Public Land Bowhunting During The Pre Rut

Public Land Bowhunting During The Pre Rut

By: Heath Wood

While participating in an October managed archery deer hunt in southern Missouri, my father, brother, and a few friends would all arrive a day before the two-day hunt to scout for the most deer sign to then be able to hunt that area throughout the weekend.

The large Missouri ranch consisted of nearly 24,000 acres. After entering a draw, three hundred bowhunters were selected to hunt for two days. When three hundred hunters take off from one location, nearby deer will likely feel hunting pressure.

Our group didn’t have much luck during the first few seasons we were drawn. Yet, I was intrigued at how a few hunters consistently scored a mature buck.

I loitered the area when visiting the conservation department check-in station, trying to learn the hunter’s secret. I questioned hunters about where they hunted and how far they traveled. Most of the bucks harvested during the two-day hunt were taken towards the back end of the ranch that bordered public land. The Missouri Department of Conservation owned the ranch we were hunting. However, everything inside the border fence (not a high fence) was prohibited from hunting, except during the two-day managed hunt. The deer inside the ranch fence were free-range deer that could easily travel from public land to the managed area as they pleased. During the two-day hunt, it seemed as if the ranch deer fled farther distances to avoid the hunting pressure, and that is where the hunters were able to harvest mature bucks.

Fast forward twenty-five years later, and I find myself hunting public land and reverting to those hunters who hiked deep into the timber to avoid pressure from other hunters to find bucks with the same idea. I am forever grateful to have lived my entire life in a small rural area in southern Missouri. In our area, many people’s way of life revolves around hunting and fishing.

When the November firearms portion of deer season occurs, our small rural area quickly becomes populated with hunters, ready to take on the ten-day season. Many of the public land in our area reminds me of the days we hunted the managed deer hunts with numerous other bowhunters. Every access point for miles typically has a vehicle parked and hunters nearby. For many years, I would become discouraged by the number of other hunters hunting private land. Little did I know, I was missing out on excellent hunting opportunities.

After contemplating public hunting opportunities near my home, I had a change of heart. I thought to myself, I should be glad that there are as many hunters who love the sport of deer hunting as I do. Never wanting to be pessimistic about fellow hunters, especially in the present time, our country needs as many hunters as possible. I also began searching for different times and tactics to how I could successfully hunt public land.

Beat The Crowd

Most visiting hunters who hunt public land transpire during the firearms season, near the rut, in early to mid-November. To gain an advantage, I try to hunt public land during pre-rut in mid-October. By hunting several weeks before the rut, I can hunt while deer are traveling on their natural travel routes instead of areas where they seek cover when hunting pressure has peaked. In mid-October, hunters can search large timber areas where acorns are falling, and deer feed heavily, preparing for the upcoming rut. Big timber areas are also ideal locations for hunters to find buck signs such as rubs and scrapes on hunting public land. I constantly look for food sources such as acorns and water from creeks or natural ponds. I also try to find draws, pinch points, and the side of ridges where bucks often travel out of sight. When I find good signs that bucks are nearby, I return with my Hawk Rival Lite Hang On, Helium Climbing Sticks, and bow. With the lightweight setup of the Rival Lite and Helium Climbing Sticks, I can easily backpack them into an area, hunt, and travel back out. Traveling with my equipment helps to avoid leaving my stand in place for other hunters to find my hunting area or, even worse, have my stand stolen, which unfortunately happens when hunting in public areas.

Public Land Bowhunting During The Pre Rut
Hawk Rival Lite Hang On

Pack Up and Go The Distance

My first choice is to hunt before others. However, when hunting in public areas where many others are doing the same as myself, I revisit the days of management hunts and follow in the footsteps of those hunters, putting on my Tenzing Lumber Pack, and walking into an area much farther than the average hunter. While walking beyond the average distance, I use a hunting map app such as OnX Maps. Again, I look for draws, pinch points, and ridges where bucks have likely relocated to avoid hunting pressure.

When hunting deep into an area, it is vital to pack for an entire day. If the hunter invests the extra effort to travel farther than others, only to hunt a couple of hours and then walk back out, the additional labor is pointless. Instead, pack a Tenzing pack with plenty to drink and a few snacks to last through several hours of hunting.

When hunting deep into a public land area, I choose to go into stealth mode. I do not use any calls, scents, or other tactics to lure deer. Instead, I wear quality clothing camouflaged from head to toe; it keeps me warm and dry for an extended period. The goal is to stay quiet and be patient. If the hunter stays invisible, often mature bucks ease their way through, trying to avoid pressure, providing the perfect opportunity to harvest one.

Public Land Bowhunting During The Pre Rut
Pack Up and Go The Distance
How To Properly Cut Shooting Lanes

How To Properly Cut Shooting Lanes

By: Heath Wood

Have you ever had the feeling that someone is watching you? Or maybe the hair sticks up on the back of your neck, and you get goosebumps and feel that something isn’t right. Some refer to this feeling as a sixth sense. The definition of a sixth sense is “a supposed intuitive faculty giving awareness not explicable in terms of normal perception.” Below the definition was a sentence that stated, “Some sixth sense told him he was not alone.”

Many deer hunters who have spent ample time in the wild have more than likely experienced deer freezing in their steps, possibly homing in on their form of a sixth sense. The deer stay motionless for several seconds while they smell and look around, trying to figure out the feeling that has come over them. When the deer finally follow their instincts and explode out of the area, many blame the deer’s nose for identifying the hunter. However, that isn’t always the case.

A deer spends every day of its life in one area. When one thing is different in an area they see and smell every day, they sense that something isn’t right. Often, hunters go into an area and hang a treestand, then cut a few shooting lanes to have a clear shot of a deer while hunting. At that moment, when hanging stands and cutting shooting lanes, the hunter can use tactics to later prevent deer from balking on their preferred travel route.

