Tranquility Custom Rods

I’ll lay my cards out on the table early in this article. I do not consider myself to be much of a fisherman.

I enjoy deep sea fishing from time to time, but mostly for the boat ride. I grew up doing a lot of surf fishing, but haven’t done much of that in the last twenty years. Fishing has always been my Dad’s thing and, since my son is a fishing fanatic too, it must have simply skipped a generation?

So why is this non-fishing guy writing an article about a custom rod builder you may ask? Well it’s pretty simple…I believe in generating publicity for good people that work hard to provide their clients with a quality product at a fair price. Greg Kwiatkowski, of Tranquility Custom Rods, is one such person.

I met Greg when, Chasin’ Whitetails team member, Max Crumlich (@theroadsideangler) mentioned that he had a friend of a friend that wanted to discuss a possible partnership on some custom fishing rods for our CWM “The Roadside Angler” series. As a senior member of our management team I decided that I’d accompany Max to his meeting just in case any questions came up. To make a long story short a lot of questions came up.

Max and Greg started discussing fishing rods and that little “Charlie Brown’s teacher voice” started playing in my head “Whomp, whomp, whomp, whomp, whomp”.

Questions about the length, flex, material and targeted species were flying around in the ether. So as those two discussed their passions for all things fishing I decided to take in the space that Tranquility Custom Rods currently occupies.

Although the main working area is a relatively small space it is extremely well laid out. An “L” shaped work area, that appeared to be custom built for guys like Greg and I (both well over 6’ tall), takes up two of the walls. The third wall is made up of two closets that house shelving for additional storage. Every piece and part has a defined place that it calls home. A rack of colorful thread dominates one corner of the workspace providing Greg with what appears to be an endless amount of color combinations. There were multiple drying racks spinning rods that had recently been clear coated and a barely visible cork board that displayed current and upcoming work orders.

The second room at Tranquility contains a couch, kitchen area and a pool table that, at that time, was being used as the Tranquility shipping department. Incoming pieces and parts were to the left and several recently completed rods were packaged up and off to the right side. I can only assume that this area harkens back to the early days when Greg still had enough time to shoot a game of pool? As it stands now there were enough outgoing packages to prove to me that Tranquility’s custom work is in high demand.

As I circled back to the conversation it was evident that Greg is very thorough. Every question that Max asked was answered in detail and usually elicited a follow up question to help Greg pinpoint exactly what it was our team was looking for out of these rods. They discussed what our team would be doing with the rods, where they’d be fishing and what each team member would like to see in the rods aesthetic design. The majority of the members of “The Roadside Angler” team are under the age of 25 so between their ideas and Greg’s abilities some really stunning fishing rods were produced. Over the next several months be on the lookout for the rod reviews at

Like I mentioned above, I do not claim to be an angler of any worth. I like to wet a line from time to time, but I spend the majority of my outdoors time with a shotgun in hand. Our “The Roadside Angler” team on the other hand are fishing fanatics. They eat, sleep and dream about being on the water. They also fall into the millennial age group so at this point in their young lives money is a constant concern. They are not yet able to purchase rods in the $1,000.00 or more range. Thankfully Tranquility Custom Rods is able to work with each customer to design a rod that meets their needs and their budget.

So if you are looking for a custom rod, or would like to give one as a gift, I would strongly recommend giving Tranquility Custom Rods a shot at your business. I can assure you that Greg will go above and beyond to make sure that you get a rod that both satisfies your needs and makes your fishing buddies jealous.


Tranquility Custom Rods

Contact – Greg Kwiatkowski

Phone – (717) 572-3053

Email –

Instagram – @tranquilitycustom

A Maryland Tradition – Pan Seared Rockfish

Maryland is famous for several regional culinary delights. As a Pennsylvania guy I had some previous experience with the “imported” staples such as steamed crabs, Chesapeake Bay oysters, crab cakes, Berger cookies, Thrashers French Fries and National Bohemian Beer. However, it wasn’t until after I started working in Maryland that this delicious dish was first introduced to me.

