wildlife to chat about the units I’m considering hunting or to see what areas they think would produce some quality animals. Some of the “older” guys that work at your local Parks and Wildlife offices have spent 40+ years hunting the same mountains they now professionally represent.

Strive for at least 12-16 hours of boots-on-the-ground weaponless hunting. If you are fortunate enough to have a schedule that allows for an over-night stay, or longer, take advantage of that. The more familiar you are with the area you plan to hunt, the greater your chances are at having a successful season.

Once you know the GMU you’ll be hunting, start dissecting the unit’s landscape on a map such as Google Earth. Know the highways, dirt roads, trails and GPS coordinates that get you to where you want to sit n’ survey. I like to pick my first, second, third choice for places to glass.

These spots should be fairly close together, as you will not have the time or physical stamina to be hiking from one end of the unit to the other. However, they need to be far enough apart that each locations gives you a different scope than the others. Pick glassing points that are high and clear allowing you 360 degrees of vision.

Know the easiest route from one point to the next. Look for saddles or passes between the mountain slopes. Always remember, elk avoid a lot of direct sunlight. They like to be cool and elk are lazy. They will choose the path of least resistance unless pressured to do otherwise. They eat, bed down, drink, eat then bed down again usually beginning the entire process before sunrise.

Look for watering sources, meadows, aspen groves, oak brush, game trails, and cleared logging areas or burns (elk love feeding on the new grass that grows after a fire has gone through). Keep in mind that planning done using a map from the comfort of your kitchen table is for the sake of responsible preparation and will “play out” differently in the high country. Be flexible and willing to come up with new/better routes and glassing points while you scout. Adapt.Blog 2

Alright, you are now an expert on what to do in preparation for a scouting trip. Let’s talk about what to bring. First, consider how long your scouting trip will be. You’ll need reliable footwear, your GPS, optics and the food and water you are going to need for your allotted time in the timber. This is a whole other topic we will get into later.

Scouting trips are an excellent opportunity to try out new gear but sure that you have a backup for whatever you are “trying” out. Nothing like getting blisters from your new hunting boots two hours into a 48-hour trip and not having a plan B (no, Duct Tape does not count).

At the end of the day, keep it simple. Do your research and have fun with it. I dare you not to get excited about heading up to the mountains to test your “this is where the elk will be”theories


Conditioning for High Country Hunts

Physical Conditioning for High Country Hunts


              Alright, ladies (and gentlemen tuning in to see what girls talk about when guys aren’t around), today I’m going to be touching the tip of an iceberg hugely significant to the world of hunting, specifically high country, big game hunting. The iceberg’s name is FITNESS. It’s not a four-letter word or the name of the monster hiding under your bed. It’s not an obnoxious acquaintance that won’t leave you alone or a one-night stand. It’s a life-long relationship. If you’ve never been in a relationship, start one today (I am still talking about fitness…your dating life is not something we’ll be discussing). If you’ve tried it out here and there but experienced a setback that became an excuse eventually turning into a full-on break up, get back together! Work(it)out! Here’s the deal, the depth and commitment level of your relationship with your body’s physical development has a direct effect on the quality of your hunts. Building a quality relationship can be overwhelming, so I’ll do my best to break it down and help get you prepped for whatever fall might bring (please bring lots of elk, PLEASE bring lots of elk!).

              Let’s start this relationship off the way any long-term, healthy relationship should begin, with honest communication. Be honest with yourself about the current condition of your body. If you’ve got a few pounds to lose, tell yourself you need to get leaner. If you can run like Forest but you’re only pulling 35# on your bow, tell yourself to get stronger. If you’re thinking, HOLY COW, IT’S JULY AND MY SEASON STARTS THE LAST PART OF AUGUST, don’t panic. It’s not ideal. But starting something good and sticking with it for the next few months will put you miles ahead of where you are now. Do something today that your future-self will thank you for!