Cutting Proper Shooting Lanes

When cutting shooting lanes, it is vital not to make it look like a logging crew followed you after setting your stand locations. Cutting as few limbs as possible is critical while providing adequate space for the arrow or bullet to travel without hitting any obstructions.

When cutting limbs and brush for proper shooting lanes, I prefer taking someone along with me to help guide a better path. After placing my stand in the tree, I strap myself in with a safety harness and sit down as if I were hunting. I look around at all my possible shot opportunities and ensure I have clear shots. Next, whoever is on the ground uses a pole saw such as the Hawk Helium Pole Saw and helps clear obstructions. When removing limbs, it is essential not to remove the entire tree or sapling if possible. I try to remove obstructions six feet up and higher yet still have a clear shot of a deer. By leaving the base of small trees or saplings, deer are less likely to recognize something missing from their daily surroundings.

When picking out shot opportunities, it is essential to keep cover between the deer and your treestand to avoid being seen. One of the most significant factors for deer catching a sense of a hunter in the area is because they catch movement or see something in a tree that is not there on a daily routine. When picking out shooting lanes, it is vital to cut lanes, not open the entire area. Give yourself five to six scenarios for deer to travel through while keeping yourself concealed.

How To Properly Cut Shooting Lanes

Clean Up The Area Afterwards

To avoid deer perceiving something that looks different in their area and to keep themselves concealed, the hunter should clean the area after trimming lanes to make it look and smell as before hanging the treestand. I try to use a scent elimination regimen when hanging stands and cutting shooting lanes. Even though I am not hunting in the area at that time, I do not want to fill up my hunting area with human scent. I try to spray down myself, including the bottom of my shoes or boots. I spray my stands, ropes, straps, and accessories with Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way spray. The goal is to reduce as much human presence as possible.

After eliminating human odor, I remove all limbs, branches, and brush I cut out of the area. I use as many as I can to camouflage around my stand, especially behind where my body silhouette would be when looking up from the ground. Not only does it help me to stay concealed, but it also takes away the vast difference in appearance that multiple trees, limbs, and other trimmings laying out of place create. Anything a deer notices that is not commonplace is fuel for their sixth sense that can ruin a hunt.

Final Preparation

After everything is complete with my stands and shooting lanes, my last task before hunting is using a rangefinder and marking multiple areas for different yardage. After all shooting lanes are cut, I like to return to a hunting position and use my Vortex Impact 1000 rangefinder to mark yardage that can help when archery hunting. I identify landmarks such as specific trees, rocks, and stumps and mentally mark them as an aide when deciding which sight to use on my bow. In each shooting lane that I make, I range different objects. I note those same objects every time I hunt until I memorize them.

By having multiple shot scenarios ranged before hunting, I am better prepared, giving deer no time to become aware of their surroundings before making the shot.

How To Properly Cut Shooting Lanes
All Day Sits Pay Off During The Rut

All Day Sits Pay Off During The Rut

By: Heath Wood

The Power of Patience

After a mid-November morning of bucks cruising, chasing, and multiple encounters with deer the entire hunt, I was eager to see what the rest of the day had in store. At  11:30 a.m., a good friend who hunts in a tree stand nearby texted me and asked if I would like to join him for a quick bite to eat. He told me that he parked on the backside of the property where we both were hunting. The morning’s hunt was full of action; however, my stomach was empty.

After a short drive to meet up with my friend, I was welcomed with a bag full of elk snack sticks, sliced cheese, and crackers laid out on the bed of his truck, like that of a buffet. I stuffed my face with snacks and then headed back to my tree stand to settle for the afternoon and evening hunt. I was amazed at how many deer I witnessed moving through the timber during the early afternoon. At a time of day when I would typically be sitting at camp or home, the deer were already on their feet.

At 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, I was fortunate to harvest a mature buck who was cruising through trying to find any does that were in estrus. If it weren’t for sitting all day, I would not have been there when he came through, or even more concerning, I would probably have spooked the buck when walking in if I had been following my usual hunting schedule.

Plan for Comfort

When hunting mid-November or when the rut is in full swing, it is a good idea to take your playbook or your game plan and throw it away. One of the most exciting things about hunting the rut is that you never know what the deer will be doing or where they will be. The unpredictable nature of bucks during the rut is why it is crucial to find a spot that you know deer usually travel and sit all day. To sit all day, one must be ready to endure ten or more hours in a ladder stand, tree stand or blind. When sitting for long periods, you must consider these three factors—comfort, hunger, and boredom.

Remaining comfortable throughout the day means to have an excellent place to sit and to stay warm. During the rut is one of my favorite times to put in an entire day of hunting. Whether rifle hunting or bow hunting, I prefer using a ladder stand with enough room to sit to ensure I stay comfortable. The 20′ Big Denali 1.5 Man SLS Ladderstand from Hawk is one of my favorite ladder stands. The Big Denali features one of the most oversized seats ever on a ladder stand. The Mesh Comfort seat is 26″ wide and has a 23″ contour backrest. The extra room in the seat and the large area to rest my feet, I can sit comfortably for hours.

The other critical factor in sitting comfortably for an extended period is dressing in layers to adjust to the weather. By dressing in layers, you guarantee that you will be warm in the mornings when it is colder. As the day progresses and temperatures begin to climb, you can shed a layer and remain comfortable without leaving the ladder stand.

Sitting in 20' Big Denali 1.5 Man SLS Ladder stand

Hunters Get Hungry

Hunger can end a hunt faster than you can say biscuits and gravy. It is a good idea to take a few snacks in your backpack to prevent cutting your hunt short and risk being absent from the stand when a mature buck decides to venture through. On a cool fall morning, while sitting in a ladder stand or tree stand, it is common to start feeling hunger pangs after the morning action slows down. This is especially true during the rut; you never know when the moment of truth will present itself. I take a few snacks and drinks with me in my bag to help keep myself in the stand when the action happens.

In the past, I have even packed my lunch to avoid leaving the area. However, I usually keep my lunch in my vehicle, and I get out of my stand during mid-day, only to eat, then climb back into the stand as soon as possible.