Prior to my Maryland employment I had never even fished the Chesapeake Bay for the official State Fish of Maryland. You may hear the Monroe saxatilis, or striped Bass, called by a lot of different nicknames, but when you are in Maryland you better understand that it’s called a Rockfish here, Hon!

Here is my favorite way to prepare it.

Rick “The Butchers” Famous – Pan Seared Rockfish


  • 6 portions (3 – 6 oz.) Fresh Caught Rockfish Fillet
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Old Bay Seasoning
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Canola Oil

Tartar Sauce Ingredients

  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. Sweet Pickle Relish
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice



Rinse the Rockfish portions and pat dry with a paper towel

Put canola oil into the pan and heat to medium high heat

Mix the All-Purpose Flour with the Old Bay Seasoning and coat fish

Add the butter to the pan and heat until melted

Sear fish 2-3 minutes per side and remove from the pan

Add additional Old Bay Seasoning to taste

For the Tartar Sauce mix the Mayo, Pickle Relish and the Lemon juice together

Serve the Tartar sauce on the side for dipping


I hope that you enjoy this tasty recipe!


Rick “The Butcher” Bolinsky

I Shot a Deer: Now What? On the Trail

After sitting in the cold for hours, you finally get to draw back your bow.  You stare through your peep sight and down the sight, focusing your sight pin on a single hair on the deer’s body.  You ignore the coat rack on top of his head, and you take a deep breath while gently squeezing your release, sending the arrow hurling towards your target.  Schwack, thump, your arrow has hit its mark.

Carefully watch the deer as it runs off into the distance.  If you are hunting over an open field or some other type of open terrain, follow him with your binoculars for as long as you can.  Listen to hear any sounds of breaking sticks or wrestling of leaves: anything that might sound like a crashing animal that might give you a clue later to his final resting place. 

Your heart is racing and your blood is pumping through your body like never before.  You are beginning to uncontrollably shake a little as your body gets a full shot of adrenaline.  Despite the freezing temperature outside, your body is now warm from the excitement of the shot.   Quietly, you cheer and pump your fist to celebrate from your perch.  Your body is experiencing a natural high from all the excitement. You check your watch, note the time, and wait to climb out of your stand, for if you don’t and the deer is still nearby, you will spook him.

Finally, after a 30 minute wait, which seemed like an eternity, you can climb down out of the tree and the process of blood trailing begins.  That ever-slow process by which you’re carefully following every single drop of blood on the ground, leaves, trees, rocks, and anything else it ends up on, until it leads you to the animal that you just shot.  Once on the ground, make sure that you nock another arrow; you just never know when you might need to shoot again. 

If it’s raining, snowing, or precipitating in any way, you should climb down immediately, as the rain and the snow make it difficult to find the blood, for it gets washed away fairly quickly. 

Before you take a single step down the trail, you need to determine where you shot the deer on its body.  The first clue of where a deer was hit, is its initial reaction to the arrow.  If the deer was shot through the heart and lungs, its back legs will typically buck up in the air, much like a bull does when it leaves the chute at a rodeo.  If the deer gets shot in the stomach area, it will run away hunched over.  A deer that gets shot in the spine will drop immediately to the ground and will require a second shot to kill it.

If you are not sure of where you shot the deer, a second indicator of where a deer was hit begins with an arrow examination.  If the arrow has little-to-no blood on only one side of the shaft and one or two fletching’s, or has meat or hair on it, it is likely a meat hit.  If there is no blood, you probably shot the deer in “no man’s land” and the deer will likely heal and live.  Any vital cavity hit will completely cover the arrow in blood.  An arrow covered with bright, red, frothy blood that bubbles signifies a lung hit.  Dark red blood is from the liver or stomach area and will stink.  A leg hit produces thin watery blood.

You are going to have to wait longer to track a liver or stomach-hit deer.  Patiently wait three to four hours before following the deer.  If an animal was shot in the gut, wait at least 12 hours.  This will give the animal the chance to bed several times and die.  It is typically more profitable to wait too long to track, rather than not long enough.