               Training for a high country hunt is a hybrid class of fitness, requiring both strength and endurance. If you’re fortunate enough to drop an animal, once the adrenaline dies down, you will experience a moment wherein and you look at the massive creature you just killed and suddenly realize you now have a sportsman’s responsibility to get 200-300 pounds of dead weight back to your truck that’s parked over 5 miles from where you are currently standing. How do you prepare so that in that moment, though tired, you have complete confidence in your body’s ability to perform? You’re going to be pressing, climbing, pulling, jumping, curling, lunging, bridging and anything else you can do to challenge yourself physically. Enter muscle development, i.e. strength training. You use every muscle you’ve got hiking, drawing and holding, cleaning, quartering and packing out. Every muscle needs to be trained. However, in the late spring and summer, focus on building shoulders, back, core, glutes and upper legs. This is done primarily in the gym…over in the weights…yes, I said “weights”. Get comfortable in the Iron Jungle. Start frequenting sites like bodybuilding.com. Look up Jamie Eason and Heidi Powell. Find sources that focus primarily on conditioning for hunters like bowmarfitness.com, traintohunt.com and bowhunter.com. All of us are completely different and we will find results in different ways. Educate yourself about your body! Experiment. Find what works for you. You’re not going to “bulk like the Hulk”. You’ll develop theses crazy things called muscles. And you’ll love the way they look on you!

              Second component to physical prep for a great high country hunt is endurance training. Please don’t think of this as “cardio”. That word tends to conjure up very negative feelings in most people. I want you to think of it as the vehicle that is going to take you places you would have not have been able to go before. It’s the power you are going to use to grab ahold of opportunities that you never thought possible. Reaching the top of a peak to glass for elk is no easy feat, but there is no other experience like it. Endurance is your ticket to shows very few will ever see. If you’re just beginning, take it slow enough to avoid injuries but be sure to challenge yourself. Walk/hike as far as you can at a challenging pace for an hour. Every week, go faster. Then move into a jog/run. I’m not a fan, but few cardiovascular activities parallel the results of running. Along with low intensity steady-state (LISS) training, implement days of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and/or circuit training into your week. The results of these forms of conditioning are priceless in the world of hunting. There are endless combinations of HIIT movements, circuit groups and timing methods. Youtube.com has some great training channels. Look up dailyburn.com and cameronhanes.com (this guy is a beast). Again, find what works for you. Learn to push yourself beyond where you were the last week. The prize is mountain adventures like nothing you’ve ever dreamed (and maybe even a filled tag!).

              Remember, big game animals are some of the most elite athletes on the planet. Don’t insult them by bringing anything less than your best to the mountains this fall.

Amy, out.

The Migration Patterns and Population Explosion of the Snow Goose

By: Staff

The Snow Goose is a wildlife success story. Amid almost universal concern about the conservation of dwindling wildlife populations, the opposite is the case with the Snow Goose: the massive rise in numbers in the past couple of decades has resulted in various states implementing special ‘conservation orders’ designed to control the population by setting goals for the numbers of birds to be harvested. In the early 20th century the Snow Goose population was very low and hunting was severely restricted. Concerns were raised about the threat to migratory bird populations because of several aspects including the popular women’s fashion of wearing feathered hats, were the main causes of their drastic decline. The solution was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918 in which the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, Japan and Mexico laid the ground rules for the complete protection of migratory birds. The Snow Goose is still a protected species under the act, hence the need for further legislation. In various states a special permit for hunting Snow Geese may or may not be necessary, and the hunter may be required by the regulatory authority to supply information on the number of birds killed.

Population and Habitat

A massive increase in agricultural production during the 20th century resulted in plentiful winter food for the geese, mainly in the form of waste grain lying on the fields after harvest, and this has helped to produce the current high population. Another factor was the strict hunting regulations in force during the 1970s and ’80s. A higher rate of adult survival and increased reproduction allowed this recovering population to flourish and become overabundant. A trend of warmer summers and better food supply in their summer breeding grounds in the high arctic regions of the northern Canadian islands west of Greenland, as well as northeastern Russia and Wrangel Island in the Siberian Sea, has possibly also contributed to population growth. An early thaw followed by a warmer summer also means a longer breeding season, while in years when the thaw is late, when the birds cannot build their nests until the ground is free of snow and they need to allow time for the young to mature, large numbers of a population may forgo breeding. The current trend of favorable climate and abundance of food has been good for the Snow Goose, although their success has had a harmful affect on the populations of other bird species because of the pressure put on the fragile Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems.