Boredom Saves the Buck

The last of the three risk factors for cutting a hunt short is boredom. During the rut, there is usually a lot of action throughout the day. However, there will still be times when nothing is going on. It is easy to let your mind wander during such times. A cell phone is a lifesaver for a roaming mind. When activity slows, grab your phone, check social media, play games, check the weather, or whatever to occupy your mind to prevent boredom. If you are not much of a smartphone kind of person, I use my hunting accessories as tools to prevent boredom. When hunting during the rut, using a grunt call or rattling antlers can sometimes help lure in a buck. They can also be used when times get slow, and you become bored.

A Good Backpack Leads To Good Results

You want to speed up the action anyway, why not make a few grunts or compose a rattling sequence. Other hunting accessories are used the same way. Hunters often carry a backpack or bag such as the Tenzing/Mossy Oak Bottomland Hangtime Day Pack. A hunt backpack like the Hangtime Day Pack keeps all gear, snacks, drinks, and anything else you might need during the hunt always organized and within reach. When times get slow, I get my Vortex Viper HD binoculars out of my pack and slowly scan my entire surroundings. Occasionally when scanning with binoculars, you will spot deer movement that you may have failed to notice with the naked eye.

The rut is a favorite time of the year for all deer hunters. The action is like no other time of the year, and the chance of taking mature buck increases.  Do not miss out on this magical time by being absent when it occurs.

Dead Buck Shot from Hawk Tree Stand
Enjoy The Hunt More With A Box Blind

Enjoy The Hunt More With A Box Blind

By: Heath Wood

Opening day of the firearms deer season is like Christmas to some hunters. Deep down in my heart, I am a bowhunter. I love the thrill of the challenge, and I enjoy the vast number of days to hunt; I love everything about it. However, even with my passion for bowhunting whitetails, I must say, there is nothing like the opening week of the firearms season.

I have spent my entire life being born and raised in a small rural town in southern Missouri. In Missouri, the firearms portion of deer season is typically ten days long and occurs during mid-November. With the firearms season only being a short period, one time a year, those ten days seem more like a holiday in my hometown. A couple of days before the season, the grocery stores become busy with hunters who will spend the next few days at a deer camp with family and friends. The gas stations are booming, and the sporting goods counter at the local Wal-Mart is backed up with people waiting to buy their licenses. The frenzy that occurs every year during this time is something that hunters like myself relish.

Enjoy The Hunt More With A Box Blind

I look forward to each year because of the excitement that feeds from everyone, including my family and friends. A special time fueled by the highly anticipated opening day. Every year, I have always thought about how the seriousness of hunting seems to drift away, and hunters perform a more carefree hunting style. For example, for many years, my dad and I would take a Thermos full of hot coffee, snacks, and my grandma’s homemade apple pies to the stand with us during the first few days of the season. It is funny that two weeks prior, when I was in a treestand bow hunting, I had washed my clothes in odorless detergents, sprayed down with odorless sprays, and whatever else I could think of to up my chances in beating the whitetail’s nose. However, deer didn’t seem to smell all that during the firearms season in a mysterious yet comical way. We know that is not true; the reality is that people enjoy being outdoors and making memories with their family and friends and have stopped thinking as much about the actual harvesting of an animal and what precautions go with it.

Years past, I have been guilty of taking firearms season as seriously as bowhunting. Yes, firearms season should be taken seriously, and yes, it is still essential to take precautions, practice scent control, and be an excellent hunter to harvest a mature buck. Yet, it is vital to relax and have fun while doing so. However, over the last couple of years, I have somewhat re-discovered a more enjoyable experience by hunting from a box blind such as the Down & Out Warrior Blind. One of the biggest reasons hunters enjoy hunting from a box blind is being concealed. Being hidden allows the hunter to get by with more movement than if they were sitting in a treestand. Other perks of hunting from a box blind are the ability to stay warmer by having a wind block on all four sides and the opportunity to run a portable heater in the blind when temperatures get colder. Also, when hunting in the Down & Out Warrior blind, I have room to sit my Hawk Denali Blind Chair inside and hunt with the luxury of having a comfortable swiveling chair that features an armrest to rest and relax while waiting for the opportunity to harvest a mature buck.

Being warm and comfortable is a huge advantage to staying in the blind longer. Being in the blind longer means more opportunities to catch a mature buck up on his feet during the daytime. The part I enjoy most about hunting in the Down & Out Warrior blind during the firearms season is bringing back those memories of taking along a hot cup of coffee and a few snacks to get through the day. Often, I carry my backpack filled with what I call my blind toys. My toys include things to keep me occupied throughout the day and make the hunt better. I carry my cell phone in my bag for communication, games, and social media, which, to be honest, is what many hunters are guilty of doing while hunting. Besides the coffee and food, other items include a grunt call, gloves, flashlight, rangefinder, and my number one item, binoculars.

Enjoy The Hunt More With A Box Blind

When sitting in my box blind, I always have my Vortex Viper HD 12×50 binoculars. Using binoculars while hunting from a box blind allows me to look for any deer in a larger area. By glassing periodically, one can pick up movement that may be missed with the naked eye. Plus, identifying bucks from a distance is more manageable. Yet, most of all, they keep me entertained. The key to all of this is that it helps stay in the blind longer while allowing for a more enjoyable experience.

Another one of the things I love about hunting, especially hunting during firearms season, is hunting with a family member or good friend. One of my best memories while deer hunting is while sitting with my dad during the firearms season. We laugh, we talk, and when enjoy God’s great outdoors together. A box blind such as the Warrior blind is a great way to create memories with loved ones. The Down & Out Warrior blind has enough room for two adults to sit together comfortably. Hunting in a box blind allows for quiet conversations throughout the hunt that can never be matched. Again, a cup of coffee can be enjoyed, along with a snack or two or three. And when the moment to harvest a buck presents itself, you have someone to share the celebration with. That is what hunting is all about.