Once the blood trail has been located, do not leave it to randomly search the woods.  Always stick with the blood trail moving cautiously and slowly.  You never want to jump an injured deer, as they can run a long way on adrenaline.  Constantly scan your periphery for the deer.  I have had a lot of deer run a curl pattern on me. 

Attempting to find deer in dense terrain is nearly impossible without a blood trail.  Even if you think you know where the deer went down, just stay on the trail.  As you follow your trail, it is often helpful to use neon colored survey tape to make the blood trail.  This will give a reference point to look back to if you lose the trail at any point.  As you are trailing the deer, stop every ten yards and use your binoculars to look ahead.  When looking out ahead of a blood trail, look at the tree stumps, compost piles, hay bales, and such, as deer will often curl up next to these items.  I have even had one crawl into a thicket and die there. Patience is your best friend when you are trailing deer. 

You do not want to spook the deer if he has not died yet.  If you go more than 150 yards and do not find him, stop, back out, and wait four more hours.  Deer will head to water when they are injured.  If you shoot a deer near a creek or a river, expect the deer to head in that direction. 

Blood trailing is best done with the help of only one other person.  Any more than that will make too much noise and could spook the deer.  If it is dark, make sure you have a high-quality blood trailing flashlight.  You should only ever add additional people after several hours of searching and when you are going to do a grid search. 

Sometimes, you may even be down crawling on your hands and knees.  It is when you find your dead animal that you can truly appreciate the power and magnitude of the weapon that you hold in your hand.  It is also the moment you realize how majestic the animal is that is laying front of you.  It will definitely cause you to pause for moment and thank the Lord above. 

The Retrieve with Bags and Shadow

Chapter 3 – Building a Bond

As I mentioned in a previous article the foundation for your relationship with your future hunting dog starts the very first time that you pick up your puppy.

From that point on everything that you do with your puppy will become part of the training for your dog’s future behaviors. Making a concerted effort to build that bond early will allow, both you and your dog, to learn to trust one another. That level of trust will eventually lead to your dog becoming increasingly motivated to please you.

To be successful in the field you and your dog need to become teammates. And like any good team you are better off when you are working together. In order for your dog to choose to be on your team they must both trust and respect you. It is very important to realize that a dog’s brain is completely developed at sixteen weeks old. The first eight to ten weeks will afford you with the greatest opportunity to establish the groundwork for all your puppy’s training.

In my articles I will often refer to “pressure on, pressure off” training. This term describes a very simple idea. As we go through the training you will learn to use the “pressure on, pressure off” technique. This technique is used in conjunction with many training tools and multiple training scenarios.

Let me give you a couple quick examples…

When you pick up your puppy she will often start to struggle and want you to put her down. It is very important that you do not give in. You will apply gradual pressure until she submits and settles into being held. Once she settles down, and remains calm for approximately five seconds, you can put her down and offer her praise. She’s earned it. You will want to do this “pressure on, pressure off” drill multiple times throughout the day.

A great way to expand upon this “pressure on, pressure off” drill is pairing it with a quick check of your puppy’s eyes, ears, feet and mouth. It will be a huge future benefit if your puppy becomes use to you, or the veterinarian, examining and checking them over.

While you are holding your puppy take ahold of his paw and gently rub it. Spread his toes, inspect the webbing and run your thumb over his nails. If he tries to pull away simple apply some pressure (hug him a bit firmer) until he relaxes. Once he’s relaxed go back to rubbing his paw and continue this with each of the four paws.

It is important that your dog gets used to being examined. There will be many times in the field where you will need to look at his feet to check for cuts, stones, burrs or briars. This will also help you immensely when you start trimming his nails. Get your puppy used to the idea that you’re going to be a “hands on” owner.

Note: Remember that anytime you examine his feet you should also take a minute to look in both ears, open his mouth to check his gums / teeth and examine his eyes.

Another excellent bond building daily routine that you should be doing with your young pup is walking her off the lead. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this in a safe and secure area! The walk does not have to last a very long time, nor does it need to cover a long distance. A 100 yard walk, repeated three times a day, would be an excellent start.

