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view from underneath lock on deer stand

Wearing Out Your Welcome | Ruining Good Deer Stand Locations

By: Jerald Kopp

muddy box stand in woods
Everyone has their “favorite” stand, but are you wearing out your welcome “using it up” by hunting it during less than optimal conditions?

Whitetail hotspots… everybody seems to have them, yet many have a hard time understanding them. I know I’ve made my share of mistakes hunting the coveted areas of different properties over my many seasons of chasing deer.

On small and large properties alike, there have always been those special locations where the most deer were seen and the best bucks taken.

For years, my dad, brother and I hunted a 30-acre property with three stands; and one “hot spot.” Most hunting weekends meant stiff competition for that magical stand – and if you happened to have the place to yourself, there was nothing to keep you out of it.

Years of seeing the best bucks from this stand ruled our brains. However, after a few seasons, the cold realization set in that our encounters with the best bucks occurred almost exclusively during the peak rut. Nothing real profound there.

The fact was, we hadn’t really taken many big mature bucks from the stand since the first three or four years. Only after the biggest buck ever taken from the place was shot from the other stand did the wheels start to turn.

The hunting gusto of my younger years represented a time when, less educated, I thought I was bullet-proof in the woods. I thought I had it all figured out.  This was an era when I wanted to shoot the biggest buck without really having to work at it.

Sure, it took getting up early in the morning and braving the cold weather, but that was about it. I quickly learned that much of my whitetail hunting ways needed rethinking – or thinking at all. Further, I started to realize that whitetail hunting is much more of a chess match than a free-for-all.

No more scrambling for the “good stand,” regardless of hunting conditions. A hunt-smarter mantra overtook my hunt-often mindset.

Are You Getting A Deer Education or Just Educating Deer?

Perhaps the most essential shift in thinking was realizing that I was habitually educating way too many deer to my presence.

My aha moments finding rubs and trails were really nothing more than sloppy field trips. What was worse was my half hazard route selection when traversing to and from this honey-hole stand. The same could be said about the other properties we hunted.

Stand locations were based on the best buck sign and past experiences with little regard for prevailing winds and entry and exit routes. If I was sitting over a rub line – or for that matter a urine-soaked cotton ball, I was golden.

When the buck sightings didn’t materialize (or came to a halt), I assumed the deer had simply changed their patterns. And I continued to taint the woods like an open tank of gasoline.

Coming to My Senses

aerial map of hunting area
It’s critical to consider wind direction and how it pertains to your planned entry and exit routes to your stand or hunting location.

Like the deer I hunted, I started to exercise more caution and logic. The fact is that, though all deer have great senses, they continually get better with age – especially bucks.

I had heard these things from other hunters and read about them in magazines. In fact, my father had often preached these basic facts. However, with a few bucks under my belt, I had just chosen to ignore them.

After this reckoning, I finally made the decision to maximize my time in the woods.

Applying the Basics

First, I started to employ simple tactics in response to deer and their innate abilities.

So, how do you keep from compromising your best hunting setups during the season?

First, regardless of property size, prepare multiple setups for different wind directions. This will usually provide a good hunting alternative for a given day’s conditions. If possible, vow to never hunt a stand during marginal wind situations.

Next, consider ahead of time how you will enter and exit the stand. Hopefully, some stands are set up within a heavy travel corridor between food sources and/or bedding areas. However, with this positive placement comes a higher chance of disturbing the peace.

If your entry or exit will likely upset the area, be resolute about finding an alternative spot nearby. If not, hunt another area or make the dreaded, yet sometimes necessary decision to stay in.

hand holding antlers
As bucks get older, it gets tougher to fool them. Be sure not to over hunt your best stand locations, or to hunt them in less than optimal conditions.

Maximizing Your Sits

Longer sessions in your blind or treestand can pay real dividends. It’s common knowledge that it’s a great strategy during the rut, as it increases your chances of catching a buck that is either cruising or on the heals of a hot doe.

The fact is, if you have the time, it’s a great practice from a pressure standpoint as well.

The best scent management doesn’t come from a bottle. If you have an all-day sit, you eliminate additional entry and exits to and from your stand. So, consider exercising addition by subtraction by settling in for longer hunts, hence applying less pressure to the areas around your most precious setups.