A box blind can make you a better hunter, period. They can elevate you to see better and keep human scent off the ground; they keep you warm and comfortable throughout the hunt. The Warrior features Mossy Oak Break Up Country camouflage on the outside, so they can also help keep you more concealed. However, making memories and enjoying the hunt drives the excitement you feel each year as a new season approaches. The trophy bucks that are taken along the way are simply a bonus.

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

The Right Conditions for a Saddle

When and How to Pick Up Saddle Hunting 

If you are like me, you are likely lured in to the romance of killing a big buck, deep in some public land timber or a swamp. You want to sweat, suffer, and maybe even bleed in the process. You want a chance to create the need of getting so far back you have to pack him out on your back. You’re looking for that suck…as a close-to-home but at the same time rewarding adventure. I totally get it! 

More and more of us are engaging with online content that has been resurfacing the opportunities of public land hunting, bedding area hunting, and more recently saddle hunting. The combination of finding a musky old buck bed tucked into some unreachable spot, and the equipment required to reach that spot somehow perfectly blends the hunter and gear nut in all of us. The fun part of this type of hunt happens now in the off-season, dialing in a lightweight setup that is specific to this style of hunting. Usually that gear requires the use of some ultralight hunting gear, sticks, or saddles. So if you are in the position I know I was in last year, then you are likely facing an internal battle of when to drop the climbing stand or hang-on and join the saddle hunting club. 

Why Saddle Hunting?  

The first and most obvious answer and why you are here in the first place, is that you are saving weight with a saddle compared to tree stands. Whether you are used to climbing tree stands or lightweight hang-ons, the weight is still drastic between stands and saddles. While 21+ pounds was the norm for a climber or a hang-on with climbing sticks a decade ago, today’s industry is cutting that in half, and Hawk is no exception. One of the lightest weight options on the market for a packable climbing stick and hang on setup is the Helium System. Below is that setup and a lightweight climber option, compared to the new Hawk Saddle System.

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Climbing Stand Weight 

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Ultralight Climber – 20 lbs

Hang-On Setup Weight 

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Climbing Sticks X3 – 2.9 lbs a stick at a total of 8.7 lbs 

Helium Ultralight – 11 lbs 

This combined setup is just over 19 lbs. 

Hawk Helium Saddle System

The Right Conditions For A Saddle

Helium Hammock Saddle – Entire kit weighs 4 lbs

Climbing Sticks X3 – 2.9 lbs a stick at a total of 8.7 lbs 

If you go with no platform (resting your foot on the stick), your total combined setup weight is a measly 12.7 lbs! But if you prefer a platform, it doesn’t add all that much extra weight.

Helium HSP Platform – 1.4 lbs.  

Hawk Monkey Bars – 1.6 lbs 

As you can see, you are cutting significant weight off a day pack when saddle hunting. Whatever you might be shaving off counts for every pound out on public land. The idea is to make it a mobile hunting setup, something easy and so thoughtless that you take it with you every time, even if you’re planning on hunting on the ground. Saddles by nature offer so many more opportunities other than just weight shaving. It is not a question of if you are going to get a saddle…but when. 

When to Switch to Saddle Hunting?  

If you find yourself in any of these scenarios, it’s time to get a saddle. 

  • Seeking Lightweight Gear – if the overall experience of hunting deep in public land is miserable to you, a lightweight setup will allow for a slower burn. There is nothing worse than getting burnout before the rut ramps up. 
  • Employing a Run and Gun Strategy – hunting from the ground or up in trees, sometimes during the same hunt, is the name of the game for a run and gun strategy. A lightweight saddle hunting system facilitates this well. 
  • Hunting Buck Beds – When you need to get in close (within 50-100 yards of a bedded buck or bedroom), lightweight and quiet gear count. Climbers and even hang-on tree stands can be a bit too loud or make that single metal hitting metal noise that tips deer off. A saddle is a lot safer method of hunting when you are getting in tight.
  • Public Land Hunting – my entire 2019 public land hunting season was spent with a 20 lb climber and it wasn’t fun. I was pushing 1-2 miles in with decently steep Midwest terrain. When I switched to a saddle, I saved my back, my feet, and my hunts.

“Hunting out of a saddle meant that mileage wasn’t a deterrence for me to hunt certain locations in public.”  

  • Awkward Trees – like bedding areas, certain habitats (like old clear cuts, thickets, or even close to habitat diversity) just seem to have smaller trees with more branches. These areas make climbers and hang-on tree stands obsolete. If you are heading into one of these areas or an area with very little trees, always opt for a saddle. 

Saddle Hunting Gear List 

I’ll end this saddle hunting blog with a short and simple gear list to think about as you’re putting your system together: 

  • Saddle and tethers
  • Reclining Belt 
  • Ascender
  • Platform or Tree Ring 
  • Climbing Sticks 
  • Aider 
  • Solid Lightweight Pack
  • Knee Pads 
  • Public Land Gear Hanger 
  • Backpack Strap 
stand Placement During The Summer, For Fall Hunting Season Success

Stand Placement During The Summer, For Fall Hunting Season Success

By: Heath Wood

The excitement of being in the treestand for the first time of the season is a feeling like no other. The anticipation built up throughout the summer months from scouting, checking game cameras, shooting a bow, and hanging stands are enough for any hunter to get a bit jittery come opening day.

As exciting as a new season beginning can be, nothing can dampen the enjoyment faster than realizing, after spending time throughout the summer scouting and hanging stands, that the stand placement is wrong on the first hunt.

Finding oneself in the wrong location begins with what the hunter has done during summer scouting. To confirm that stand locations will be in the right place at the right time, a hunter should have at least three different stand scenarios set and ready before the season begins.

Early Season Stand

One must keep in mind that scenarios change from summer to fall. One of the biggest mistakes I have made over the years has come from patterning deer based on their feeding pattern. During July and August, deer may spend most of their time feeding on green grasses and the abundance of browse found everywhere during the summer.