In a safe area grab your leash and your whistle (I will discuss these items later in my series) and just let your puppy be a puppy. As you take a nice leisurely stroll allow her to sniff around and to naturally follow after you. If she stops to investigate something just keep walking slowly ahead. Eventually she will find herself alone and come running after you. The second that you see her headed your way give her the “COME” command and blow three short tweets on your whistle.

Note: The voice command “COME” along with three short whistles will be used to command your pup to come This will be used early and throughout the training process

P.S. – Congratulations! You just taught your first command.

When your pup approaches you if she should happen to sit on her own recognize it and say “SIT” along with one short tweet of the whistle

Note: The voice command “SIT” along with one short whistle will be used to command your pup to come This will be used early and throughout the training process

When either one of these commands are performed successfully (even if its accidental) make sure that you give immediate and over exaggerated praise.

As I mentioned earlier the first few weeks are very important in the development of your future hunting dog. There are some very important “Do’s and Don’ts” that we will go over in a future article. That said here are a few key ideas to keep in mind until that article hits the website.


  • Stay consistent with your daily routine and your expectations.
  • Keep your training sessions short.
  • Make training fun for your puppy.



  • Use heavy handed discipline.
  • Rush the training process. Sometimes you’ll have to go backwards to eventually move forward.
  • Continue training if you become frustrated.


Hopefully you now have some information that will get you and your puppy headed in the right direction to forming a lifelong bond. Thank you for taking the time to check out this Bag’s and Shadow article here on the Chasin’ Whitetails Media series Life Afowl.

Good luck and have fun.

Until next time…”Keep the retrieve alive!”


Some days it just all comes together. The weather does exactly what you had anticipated, the birds fly right at first light, you shoot straighter than you’ve ever shot before and the dog marks every bird that hits the water.

These are the days waterfowlers dream about. These are the days to be savored. This is the culmination of all of the hard work because, as every waterfowler will tell you, these kind of days are few and far between. This is the zenith that continues to bring the real waterfowlers back out day after day, season after season.

More often then not these true hunting addicts show up at the boat ramp and realize that someone misplaced the plug…again, that a damn squirrel chewed through the wires on the boat…again, that a hunting partner left his waders at home…again, or that the spot they had planned to hunt somehow iced up over night…again.

True waterfowlers understand that overcoming a S.N.A.F.U. is just part of the obsession.

The great news is that most waterfowlers don’t take no for an answer. They beg, borrow and….well let’s just say they do what it takes to get themselves on “the X”.

Waterfowlers are a dedicated lot. They are up early, appreciate horrible weather and thrive on gas station coffee. They scout constantly, study maps and drive countless miles to secure new hunting spots.They ponder over their decoy spreads, fidget with their calls and obsess over blind concealment. All in hopes of experiencing that “perfect hunt” just one more time.

The waterfowler community has its fair share of interesting and unique characters. There are often differences of opinion, terse conversations and and even long standing feuds. There are always more leases to line up, motors that need tuned up and blinds that need propped up.

This is the kind of people I chose to spend my time with. These are my people. Hopefully one day, when I’ve suffered a little more, I’ll earn the title of Waterfowler?

The Weston “Earth to Table” Series Presents – Mallard Stir Fry

To those of you that previously followed the Earth to Table series, I’d like to say thank you. For those of you that are new to our site…”Welcome”!

The basic premise of The Weston “Earth to Table” Series is that our team of hunters, anglers, foragers and micro-farmers are out in the field taking part in a hands-on experience with the foods that we will be using in this series. All of our proteins have been harvested or raised by one of our team members and the vegetable portions have either been found, grown or purchased from one of our many local farmer’s markets.

By approaching food from this angle we hope to promote the consumption of locally sourced items and provide outdoorsmen/outdoorswomen with another option for preparing wild game and food from the surrounding area.