The Snow Goose’s favored breeding habitats are the shallow arctic lakes and marshy meadows that are safe from spring floods. Huge flocks of migrating geese settling to feed on similar areas of coastal marshland further south can severely damage these habitats, as well as deplete agricultural crops such as winter wheat, barley, rye and hay. The Snow Goose is mainly herbivorous and will feed on the leaves, fruit and roots of many different plants including agricultural grain. Its original wintering areas were in the Atlantic states from South Carolina up to New Jersey, in the Midwestern states around the Mississippi south of the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico, in northern California and the area around the border between Arizona and California. One of the largest original breeding colonies was on Bylot Island, north of Baffin Island, where there was a population of up to 70,000 birds that had been counted; of the two subspecies, the Greater Snow Goose nests in this area north of Hudson Bay, while the Lesser Snow Goose nests in central Canada and around the Bering straits.

The greatest damage to habitats, staging areas and wintering areas are caused by the Lesser Snow Goose because they are more thorough in digging up entire plants. On their migration they use the central flyway, which takes them across some of the most fertile agricultural land in the country and has allowed them to diversify their diet to include practically any crop they encounter. They travel farther than other populations of geese to winter mainly in the southern states, where the increasingly widespread rice crop provides an ideal habitat of flooded fields and newly planted rice grains. Wintering in such balmy surroundings gives them a distinct advantage over others that struggle to survive: by the spring the birds have suffered fewer fatalities, and they are healthy and have fattened up in preparation for the return flight north.

Hunting the flocks

Although the Snow Goose population is booming, it can provide the most challenging of all forms of waterfowl hunting, requiring a good knowledge of the bird’s habits and the use of specialized strategies. Few outdoor experiences can match the thrill of being in the center of a swirling flock of several thousand birds attracted by your decoy spread. The geese begin their migration from mid August onwards, usually reaching the prairies around September, the Central Valley of California around December or January, and the Eastern states south of the St Lawrence River from October onwards. These dates are variable of course, depending on the weather. A cool autumn with forecasts of early snows will mean the early arrival of the geese, so it pays to keep informed. Hunting seasons also vary between states depending on which flyway the geese have used and how far they have come, which will determine when they arrive from either their nesting grounds or wintering areas.

Snow Goose migration have three different migrating stages. The first wave is made by the older adults, which can be anything up to 30 years of age and with many similar journeys behind them. They will have experience of hunters and their decoys so will be difficult to fool. The Snow Goose is not easy to decoy at the best of times: a good rough guide is to use 500-1,500 decoys per spread. If the weather is stormy, cut these by half. You must have a clear plan that includes hiding areas, holes, family groups, landing areas etc. Groups of decoys separated by open areas will look more natural and seem larger. You might see a flock of thousands in one field and think this is easy pickings, but that is not the case. In the second wave there are fewer birds in total but more of them are younger juvenile geese and competition between the birds is not so intense. Use a good sized spread of decoys to achieve a good result, but this second wave of birds responds well to extras such as rotary decoys or fliers. Finally, the third wave consists of mostly all young birds in small flocks of about 5,000 rather than 20,000 or more in the earlier waves, making them hard to scout, although putting up good numbers of decoys will pretty well guarantee you success.

Find Your Next Snow Goose Hunt At Hunt The North

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Decoys and Calling: The Hard Facts


by B.C. Maxima

One sure way for you to double check how effective your current decoy spread is to leave the decoys up, walk away from the spread, and watch what happens. If the next flock that comes in flares at 50 yards even when you are gone, then a red flag should come up and you may have to make some adjustments to your spread!

In this article we will conduct a thorough evaluation of several types of decoys, we will discuss how to add movement and realism into your existing spread, and we will share with you some different ideas on how to set up your decoy spread. As a supplement to this article, we will also add an additional section for those of you who would like more information on “Calling Geese” and why it is so important to know how and when to use a quality goose call. This area will be located in the conclusion of this article.

Decoy Review and Evaluation:
Every decoy made was designed for a purpose. Even those old Flambeau floaters have some value. As ridiculous as they look on the shelf, if placed in a line spaced out approximately five yards apart outside of your main flock, they do simulate a small flock swimming into your main spread. The most important thing is to keep your spread uniform! The mosh posh decoy spread does not work! Try and use one or two types of decoys that match well together in an attempt to duplicate an actual flock of geese as closely as possible.