There are three things to look for when setting an early-season stand location to narrow down a suitable stand location. These three things are high on the priority list in mid-September; food, water, and bedding. Remember that it is still typically warm temperatures during the early season, deer need food and water to survive, and then they lay down to stay cool. To narrow down the right stand location, one needs to find where the least travel is required to get from one priority to another. Again, late summer feeding patterns usually revolve around green grasses; the edge of a timberline that connects with a field, food plot, or crops is an area in which deer can feed then get back in the shade quickly to stay cool. If one can find an area such as this with a pond, creek, or another type of water source nearby, it parallels the perfect early season stand location.

October Stand

During the summer months, deer are in the early season feeding pattern.  In September, these areas may seem ideal for encountering deer movement. However, when mid-September and October roll around, the feeding patterns begin to change. For example, in the Midwest, where I hunt most of the time, it is common to see deer change their travel routes about mid-October when acorns begin falling. When travel routes change, the stand at the edge of a food plot or near a field suddenly becomes less likely to encounter deer. How does one find where deer are located most of the time in September, October, and November when hanging stands in July and August?

The first time I saw a good friend of mine walking through the woods in August with a pair of binoculars, looking up in the trees, I thought he had lost his mind. After quizzing him about what he was looking for, I realized he was very knowledgeable about predicting where the best stand locations would be when the season came around. He explained that he searched the umbrellas of the white oak trees to see which had the most acorns developing. In finding these areas a couple of months before acorns were ready to fall to the forest floor and hanging stands nearby these spots months prior, he could be in the prime when the season is in full swing.

The Rut Stand

The most challenging stand location to predict when hanging treestands during the summer is a stand that will be right for when bucks could be anywhere due to having breeding does and nothing else on their mind.

During the rut, a buck doesn’t have a travel route; it is wherever his nose leads him at any given time, which is why it is hard to narrow down one specific stand location. Since it’s impossible to narrow a location down, it is good to have a stand where there is a lot of visible ground. Areas where the hunter knows deer will be feeding, such as food plots, open areas in the timber, or down a power line, are all excellent areas to see farther distances.

When I find a well-open area, I like to use my Hawk Big Horn ladder stand or my Down & Out Warrior Blind on a raised platform. Using either of these stands allows for a comfortable hunt for a more extended period while watching a larger area. By seeing longer distances, one will have more opportunities to catch buck movement because of the amount of traveling a buck does during the rut. When hanging stands during the summer, the hard part is to make sure to have the imagination of what the area will look like when fall arrives. When hanging stands in the summer, the leaves are still in full bloom; grasses, weeds, brush, etc., are all in full foliage as well. When leaves begin falling during November, an area can change in looks quickly if one will remember what an area looked like the season before or visualize an area without the foliage.

To sum it up, the main reason for hanging stands before the season is to have them ready and in place without disturbing deer. By having multiple stands in different time of the year scenarios, the hunter will be in the right place at the right time without detouring the natural movement of deer. When the big buck arrives, you will be ready and waiting.

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Benefits of the Hawk Helium Saddle System

Saddle Hunting 101 with the Hawk Helium Saddle System

If you’re a deer hunter who watches any online hunting shows these days, you’re no doubt familiar with hunting saddle systems. It’s true that tree saddle hunting has really exploded in popularity in recent years. And it’s no wonder. A saddle system has many advantages and very little downside. It allows hunters to be very mobile and take minimal gear with them between hunting locations. Here’s a look at what’s typically involved with this hunting approach, specifically looking at our Hawk Helium saddle system, and how you can start using one this season.

Benefits of a Saddle System for Hunting

First, there are many reasons why a deer hunter should consider a saddle and platform system for hunting. Here are just a few:

  • Portability – when it comes to mobile hunting strategies, a saddle system makes a ton of sense. They are lightweight and can be packed in a small package, which makes carrying your other hunting gear easier. While carrying a full climber or hang-on tree stand is certainly doable, a saddle makes it even simpler. 
  • Flexible Hunting Locations – because saddle hunting can be so mobile, it’s a great excuse to start utilizing multiple tree stand locations. By identifying several locations and trees ahead of the season, you can quickly change locations if things aren’t working out at a different spot. Or you could just strike off into a particular direction and find a suitable tree as you go. A hunting saddle gives you that flexibility.
  • Tree Options – with a hunting saddle, you aren’t limited to a perfectly straight and limbless tree, as you might be with a traditional climbing tree stand. Much like a hang-on stand, if you can attach the climbing sticks to the tree, you can use the tree. So feel free to use the next gnarled old oak tree with branches sticking out everywhere.
  • Shot Opportunities – with a fixed tree stand, you have some opportunities to turn around and face another direction if a deer comes in from an unexpected direction, but it’s not perfect. With the Hawk Helium saddle system, you can use the platform, climbing sticks, and even separate steps to maneuver around the tree and give you basically 360 degree shot angles. This also helps you stay out of a deer’s sight line – simply scoot around to the back side and keep the tree between you and it. However, it takes some practice to quietly maneuver around a tree like that or to shoot from these different angles.
  • Comfortable – most hunters that are new to saddle systems are doubtful about how comfortable they could be. But when you set them up correctly, saddles are actually really enjoyable to sit in. You can partially stand by resting against the saddle, fully sit down in it, or just keep changing positions until you find something that works for you.

Check Out the Hawk Helium Saddle System

Now, let’s look at some of the components of the Hawk Helium Saddle system, so you can see what we’re talking about. Our hunting saddle kit includes the saddle itself (which is covered in a Chaos Camo™ pattern), a removable padded seat, and a sturdy carrying bag to store all the components. It also comes with all the associated ropes and attachments, including a reclining belt, climbing-grade aluminum carabiners, climbing-grade rope grabber, climbing-grade tether rope with prusik, and climbing-grade climbing rope with prusik. The whole kit is extremely packable – in fact, it weighs less than 4 pounds and it can fit into an  8” x 8” x 10” carrying bag. Try that with a traditional tree stand. Yet despite that small package, the saddle has a weight rating of up to 300 pounds and fits waist sizes from 28” to 40”. 