In addition to this article, you will be able to view a video of the preparation of this dish right here on the Chasin’ Whitetails Media website, on our YouTube channel or on Vimeo. So please feel free to tune in and watch as we fire things up in the Weston Test Kitchen at Mill Creek Brewery  in order to “Reconnect with Real Food”.

For this month’s recipe, we decided to take advantage of some recently harvested mallard duck meat and the fact that we were still able to secure some pretty nice vegetables from a local farmers’ market. This recipe is a bit “labor intensive” on the prep side, and I would strongly recommend taking the time to prep each ingredient ahead of time, however, the actual stir-frying steps will go very quickly.

*Using both the Weston Mandolin and the Weston Chopper will help speed up the process of prepping the vegetables. The knives that are included in the Weston 10 Piece Game Processing Knife Set were used in parting out the mallard (check out the teaser videos on Instagram @chasinwhitetailsmedia).


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20181209_164037.jpg

Mallard Stir Fry

Ingredients – Vegetable Portion of the Stir Fry

  • 2 tablespoons oil (olive, peanut or a combination)
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • ¼ tablespoon ginger (minced)
  • ¼ large sweet onion (Diced)
  • ¼ large red onion (Diced)
  • ½ cup mushrooms (sliced)
  • ½ cup broccoli (chopped)
  • ½ cup sugar snap peas
  • ½ cup carrots (sliced)
  • ½ bell pepper (sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ cup stock (chicken or game)

*Prepared Teriyaki Sauce may be substituted for the fish sauce, soy sauce and honey (see the video).


Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a preheated pan (medium-high heat).

Add 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.

Add the 1/2 tablespoon of garlic and the 1/4 tablespoon of ginger together to the pan (stir briefly).

Add 1/4 of both the sweet onion and red onion, cooking until onions are translucent.

Add 1/2 cup of mushrooms (stir briefly).

Add 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli and 1/2 cup of snap peas (stir briefly).

Add 1/2 of sliced bell pepper (stir briefly).

Allow the ingredients to come to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.


Ingredients – To Cook the Mallard

  • 2 tablespoon oil (olive, peanut or a combination)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon garlic
  • ¼ tablespoon ginger
  • 1 Mallard (cut into strips)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked together with 3 tablespoons water)

*Prepared Teriyaki Sauce may be substituted for the fish sauce, soy sauce and honey (see the video).


Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a preheated pan (medium-high heat).

Add 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.

Add the 1/2 tablespoon of garlic and the 1/4 tablespoon of ginger together to the pan (stir briefly).

Add the mallard strips to the pan (stir-fry to cook all sides).

After about one minute, flip the strips.

Add the 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of honey and 1/2 cup of stock of your choice (stir briefly).

Add the cornstarch slurry as needed to thicken the sauce



Place a scoop of rice (Sticky, Wild, Basmati…your choice) in the center of a plate.

Cover the rice with a portion of the vegetables.

Spoon some of the Mallard Strips on the top and drizzle with some of the pan sauce.

“Behind the Scenes”

Aiming Points – Dead Down Wind

Nothing bothers me more in hunting than failing to find an animal that I shot.  Knowing well ahead of time what represents a good first shot will make you a more aggressive and successful deer hunter.  Knowing when not to shoot will make you a more ethical deer hunter.  Too many people get caught up in the moment and lose focus, and thus lose their best opportunity to shoot. 

While many people go with the “if it’s brown, it’s down” philosophy, others take a more mature attitude when hunting.  This is evident in the size and age of deer they shoot.  It is important that you evaluate every situation and be able to differentiate between a good shot and a bad shot.  Making the right shot takes time and practice in the field and on the range.

If you are hunting with a gun, a head-on shot is an option.  This should never be done with a bow.  This shot presents gun hunters with three vital targets.  A shot in the chest will hit the heart or lungs.  A bullet in the neck will usually break the neck or cause enough shock to drop the animal instantly. It could also destroy the esophagus and/or carotid artery or jugular vein.