Silhouette decoys can be very effective in certain situations. If set up correctly, a large spread of silhouettes can be deadly, especially in those hard to access areas. The two main problems I see with these manufactured silhouette decoys are: most of the finishes on these decoys glare terribly in the sun so keep them in the trailer on those really nice days! As much as they state Non Glare Finish on the box, watch your next hunting video very closely and see what happens when the sun comes up in the spread. Therefore, I recommend making your own silhouettes. They may not look as pretty as the store bought decoys but if you spend the time they can actually work better. The next problem is that they are usually set up improperly. We will address this issue later in the article.
Glaring decoy finish on a sunny day!

The next decoy type we will review are those good old shell decoys. These are probably the most popular goose decoys on the market today or at least they were five years ago. Although, I still have a couple dozen I only use them in certain situations. For the most part, these decoys are becoming outdated as the geese are getting smarter and smarter each year. I feel that the Super Duper Magnum Shells that worked well 15 years ago, do not have the impact they did before the geese caught onto them. I do however like to mix in a couple dozen regular magnum G and H shells with my full body spread as these particular decoys mix in well to add bulk as well as realism during the colder months. If you are looking to add some shells to your spread, I also recommend looking for used decoys instead of paying full price for them since they are not cheap and almost every goose hunter has a couple dozen in the garage somewhere.

The latest in goose hunting technology is the Full Body Canada Goose Decoy! This product is becoming more and more popular and expensive as time goes on. Who would have thought that a goose hunter would pay 50 dollars per decoy and proceed to buy dozens of them! I believe there are over ten types of Full Body manufactures on the market today. I still think that the Big Foot decoy is the ultimate goose decoy. It is the most durable decoy ever invented, it is competitively priced, and it actually looks like a goose. I also like the fact that the legs can be removed to add realism as well as the fact that most every product made to add movement to your decoys is made for the Big Foot decoy. The new Avery full bodies are very nice as well. They are very reasonably priced and look even better than the Big Foots but they are not as durable and may blow over in a heavy wind. It is also much harder to add movement to this particular spread of decoys compared to the Big Foots. As for the other full body manufacturers in the $25.00 range, I would not develop a complete spread with their decoys but do like to utilize a couple of the different head positions into my existing spread. Lastly are the high end full bodies, these include decoys like the Hardcore’s, the Dave Smith‘s and the Dropzone Elite decoys.

They all look great, but are they worth the money? Well lets examine what they offer. They all need to be put into bags to keep the paint jobs looking good, most of them are a 3 piece system which adds to set up time and most of them are not as durable. I do recommend adding a dozen or two to your arsenal if you can afford it for those days when your massive full body spread isn’t working (late season) or when you are hunting alone and would rather try a distinct spread instead of a massive one.

As for Stuffers- which are actual stuffed geese, I believe these are best used in high end goose camps and are more for show than anything else. For the average or die-hard goose hunter who hunts in elements when the goose hunting is best, these decoys will not hold up, they take way too much time to make and if you are looking for the ultimate in realism, those decoys are now available in plastic models as discussed above. Most importantly however, they are not legal in many states.
The last type of decoy we will discuss is the Floater Goose Decoy. Again I believe that Big Foot has the best product on the market. One aspect I particularly like is the fact that they are very versatile and can be used with your full body Big Foots in the field as well. They are not too expensive, they are almost as durable as their full bodies and with four different head positions, I think they look better than any other floater on the market! Avery has come out with a close second. They are a little cheaper than the Big Foots and they offer a nice selection of head positions as well. One nice thing about the Avery decoys is that the heads are pre-flocked which is nice. G and H offers a nice decoy but their heads are broken easily and for the price, I would go with one of the two mentioned above.