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Next up, our Helium HSP platform is exactly what you need to stabilize yourself when up in a tree. It also helps take some of the load off of your saddle and allows you to move around easier when you want to shift positions or stretch. Because the hunting saddle platform is constructed from durable aluminum, it has a weight rating of up to 300 pounds. But it only weighs 1.4 pounds and measures 10” x 6”. The tree digger teeth help it grab hold of the bark to provide a very secure platform. It is also designed to connect to the top of the climbing sticks with the simple use of two snap pins. The saddle climbing sticks feature high-grip steps with raised ends to keep your boots from slipping. They are also cast from aluminum and have a weight rating of 300 pounds, but each step section has a weight of 2.5 pounds.

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

Why Choose the Hawk Helium Saddle?

For a good system to work, it needs to have compatible parts and be easy to use. You can certainly achieve that with the Hawk Helium saddle system. Using our 4-pack of the 20” Helium climbing sticks, you can quietly maneuver through the woods without the fear of metal clanging noises. Our versa button design prevents noise when packing them, and you can stack all four sections together to maximize efficiency. They will stay securely bound together as you sneak through the woods. After setting up the climbing sticks, our Helium HSP platform connects directly to the top of the top-most climbing stick with two simple pins, which provides a rock-solid foundation for you to stand on. 

Benefits Of The Hawk Helium Saddle System

If you’re going to be doing a lot of mobile bow hunting, you need to pay attention to weight considerations. It’s no fun lugging a lot of heavy items through the woods at any time, let alone when you’re trying to be stealthy. Luckily, the Hawk Helium saddle system is very lightweight by design. Assuming you use the four climbing sticks discussed above together, they will weigh about 10 pounds. The platform weighs about 1.4 pounds. And the saddle system weighs only about 4 pounds. So for just a little over 15 pounds, you can have the ability to climb almost any tree and get hunting in short order. That’s a definite improvement over even the lightweight modern aluminum tree stand options on the market, and it’s a life-changing difference if you’re still using the old steel tree stands that weigh upwards of 40 pounds.

How to Hunt with Saddles

Now that you know why our Hawk Helium saddle system is so effective, here’s how you can implement this system to use on your own. It takes a little practice to get used to using a saddle system. But when you get the hang of it, you can follow the steps below to go from hiking to hunting in about 20 minutes.

  1. Locate the tree you want to hunt in. Take your climbing sticks, platform, and carrying bag full of the saddle and associated other pieces out of your backpack. Disconnect and lay everything out.
  2. Attach your first climbing stick segment at ground level. Make sure it is securely attached to the tree and does not wiggle.
  3. Wrap your lineman’s belt around the tree and ensure you are securely attached.
  4. Climb onto the first climbing stick and attach the second one higher up, using your lineman’s belt for support. Continue this process until you have attached all the climbing sticks.
  5. Attach the platform to the top climbing stick and connect it with the two snap pins. 
  6. Climb up further and attach your tether to the tree. It should be attached at about head height if you’re standing on the platform.
  7. Connect the saddle to the tether so that it will support your weight. Also attach your reclining belt at this time for additional back support.
  8. Squat down and gently test how the saddle feels, and adjust the height if need be to what feels best.

That’s the whole process. As you can see, it’s pretty simple. But here are some other tips to make the most of your hunt. After climbing up into the tree and connecting all your ropes and tethers, it’s a pain to climb back down and grab your bow/firearm or hunting pack. Instead, attach a pull rope to them when you’re on the ground level and keep these attached to your waist as you climb. When you get settled up in the tree, you can simply pull your stuff up to you and start hunting. It helps to have a few tree hooks with you as well, so you have a place to hang your bow/firearm or pack while you’re in the saddle. While you should definitely practice with your hunting weapon and the saddle system ahead of the season, it also helps to just quickly visualize a few shot scenarios when you’re up in the tree. Imagine drawing your bow back in different positions to either adjust something right away or make a note of your limitations. You don’t want to find out when a buck is actually 20 yards away.

Saddle hunting is a fun and adventurous way to hunt. It opens up many more opportunities for you and can get you to try some different hunting areas. And when you have a solid package like the Hawk Helium saddle system, you know it won’t disappoint either.

Hawk Down & Out Blinds The Permanent Temporary Blind feature

Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind

Why Use Down & Out Blinds?

Whether you prefer to hunt turkeys or deer, there’s no question that sitting in a hunting blind will improve your odds at harvesting an animal, as compared to sitting out in the open. But since you just can’t commit to investing in a permanent hard-sided blind, you resort to your usual hub style blind. Being outdoors for any length of time exposes it to some battles with Mother Nature, which it usually loses. If you’re ready to end that vicious cycle, check out the new Down & Out™ blinds by Hawk. 

Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind

Benefits of Down & Out Blinds

The new Down & Out blinds solve a lot of the issues you’ve probably had with other ground blind options. Here’s a quick rundown: 

Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind
  • As compared to hard-sided permanent box blinds, these hunting panel blinds are a bargain when it comes to cost. If you can’t justify spending money right now on a hard plastic blind, these are a great alternative. 
  • The Down & Out blinds are also much more portable than a traditional box blind. You usually need a tractor to haul and set a box blind up efficiently, but you can simply use the carrying case for these ones (or an ATV if it’s on the back end of your property). That makes it a good option for mobile hunting situations. Best yet, it only takes 10-15 minutes to set up by yourself with no tools.
  • These hybrid blinds are much stronger and more durable than hub style mobile blinds. Because of their strong frame and durable fabric, they can withstand much more than an ordinary soft sided blind. 
  • Down and Out hunting blinds have silent windows so you can stealthily open them when game animals are within shooting range. Try doing that with noisy Velcro or zipper windows common for most soft-sided blinds. 
  • There are several design options to choose from so you can find a size that works for you and your hunting style. 
Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind

Design of the Down & Out Blinds

There are five different models of the Down and Out panel blind. The first thing you’ll notice about these blinds is that they are truly over-engineered for maximum stability. Starting with the bones of it all, the heavy-duty, powder-coated aluminum frame folds up in six pieces like an accordion, and you simply need to unfold and fit them into place. These things are so strong, there is a lifetime warranty on the aluminum frame and hinges (which is always a good indication). The steel struts form a roof on top capable of holding 200 pounds – plenty strong enough for even a significant snowfall event in most places. The wall and roof are constructed of a 600 denier fabric so they can withstand the wind and snow easily. It is also treated for UV resistance and has a polyurethane coating for additional durability and water resistance. This frame and fabric design allows you to leave it out in conditions that would destroy most hub style designs.  