For a bow hunter, the best shot is when a deer or any other animal is standing broadside to you.  With this shot, the archer has the ability to easily pass the arrow through both lungs and the heart.  This will allow for the quickest and most ethical kill.  Look for a spot one third to one half up the deer, and about a hand’s width behind the shoulder.  That is your aiming point.  You should avoid hitting the shoulder blade, as this will cause your arrow to deflect away from its intended target.

For archers, the quartering-away shot offers a chance for success in the field.  Even if the arrow hits a bit too far back, it can angle the arrow forward into the chest cavity for a quick kill.  When taking this shot, the point of aim should be through the deer to the opposite shoulder.

When an animal is quartering towards the hunter, the shot should not be taken.  It is possible for a properly placed arrow to hit the vitals and make for a clean kill.  However, often times when bow hunters take this shot, they miss the lungs and hit the stomach and intestines.  This will ruin most, if not all, of the meat on the deer.  It is better to simply wait for a better shot to present itself.   

Making a clean and quick kill should be the goal every hunter.  Thinking each shot through will help you become a better and more ethical hunter.  Remember the list of facts below to help you become a better hunter in the field.

When shooting at deer with bow and arrow, aim for the heart regions.  If the deer “jumps the string” by dropping sharply before bounding away, the arrow will still hit the lungs.

The average Whitetail deer, weighing about 150 pounds, carries about eight pounds of blood in its circulatory system.  Massive hemorrhage is necessary to bring the deer down quickly.

A deer must lose at least 35 percent of its blood.  The better the hit, the quicker the loss.  Deer blood carries high levels of vitamin K in early autumn.  Vitamin K is an anti-hemorrhage agent, which greatly aids blood clotting.

Frightened Whitetails produce high levels of B-endorphin, which supports rapid wound healing.

Deer, particularly in northern areas, have thick layers of tallow along the back and below the brisket.  This can plug wounds, preventing a good blood trail.

Remember, above all else: if you have any doubts about the shot, do not shoot.  Be patient and wait for the animal to give you the opportunity to take a quality shot.

Scouting – These Are Not Your Grandparents’ Woods

Daylight was just breaking on a late-December morning.  I had been in the barn stand overlooking a small area that I had cut free of trees and was littered with old rotting logs.  I was freezing and could not wait for the warming rays of the sun to get above the horizon and begin to thaw my body.

As time passed, I sat quietly and watched the squirrels go to and fro looking for food to stuff in their thin winter cheeks.  Then, around mid-morning as I was about to climb down out of my stand, I spotted him.  I looked through my binoculars and discovered what I had been waiting for: a beautiful ten point, the one I had named “Rusty” because of his reddish brown tone.

How did I know it was Rusty?  Just by looking at his antlers.  I had seen him numerous times on the trail cameras that I had set up around my property.  Today’s trail cameras are awesome, with fast shutter speeds, infrared flashes, and animal centering technology.  You never know what you might see when you download your pictures.  Those ghostly deer images, which we used to only be able to see through a thick fog, have now given way to full-color photographs and the ability to name and monitor deer. 

I only recently began using trail cameras, and now I wonder how I ever hunted without them.  They definitely make hunting more fun.  Every time I go into an area where I have cameras set up, I can target a specific deer.  It can also give me specific information about what times certain deer visit certain areas.  Am I always successful at targeting the bucks that I see on the pictures?  No, but it does give me one more tool in my arsenal to make me a more successful hunter and put the odds in my favor. 

How do you choose the right camera for you?  The age old adage of “You get what you pay for” has never been truer than when it comes to buying a trail camera.  You should buy the best camera that you can afford to buy.  If you have to choose between buying one $200.00 camera or two $100.00 cameras, buy the one that costs more and move it around your property.  You will be much happier with the results in the end.  Build your trail camera arsenal slowly over time, and you will be thankful that you did.

One of the main features that you will have to decide between, at any price range, is whether to purchase a flash camera or a no-flash, infrared camera.  The infrared cameras are becoming more popular with hunters these days; however, I prefer the flash style because of their ability to take color photos at night.  Some hunters want to argue that the flash scares the deer, but I have plenty of photos that show otherwise.  Others features on digital cameras include being able to erase unwanted pictures, downloading the photos onto your computer, and putting the photos in different files for viewing and management purposes.

