The 4th of July is right around the corner, and many families will head to the woods. Some things to keep in mind:
Get the Kids Involved
Keep your kids busy and off their phones and gaming devices. Start out with a little required work—setting up the tent, collecting firewood, etc. Then move on to a whole lot of fun. Go hiking with your son or daughter, show him or her deer tracks, fish for trout or bream, etc. If you’re in a safe, remote area, show him or her how to plink with a pellet gun or 22 (make sure shooting is legal if you’re on public ground). The more active your kids are the more fun they’ll have, and they more they’ll enjoy the outdoors and camping and want to go with you again.
For starters make sure open-air fires are legal and safe in your camping area. Depending on weather conditions, there could be seasonal restrictions, so check.
To build a rip-roaring fire put your lighter or matches to good tinder, like cedar shavings or handfuls of dry, brown grass. Better yet, here’s a modern-day trick: Shave off slivers of one of those “fast start” sticks you use to light big logs in your fireplace and pack them in a plastic sandwich Baggie. Pop your super-hot flame on that fake tinder and your fire will blow up fast. Top with handfuls of small, dry, dead twigs and then move up to mid-size sticks and logs.
Be Bear Aware
In black bear country follow these 9 commandments of from the Missouri Department of Conservation:
Keep a clean camp. Food and all items that come in contact with food carry odors that bears find attractive.
Thoroughly clean all utensils immediately after use. Never deposit food residues such as cooking grease in campfires.
Place garbage where bears cannot smell or gain access to it, either in bear-proof containers or dumpsters. DON’T burn or bury garbage. Bears will dig it up.
Do not eat or cook in your tent. Avoid storing food or attractants in tents, sleeping bags or backpacks. Suspend such items from trees when backpacking.
Treat nonfood items such as gum, soap, toothpaste or deodorant as food. They are attractive to a bear’s acute sense of smell.
Immediately store food articles (including pet food, livestock feed and garbage) in airtight containers after every use. Coolers are not airtight, and bears often associate them with food. Secure coolers in a locked trunk or truck cab concealed from view.
Plan your meals. Generate as little food garbage as possible.
Never attempt to feed a bear or any other wild animal.
Keep your dog on a leash and clean up leftover food and scraps after your dog has finished eating.
Kampgrounds of America offers these tips for tent campers.
New tent? Practice setting it up in the backyard before going on a trip.
Invest in good sleeping equipment. Choose air mattresses, cots, or sleeping bags that will give you adequate rest so you can get the most out of your daytime activities.
To stay dry, use a ground cloth under your tent as protection from rips and moisture…use the rain fly, even if the sky looks clear…to prevent rain from leaking into your tent, apply a seam sealant to the inside and outside of all exposed tent seams.
Keep your tent clean; use a whisk broom to sweep out dirt and leaves…place an indoor/outdoor rug in front of your tent entrance for dirty shoes.
Bring duct tape for quick repairs of small tears, splintered tent poles and the like.
To ward off ticks, mosquitoes and other pests, wear light-colored clothing and avoid thick woods and brush as much as possible…. cover as much skin as possible…wear calf-high boots and tuck your pants inside. “High tops” keep ticks, fire ants, spiders and the other creatures from crawling up into tender places, and you’ll appreciate their basic snake protection…before you hit the woods shower with an unscented hunter’s soap–the less you smell, the less bugs you’ll attract…never use scented soap, shampoo, shaving cream or cologne; that sweet stuff will draw mosquitoes, flies and bees to your body and into camp. Use a good bug repellent.
While you’re out working your land with a tractor this summer, try this. Bush-hog a strip of grass or mow a lane through a thicket right up to one or two of your favorite tree stand locations. Keep those lanes trimmed one more time this summer. Deer will find them and use them. One day later this fall, an 8-pointer might walk smack down the strip to your bow stand. The trimmed lanes are also great places to plant mini-plots of clover.
Scour an old grown-up farm field for hidden fruit trees, like apple or persimmon. Open up the trees by clearing away brush; prune a few limbs and pour some fertilizer over the roots. A tree should make some soft mast just in time for bow season, and you’ll have yet another honey-hole for a bow stand.
One of the best land improvements doesn’t take a drop of sweat. Pinpoint some of the thickest, roughest cover and terrain on your land, and designate it a deer sanctuary for this fall. No walking, scouting or hunting in there! A good sanctuary is so thick that a buck feels safe and hidden if you walk or drive an ATV by at 50 yards. Best case, 20 to 30 percent of your land is in sanctuary; the closer to the center of the property it is the better. Deer and especially mature bucks will find this no-pressure zone and use it regularly.
One day last fall in Perry County, Ohio, Ethan Featheroff arrowed a 20-point giant that scored 220 7/8”.
Over in Logan County, West Virginia, Donny Baisden scouted, hunted and shot the awesome unicorn buck (pictured) that taped out at 182 5/8.
The 10-year trend of hunters shooting monster non-typical whitetails continues, and many more giants will fall in 2019.
There are 3 reasons bucks grow such huge, gaudy racks.
Injury: Biologists have long known that trauma to a buck’s skull plate or velvet antlers or a major bodily injury (i.e., a broken leg) can cause a rack to grow crazily during the current antler cycle or even for several years thereafter. Injury probably accounts for the most freakish racks, like a “cactus buck.” If deer tries to jump a wire fence but is castrated (ouch!) he might just grow a clump of semi-soft, stalk-line tines that are never shed. A buck struck by a car on the right side of his body might grow a big blob for a left main beam.
Genetics & Age: “While injuries do occur, in my opinion genetics is the primary cause for all the non-typical antler growth we’re seeing,” says noted whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson. He says that many if not most whitetail bucks have the genes to grow drop tines, stickers and the like on an otherwise “clean” 10-point rack, but most of the deer are shot or killed by cars at a relatively young age, before they are able to express those non-typical characteristics. Hellickson says that non-typical racks generally don’t begin to show until a buck is at least 5 years old.
Prime Protein: “It’s rare for a 6- or 7-year-old buck to be a clean typical these days, especially on private land where there is much nutritious food,” adds Missouri’s Dr. Grant Woods. He is referring not only to farms with ample crops like soybeans, but also to lands where people plant food plots, and sometimes supplement with protein feedings. The more protein-packed food a buck eats the more nutrients shoot to his growing antlers. The more and faster those antlers grow, the more the rack is apt to express non-typical traits.
Good luck, hope you see one of these giants this season!