There is a full size and accessible door to make it easy to access quietly. Each panel has one bow and one gun window, so you have a 360 degree view around you. Each gun window uses the aluminum frame as a gun rest, while the bow windows are long vertically and have shoot-through mesh over them. The Shadow Mesh™ windows have magnet closures, so nothing can see in and you can open them quietly with game animals within range. The interior is dark black to hide your movements even more when the Shadow Mesh is across the opening. Here are the different models of the new Down & Out blinds.

  • Scout – the Scout is the smallest option in this lineup, measuring about 74” to the peak and 59” in diameter. It weighs in at 49 pounds, which is easy enough for a short carry through the woods.  
  • Warrior – the Down and Out Warrior blind is big enough for two people, or one person if you want more room for gear. It measures about 72” wide and 78” tall when assembled and weighs 61 pounds. 
  • Warrior XL – this blind is obviously a larger version of the popular Warrior model, and can fit a couple people easily. It measures about 96” wide and 81” tall when assembled and weighs 81 pounds. 
  • Octagon – the Hawk Octagon blind should be considered a group blind as you can fit plenty of gear or a couple people inside. 
  • Bunker – the Bunker can easily fit three hunters and is arranged in a rectangular shape rather than a hexagonal shape. 
Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind

Hunting Scenarios for These Blinds

There are a few different situations where the use of these Down & Out blinds would be a no-brainer, and we’re sure you already thought of a few while reading above. 

As a private landowner, there are lots of easy applications for these blinds. Pick a good ambush site for whitetails on your property – perhaps along a field edge or downwind of a commonly used creek crossing in the woods. Assemble the blind in the late summer, and return in the fall for hunting. By that time, the deer will have gotten so acclimated to it, they will hardly notice anymore. Simply sneak into the area, stealthily open the blind, and silently unfold the windows. As long as you have cleared the debris on the floor so there aren’t leaves crunching, they will have no clue you’re there. Alternatively, you can also set one of these ground blinds up on top of a tower platform so you have a better view. 

Of course, you could also use it for turkey hunting in the spring. Set the blind up on a field edge or clover plot in the early spring and let the birds get used to it. Add some cut branches or tufts of grass to the brush loops on the outside of the blind so it blends in well with its surroundings. If you’re a fan of bow hunting turkeys, keep the mesh up and they will never know what hit them. 

For public lands, your choices are a bit more limited. While you can’t leave blinds out overnight on some state or federal lands, you can on others. Of course, you run the risk of someone else discovering it and making away with your blind, so consider that risk beforehand. You could easily set it up on a Friday night, hunt dawn to dusk through the weekend, and pack it out on Sunday. Or you could set it up in a very remote location where nobody is likely to stumble across it (and if they do, they likely won’t want to carry it out). But a better option might be to use the lightweight Scout blind if you can’t leave it on a given piece of land. It’s not difficult to set it up in the morning and take it down when you leave.  

Down & Out Blinds | The Permanent Temporary Blind

These hunting blinds are a great way for many people to get the benefits of both hard-sided permanent blinds and soft-sided mobile blinds at the same time. Once you try them, you’ll immediately see what you’ve been missing. 

How To: Mobile Hunting Setups for Success

Mobile Hunting Gear

There are many ways to chase whitetails from sits in treestands and ground blinds, bow hunting or gun hunting, the ways to go about it are endless. That’s the beauty of whitetail hunting–you can figure out a system and a style of hunting that works for you and go at it. One style currently on the rise is “mobile hunting”, which allows you to continually move around without the hassle that typically comes with moving a stand.  

What is Mobile Hunting?

Basically, mobile hunting is simply hunting with some type of lightweight system that allows you to continually move around. It’s for the hunter that likes to consistently setup on fresh sign, not wear areas out, and capitalize on any hunting opportunity that comes their way.  

Mobile hunters are constantly setting up and tearing down, which is why having a lightweight system is essential. They may hang a stand first thing in the morning, hunt until a few hours, tear down, and find a new spot by afternoon.  

There are a variety of set ups out there to get you started with mobile hunting. Among them include climbing stands, light hang-ons, and climbing sticks and saddles—each set up coming with their own pros and cons. 

How To: Mobile Hunting Setups for Success 1

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Mobile hunting is a great tactic for a few different reasons. First of all, it allows you to hunt what’s hot right now. When it comes to having a bunch of set stands, you often fall into a pattern of waiting for areas to get good. But with mobile hunting, you can attack right now. You can toss a stand on your back, scout, and when you find the hot sign, set up on it. After your hunt, you can assess what you saw, and then make another move the next sit.  

Hunting this way is also great because it allows you to keep areas fresh. Again, when it comes to hunting set stands, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of hunting a stand again and again. By doing this, you can easily burn areas out. But with a mobile hunting setup, you’re continually moving and keeping areas fresh.  

Additionally, when you’re hunting with a mobile setup, by default you tend to hunt more aggressively. If you see a mature buck do something out of range, the next sit you can make a move and put yourself into position to be successful. You can get aggressive, because if you make a move and press in too far and ultimately bump that buck, you don’t have to go to the same tree the next day. You can make another move based on what you believe the buck might be doing after getting bumped. And if you think you spooked the deer out of the county, you can head into an all new area the next sit.  