Common sense in using trail cameras is useful and smart.  I know it sounds stupid to say, but if you photograph a big buck in a certain area, odds are he will be harvested within a half mile of that area.  I have learned that if you stick to an area where a certain buck was photographed, your chances of harvesting him will go up.

If I know about a certain buck from earlier photos, I’ll try to locate him in the fall by placing cameras in areas where I think he will be.  I begin the process of trying to locate a summer monster in late September, and use cameras throughout the hunting season. If you set up a camera on a scrape area, the number of pictures you get will often be low, but most of them will be bucks.

I’ve gotten pictures of as many as eight bucks on one scrape in one night. A key behavior pattern I’ve learned through the use of trail cameras is that older bucks don’t always visit the same scrapes every night.  Instead, most mature bucks I’ve photographed seem to be on a three- to six-day rotation.  That means if a buck was in an area, he will be back. This knowledge keeps me in the woods longer, and ultimately increases my hunting success.

After the season is over, it’s time to find a mature buck for next season.  Using trail cameras for this endeavor is much more than a hobby for me.  I enjoy it as much as I do actually hunting, if not more.  The first thing you want to do is make sure you know how your camera operates before placing it in the woods.  Most cameras will trigger themselves when facing direct sunlight, and you don’t want moving limbs, sticks or weeds in front of your camera lens.

Where is the best place to put a post-season camera?  Food sources or feeders (if you use feeders) are always excellent locations in which to get multiple pictures of different animals.  If you do set up over a feeder, be sure to set your camera’s timer to take pictures at 15- to 20-minute intervals because the animals are usually there for a while and you don’t want to end up with 10 pictures of the same deer.

Older aged bucks usually won’t come to new feeders.  However, if you put some feed on the edge of a food plot or trail, they’ll often come to this feed without hesitation.  Doing this may get you a picture of an old buck that no one has ever seen before.

As mentioned, I like to use my cameras year-round.  This enables me to monitor such important things as when bucks are shedding their antlers, when fawns are being dropped, when new antler growth starts (allowing me to watch the progress of that growth), when the bucks start getting back into their bachelor groups, and when they start shedding their velvet.  Perhaps, most importantly, my cameras help me pinpoint areas where the bigger bucks are hanging out before anyone else knows this information.  This is also a great way to get younger kids involved in hunting.  My two year old daughter loves to fill feeders and check the cameras.  It is one of the things that we can do together before she learns to hunt.

Trails are good bets for locations likely to provide a variety of deer photos, but unless you have a quick-reaction camera, you will miss a lot of pictures.  For a trail setup, place the camera facing up or down the trail so the deer will be in the trigger area longer. With the aid of my trail cameras photos, I try to keep an annual log of how many different deer I know about in certain areas and what their ages are.  It is important to keep track of your does as well as your bucks.  If you do not have a good number of does, bucks will not frequent your area as often.  Also, if you have too many does, you will need to do some population control hunting. 

The cameras also allow you to determine which bucks made it through the season, so that in January or February I can start planning to fatten them up for the next season.

Here Deer, Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are – Calling and Decoying Tips for Bringing Them in Closer

Okay, so you bought a call, now what?  You have two choices: use it or lose it.  If you bought a call, the only way you are going to know how effective it truly can be is if you learn how to use it and learn from your mistakes when you use it.  Everyone hits a bad note now and then and scares off a deer.  That is just part of the learning curve.  You will learn more from your failures than you will from your successes.  It is just like anything else: the more you use it, the more proficient you will become at it.  Get yourself a quality CD or DVD and listen and learn how to reproduce the sounds that deer make from the professionals. 

Some calls are so simple, like a can call, and all you have to do is turn them over and they produce a perfect doe bleat.  Unlike waterfowl calls, deer calls are extremely affordable and very user-friendly.  Most cost fewer than $25.00, and are found at sporting goods stores everywhere.  Rattling bags and rattling horns are designed to imitate the sounds of two bucks sparring in the woods.  Whether you choose a can call, a mouth call, or rattling antlers, if you are not going to use them, then just leave them in the truck.  They will just get in the way. 