Adding Movement and Realism
Why is movement so vital to your spread? Your traditional spread may work well during the early Canada goose season… for the first weekend but as the geese get hunted they catch on to the Frozen Soldier spread quickly! There are however several simple and cheap ways to add movement and realism to your existing goose spread. The most effective method of adding movement to your spread is “Flagging”. This technique was invented by Randy Bartz in the early 90’s and can be as effective as calling to attract geese to your spread. It is so popular that most every quality layout blind comes equipped with a flagging hole. My favorite new product on the market is the Bobble head. This is a wind activated product designed to fit onto your Big Foot goose decoy. The heads come pre-flocked and the slightest bit of wind will get them moving. A dozen of these heads at $5.00 a piece can really add life to your spread. Another new product is the Power Base. This product is battery activated and attaches to the base of your decoy to get it moving. The only problem is that they are expensive and set up can be frustrating in the dark. The cost is $100.00 for a pair which may be over budget for some hunters. The Decoy Dancer just came out this year as an alternative. This product is wind activated and has several settings for different wind speeds. It is pre-set so there is minimal work in the morning. They are $15.00 a piece or $168.00 for a dozen. At this time they do only fit on Big Foots decoys though. This is a new product therefore unproven but in theory this looks like a great idea.
The Wing Waver is also a nice product. This is a flapper decoy that is run off of a string which the hunter can pull when movement is needed. This product is nice because it takes the movement away from the hunter. They are $70.00 a piece but are very durable and should last a long time. The only downfall to this product is that it is manual therefore making it hard to call and operate at the same time. As for “Spinning Wing Decoys” and goose hunting, they don’t mix! As productive as the spinning wing decoys are for duck hunting, they as equally as unproductive for the goose hunter. My recommendation is to use your spinning wing decoy early in the morning when the Mallards are flying (if you believe in the use of them) and then take it down as soon as the first flocks of geese start flying.

Now let us get into adding more realism into your goose spread. The first thing we can do is flock the heads of our decoys. This works great and can be done fairly cheap. I recommend speaking with a local taxidermist about purchasing flocking by the pound before I would buy the kits at $35.00 a piece in the store. There are also several companies that specialize in professional flocking for close to the same price as it would be to buy the kit at retail price. Adding flocking to the butt of your decoy also adds additional realism to an already productive spread. As for flocking durability, if it is done right you can expect to get three seasons of hunting before they need to be touched up depending on how well they have been cared for. Now for the die-hard goose hunter, one way to use your existing spread and retain the new look of the high-end full-body decoys is to get your spread custom painted. This really works well to add realism while incorporating several different full-body manufacture designs into one uniform color scheme. Paddles Down Custom Decoy Painting charges $100.00 a dozen and does an excellent job!

Setting Up Your Spread
As a rule of thumb, I like to use two dozen decoys per hunter. That number can change depending on the hunting pressure and number of birds in the area. In the early season, three guys can get away with a spread of twenty or thirty decoys while during the late season birds are flocked up in the hundreds you may need a bigger spread to draw attention as well as to hide the hunters from wary birds. Depending on the type of spread you are using, there are many different ways to set up your spread. Let’s start with a walk in field or hard to reach area where we need to carry in our spread. In this situation, a backpack layout blind and a spread of silhouettes is our best bet. The problem here is that most hunters set up there silhouettes as if they were regular decoys five yards apart in a half moon design. That works fine until the geese get overhead and all of a sudden your decoy spread disappears. During the first two months of hunting season especially, I like to set my spread of silhouettes up in small tight family groups of a dozen decoys facing every which way, each group set 15 to 20 yards apart over a 75 yard span. This way when the geese come in, they are seeing decoys throughout the completion of their approach. Another nice feature of the silhouette design is that as the geese approach we have built in movement because these decoys are constantly disappearing and reappearing at different angles.

Now let’s hunt over water with our floater spread. I like to place the spread close to shore, off of an open shoreline or sandbar area that I know the geese are using. Another tactic for silhouettes is to place three or four dozen on the shore in conjunction with a water spread. They are a nice and compact decoy spread to fit into an already overloaded duck boat.
For a more traditional set up where we can drive into a field with a trailer full of full bodies and shell decoys; an early season set up again can allow for a set up of small family groups spaced out every 15 to 20 yards. With an effective caller and some flagging, we do not need to worry about geese landing out of range like we do while duck hunting. As the season progresses and they start to stage up into larger flocks, the number of decoys needs to increase. However, we also need to start being more creative than the old stand by half moon set up. On a windy day if you watch a real flock of geese, you will notice that they all line up vertically into the wind. We can try and emulate that while placing a smaller group of decoys off to the side to hide additional hunters in the spread. As the season grows colder you will notice that a lot of times the geese will curl up on the ground instead of standing up to conserve energy. This is when I like to remove the feet on the Big Foots or add shell decoys and floaters.