Mobile Hunting Challenges

Pulling off mobile hunting isn’t a walk in the park. You have to become proficient at it, because often times you are hanging a set in the dark or pulling sets in the dark. There needs to be a good balance between speed and quietness. When it comes to climbers, if that’s the route you end up going, look for the lightest climber you can find. It’s not necessarily about being big and roomy. You might be hiking a long way with that on your back. Once you get one, practice with it, and get comfortable.  

Mobile Hang-on Treestands

When it comes to a hang-on stand, you want to get a lightweight stand and sticks—like the Hawk Helium XL Hang-on stand. It weighs only 12lbs and is built for portable, run-n-gun hunters. It’s important to have a lightweight hang on, because this will not only make carrying it in easier, but it also will be much easier to physically setup. When it comes to climbing sticks to combine with a hang on stand, the helium sticks are a great option. These only weigh 2.9lbs per stick and stack very nicely to make hauling them in a breeze. With this setup, you’ve got many options on how you can pack them in, given what kind of pack you have, etc. They are very versatile, and you can get into almost any kind of tree easily.

How To: Mobile Hunting Setups for Success 3 helium xl hang on

Saddles for Mobile Hunting and Platforms

And there are the saddles. These have come increasingly popular over the last few years and will be your lightest weight option. These are perfect for the mobile hunter that consistently has very long walks into the tree. When using a saddle, you have many different options for what kind of steps to use to get up to your desired height in the tree. The helium sticks can play the perfect role for this, given their ultra-light weight. If you are looking for a lightweight saddle hunting platform that doesn’t break the bank, the hangout tree seat might be something to look into. 

How To: Mobile Hunting Setups for Success hang out tree seat 4

Lightweight Climbing Stands

When it comes to choosing your preferred method of pulling off a mobile hunting setup, look at your style of hunting, and the areas you hunt. What makes the most sense? If you hunt big wide-open timber with short walks, it might be a lightweight climber. Climbers are easy and quick systems to handle for mobile and even public land hunting. One stand can take you just about anywhere if you are hunting heavy timber.

How To: Mobile Hunting Setups for Success 4 ultra lite climber

When it comes to mobile hunting, it can take the right level of commitment for it to be successful. But once you go at it full force, not only can it produce very successful hunting, it can be a lot of fun. You’ll consistently be hunting new spots, with scenery always changing, and it can lead you to some of the best hunting you might experience.  

How to Pack out a Public Land Deer

Packing out a whitetail on Public Land

Public land hunting can be intimidating for a variety of reasons–from hunting pressure, lower number of deer, large tracts of land that can be difficult to scout, the list goes on. A lot of public land is only available via foot travel, which can create issues in itself. Mainly, long walks to the stand also mean what feels like a longer drag out when you’re successful. So how do you go about packing out a whitetail on public land, especially when you’re a mile or even further back? While a number of options are available to aid in your drag, one of the easiest lies with the HAWK Crawler Multi-Use Cart

How it Works

The Crawler brings an amazing level of strength, stability, and versatility to the deer cart world. With dual rotating axels and four all-terrain tires, the Crawler makes any obstacle in your path nothing but a bump along the way. Often times, old logging roads further than a half a mile in on public land are littered with downed trees, overgrown brush, and other terrain that can make a drag out extremely difficult. The Crawler’s construction results in the ultimate balance and weight management, preventing shifting and tipping allowing you to cross creeks, downed trees, and other obstacles with ease. Once you’ve gotten your trophy safely out, the Crawler folds up compactly, making transportation and storage a breeze. 

The Deer Crawler Put To Use

Imagine this. You’re hunting a big piece of public land an hour from the house on a Sunday night. You have to work early in the morning, but the weather is perfect for a sit in the stand. It’s roughly a mile hike back into your spot. You’ve got numerous hills you have to hike over, and it’s what you’d consider a heck of a walk back to where you know the mature bucks are most likely to appear in daylight.  

After getting back to your stand, you get all setup. The thought goes through your head that if you do take down a buck, it’s going to be a long night– you’re an hour from the house, and it takes a solid twenty to thirty minutes to hike out of your stand. Dragging a buck out of here would be next to impossible, even if your good hunting buddy is able to make it out to help you. But, you remember that your Crawler from Hawk is in the back of your truck, because you keep it in there most of the fall for instances like this. That eases your mind just a bit. The night goes by and right at sunset, a mature eight pointer makes a mistake and gets out of his bed just a little early that night. He comes by you at twenty yards and you’re able to make a perfect shot. Now, with thirty minutes left before dark, you’ve got some decisions to make on how to execute this recovery.  

You call your hunting buddy and tell him the news. He’s able to come help you track and recover the buck, so that makes you feel better about how the night is going to go. You decide to wait the thirty minutes to dark, and then go check the point of impact. At dark, you go over to your arrow and it looks great. You decide to mark the spot and then walk out to your vehicle. By then, an hour will have passed, and your buddy should be arriving to your location.

Now comes the easy part. Your buddy shows up, the two of you grab the cart, and the two of you head back in. You go back to the point of impact, track the buck, and find him. Instead trying to map out the easiest drag back to the vehicle, you load him up on the Crawler and head out. Within an hour, you’re back to the car with your buck and it couldn’t have gone smoother. You’ll get home in time for a good night’s sleep and make it to work in the morning just fine. At the end of the day, the Crawler not only saved you time, but it saved your back and legs too! 


Moral of the story, public land hunting hosts an array of challenges and often leads to long drag outs once you land that perfect shot. It can be a real pain to have to drag a deer through thick brush, across a creek, or up and down uneven terrain. The Crawler makes these worries a thing of the past, and lets you enjoy the hunt, without having to consider the downside of taking down a buck on your hit list way back in on public land.