There are four basic sounds that every hunter should know how to make.  A doe bleat, a snort/wheeze, a grunt, and a growl.  By mastering these four sounds, you will become a much more effective hunter in the woods.  Each of these calls has a time and purpose.  A bleat is the sound a doe makes throughout the year, but in particular during the rut.  The wheeze is a defensive sound that is supposed to intimidate other animals.  The grunt is the basic “what’s up?” sound in the deer world.  It is a greeting call.  Finally, the growl is a sound of dominance that bucks make during the rut to get the attention of a hot doe. 

When to call is a question that is up for debate.  For me, I like to wake them up early, right before dawn, with some soft grunts and soft bleats.  This can often get older bucks up and moving, especially during the rut.  They can interpret this sound as a young buck trying to move in on his hot does.  Remember: these are soft, tender grunts. 

When using your deer call, do not use your call more than once every 15 minutes, and preferably no more than once every 30 minutes, to maximize your opportunities.  You want to give the deer the opportunity to respond to your call.  If you see a buck and he does not respond to your call, stop calling; he might not be interested in what you have to say.  If you do not stop calling, you might very well educate him to your sounds.

When calling, you always want to have an arrow nocked up and your release ready to go. You never know when a big buck is going to hear your call and come charging in your direction. This is especially true when you are using a rattling bag or antlers.  They interpret these sounds as a threat to their personal space.

A highly effective sound that can be used in conjunction with rattling is the snort/wheeze.  This is a very aggressive sound, and it will often put a rutting buck into full fight mode. 

Another effective tool that can help you bring that bruiser buck into bow range is a decoy.  Where and how you place your deer decoy may determine how successful you are, and which sex and size deer respond to the decoy.  For your own safety, when using a decoy, wrap the decoy in blaze orange when you are carrying it in and out of the woods.  Also, disassemble the decoy as much as possible when carrying it.  Many of today’s decoys have legs and a head that can fit in the belly of the decoy.  Failure to disassemble could result in someone shooting you as you are carrying your decoy. 

After you have set up your decoy, make sure that you spray the decoy completely with a cover scent.  You need to avoid getting any human or unnatural scent on the decoy.   Remember a deer’s nose if far more powerful than ours.  It is helpful to wear gloves when carrying and positioning the decoy to eliminate human scent.  It is important to place your decoy in a high-use area where you have previously seen deer, such as feeding, bedding, and trail areas.  Your decoy set-up should match the terrain that it is in.  For example, you do not want to put a bedding decoy in the middle of a soybean field.

You should place your decoys on the upwind from where you expect the deer to appear, as bucks like to approach other deer from downwind side of cover if they can.  It allows them to feel more secure in their approach.  You should place a doe decoy with its tail side toward you. Bucks often approach does from the rear or side, and this will present you with a quartering away shot.  When using a buck decoy, position it with its head toward you.  Bucks generally approach another buck cautiously from the front.

You should never place the decoy in a direct line between you and where you expect the deer to come from, as the deer may see you.  Instead, place the decoy off to one side of your stand to distract the deer’s attention from your position.  To help get the buck’s attention on the decoy, tape a small piece of white plastic or white feather to the tail area.  You can also tape feathers to the ear area, as well.  They will blow in the wind and give the appearance that the decoy is moving.  To keep the buck’s attention focused on the decoy, place a few drops of deer urine on it, doe in estrous for doe decoys, buck in rut for buck decoys.  More sure that you use the correct scents with your decoys, otherwise the deer will know that something is wrong.  Use buck or doe scents, and calling or rattling to create the illusion of another deer in the area, and to initially attract bucks to the decoy.

Will decoys and calls work every time you use them? No.  Nothing is effective every time.  However, if they help you kill that once-in-a-lifetime buck, they are worth every penny you spent, and all the time you put in to learning how to properly use them.