In conclusion, there are many new decoys coming out every year and they keep getting better each year. Do we need to buy the most expensive decoys on the market… probably not but washing off your old decoys and adding a fresh coat of paint once in a while is well worth the effort. If the birds in your area are getting stale, don’t be afraid to try new things. We need to get creative and think outside the box. Maybe a late season set up on an iced over lake with two dozen full bodies directly in a flight path is just the ticket. If everybody in the area has been hunting with spreads of 100+ decoys, try one dozen decoys in a field that is close to the main flock and don’t be surprised to see a couple smaller flocks drop in to your mini spread. Take some time to actually watch a flock of birds and see how they actually sit and what calls they make in different situations. It will be an education that can be used for many years to come. For additional information on Calling Canada Geese click here.

Retrievers & Chiropractic, Can An Animal Chiropractor Help Your Hunting Companion?


By Dr. Mark LaVallie, DC, CVSMT

Find Your Next Gun Dog Breeder, Dog Trainer & Hunt Here At HuntTheNorth.com

How Do I Know If My Retriever Needs Chiropractic?
This is by far the most frequently asked question that I get from pet owners. They go on to say, “They cannot tell you. Can they?” The fact is that your animals do tell you when they need help! You just need to know what to look for. Following are three signs that your pet may benefit from a visit to the animal chiropractor.

Incomplete Stretches and Shakes

We have all observed how cats stand and stretch. It’s the first thing they do in the morning. Absence of this full, high-arching stretch is one of the first indications of a spinal or joint problem. The “shake” that dogs and some cats exhibit is frequently observed but not consciously appreciated by owners. The shake that starts at the head and progresses without interruption through the lumbar and the tail is a healthy shake. Dogs that stop a shake somewhere along the spine may be self-splinting a spinal or joint problem. The body’s protective reaction is to splint the area through muscle spasm, so as to prevent further injury.

Swelling, Heat and Muscle Spasm

Through observation, touch, and massage, we can sometimes detect early signs of a treatable problem. When joints are damaged or injured, inflammation and swelling ensues. Significant swelling can often be seen and felt in the extremities, less often in the spine. A more common sign of inflammation in the spinal region is felt as heat or warmth in the tissues overlying the area. The easiest way to feel the heat is to take the back of your fingers and run them slowing down your pet’s spine, noting any significant differences in temperature. To heighten your sense of touch, close your eyes as you run your hand down the spine. Injured joints in the extremities also exhibit warmth when inflamed. Through touch and massage, you can also feel muscle spasms, or “hypertonic muscles.” Muscle spasms are a sign of the splinting action mentioned previously.

Altered Joint Position Sense

With dogs there is a simple and very useful test that provides early clues to nervous system dysfunction. With your dog standing, flip over one paw so it is “knuckled over.” Repeat with the other paws. A normal reaction in a dog with a healthy nervous system is to immediately “flip” the foot back over to its normal position. If your animal takes longer than two seconds to flip its paw back, its “proprioception” or joint position sense, is compromised. Joint position sense is the brain’s ability to know where the limbs are at all times. When a dog has spinal problems, this sensation is the first to go. Your doctor will typically refer to this sensation as “C.P.” Ideally, you should test your pet’s C.P. at least once per month after the age of two.

It’s extremely important to understand that all of the above signs typically go unnoticed by most owners. But these signs precede more severe signs and symptoms of pain and weakness. By the time I first see many animals, their condition has already progressed to weakness, paralysis of a limb or multiple limbs, gait abnormalities, severe pain, and often loss of bowel and bladder control. While a vast majority of these animals respond effectively to chiropractic and veterinary intervention, the earlier the treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

In a perfect world, our goal is to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place. Prevention is a primary goal of many pet owners that have working or performance dogs, show dogs, or have breeds with a hereditary predilection to various maladies. Dachshunds, for instance, have a very high predisposition to thoraco-lumbar disc herniations. German shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia and “degenerative myelopathy.” Small breeds are often susceptible to “luxating patellas.” Labrador retrievers, due to the way they grasp a fetched object, are prone to upper cervical and jaw problems. With any breed, prevention and early detection is the key. According to the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, chiropractic may be appropriate for:

* neck, back, leg, and tail pain talebone3d
* muscle problems, nerve issues
* disc problems, joint problems
* limping and gait abnormalities
* slip & fall injuries
* jaw problems, difficult chewing
* bowel, bladder & digestion
* post-surgical care and rehab
* event or sports injuries
* seizures
* joint and spinal health

Chiropractic care does not attempt to replace traditional veterinary care. Animal chiropractors work with your veterinarian to ensure your pet has the most complete care. As a final note, we all realize that animals age at a much faster rate than we do. Therefore, prevention and early recognition of problems is imperative. Chiropractic is a very useful adjunct to traditional veterinary care to maximize your pets “golden years.”

The next issue of The Talebone will answer frequently asked questions regarding animal chiropractic. In future editions, we will discuss specific conditions, prevention, treatment, stretching, and exercise programs, and other topics. Until next time, wishing you and your four-legged friend the best of health.

Dr. Mark “Bones” LaVallie, DC, CVSMT (651) 332-1633

Find Your Next Gun Dog Breeder, Dog Trainer & Hunt Here At HuntTheNorth.com

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Retriever Performance And Why You Should Care

1211By Greg Ye

Find Your Next Gun Dog Breeder, Dog Trainer & Hunt Here At HuntTheNorth.com

I’ve heard it all! “I don’t need a dog that good” or “Field trial dogs are too hyper for my needs” or “Trial dogs are too expensive.” Well, let me explain why all hunters should pay attention to trial dogs.ret4b

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers two performance event programs for retrievers, which are Field Trials and Hunt Tests. Field Trials are competition driven and the dogs do work that is incredibly difficult over huge distances. The first time observer may find these events fascinating but of little relevance to their world of hunting. As a note, I’d be honored to spend a day in the field with an accomplished trial dog.

Hunt Tests by comparison gained their start by hunters interested in game conservation. At first, hunt tests were designed to meet the needs of hunters and
were conceived “by hunters, for hunters and of hunters.” Hunt tests are non-competitive and give the hunter an objective basis to determine what to expect in the field. Over time, professional trainers have influenced hunt tests to such a degree that hunt tests have become very demanding and require a very trained response from both dog and handler.

ret6Why does any of this matter to the average hunter or family? I’ll tell you why; Performance retrievers demonstrate routinely what retrievers were bred to do. They are the cream of the crop and are owned by only the most devoted folks to retriever genetics. Performance retrievers are bright, out-going, trainable, healthy, sound, birdy, intelligent, friendly and proven. Their offspring are predictably excellent candidates for a long and fruitful life of hunting and family devotion.

There is a second reason for hunters to explore performance events. I can guarantee that the average hunter will be awestruck by the experience! Try a hunt test first. The folks are friendly and eager to share with new comers. You will see young dogs at the Junior Level doing single marked retrieves on land and water and then coming briskly home to the handler and tenderly giving up birds. You’ll see Master Dogs marking multiple bird falls and then retrieving the birds unaided and independently only to come back to the handler to pick up a bird or two they didn’t see by taking precise direction to the bird from the handler. Make sure you bring your family. The kids will get an education in canine potential that may spark a life long passion. You’ll walk away thinking, “That’s what I got to have!” So the next time your buddy is bragging about his dog, you can say, “Well, can he …”

To find events in your area, the easiest way is to go on-line. Visit Entry Express at http://www.entryexpress.com. The site is used primarily for entering dogs in performance events but you’ll find a calendar of events. Each event has a “premium” which describes the type of event, location, times, etc. Once you’ve found an event to attend,
consider it like going to the beach. Bring lawn chairs, coolers, etc. One word of caution: Do not wear white clothing! White is very distracting to dogs and handlers. Wear clothing that is dark or appropriate for an outdoor occasion.

Hunters need to explore performance events. Not only will you receive first hand experience of what a retriever is expected to do, but you’ll start to become familiar with sound retriever genetics which will lead you to the dog of your dreams! If you are in the market for a pup, ask around and collect information. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover an off-season sport that the whole family can enjoy and participate in and make Ol’fido more than just a 10 month couch potato. In any case, I would rather go to a hunt test than clean out the garage!


For More Information On Professional Retriever Training Services Contact:
Trainer: Greg Ye
Phone: 715-246-7040
Email: yez@frontiernet.net
Website: http://www.tenmilekennels.com

Find Your Next Gun Dog Breeder, Dog Trainer & Hunt Here At HuntTheNorth.com

Pro Retriever Trainers | Pro Pointer Trainers | Labrador Retriever Breeders | German Shorthair Breeders | Chesapeake Bay Retriever Breeders | English Pointer Breeders | Golden Retriever Breeders | English Setter Breeders