Conclusion

Few stands offer even near perfect advantage for the hunter. The save-a-stand-for-best-conditions approach works. Particularly if you are hunting an exceptionally old and impressive buck, use this philosophy and completely ignore your best setups until favorable dates.

There is only one first time to hunt a stand during the season. Saving it for a time when bucks are seeking does is great, but there are more things to mull over. When you do, you greatly improve your chances at even seeing your hit-list buck.

And, you just might get that coveted shot at him. 

fobs vs vanes picture

Fletch Fight | FOB Archery vs Vanes

Over the years I had heard about the “FOBs” from FOB Archery on various archery forums. I learned that FOB stands for “Fletchings Only Better.”

But what was the story behind this new product, and would it really work better than fletchings or vanes?

The History of FOB Archery

john lusk holding a fob
The FOB is made of nylon and has “fletchings” that are at a 4-degree off-set.

The FOB was designed by an aerospace engineer named Paul Morris. He designed it based on the concept of aerodynamics. He believed there was a away to improve upon the old fletching that Native Americans and people all over the world had been using for years and also in competitive archery. At the time, the FOBs were known as Starrflight FOB.

But then, in July of 2018, three business partners purchased the company from Morris and rebranded it to FOB Archery.

FOBs At First Glance

I finally got around to testing the FOBs. I have to be honest, when I first started reading about them and saw them, I was like, “Really?” My B.S. meter was going off a little bit.

But, I decided to give them a try.

The FOB is made of nylon. It looks simple, and in some ways, it’s exactly that. But in other ways, it’s very meticulously designed.

It simply slides onto the end of the nock. Then you insert your nock into the arrow shaft and you have essentially fletched your arrow. It’s that simple… and it’s fast.

No glue. No time. Just boom! And it’s done.

Keep reading for an in-depth look at the FOBs to find out if they’re right for you…

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An In-Depth Look

The circular ring around the FOB is thicker in the front than it is in the back. It’s an air foil design that aides in the stabilization and flight of the arrow.

fletchings only better
The FOB, although just a small piece of nylon, is precision crafted to give arrows proper in-flight stabilization.

The three little “vanes” are at a 4-degree offset. In effect, very And then these vanes if you will, the three little vanes, they are at a 4-degree offset.

The FOBs claim to be more accurate in a cross-wind than fletchings. The theory is that the cross-wind will blow a fletched arrow more off-course due to the larger surface area on the back of the arrow.  

The combined with the air foil design, the offset vanes allow for greater spin. With the thicker front portion of the ring, and the thinner part in the back of the ring provides 360-degrees of stabilization.

Offset fletched vanes will rotate, but technically not the 360-degrees of stabilization that the ring of the FOB provides.

I should note that the blazer vanes I typically use are different than what most people use. I use a 4-degree helical setting. So, they are put on with a 4-degree helical using an Arizona EZ Fletch.

That gives you the fastest rotation that you can get with blazers.

Sometimes people use the blazer vanes with an offset at 3 or 3-1/2 degrees. Some will just buy them from the factory in a straight position. But, when you put them on with a helical, they spin a lot better and you get better groups.

I tested the FOBS compared to the 4-degree helical blazers to see how well the fly and group. I tested indoors and outdoors with field points and also outdoors at long range using broadheads.

FOB Archery vs Vanes Indoors at 40 Yards

fob arrows vs vaned arrows on target
When compared to arrow with Blazer vanes with a 4-degree helical twist, FOBs grouped extremely well indoors at 40 yards.

Outdoors at 40 Yards

fobs and blazer arrows on target
The FOBs vs Blazer vanes at 40 yards outdoors. They also performed very well in this test.

With Fixed Blade Broadheads at 80 Yards

fobs and vanes outdoor target at 80 yards with fixed blade broadheads
I shot the FOBs vs Blazer vanes at 80 yards outdoors with fixed-blade broadheads.

Ballistic Gel Testing

ballistic gel test setup for fobs
This test consisted of ballistic gel with MDF board in the back of the setup.

Next, I did some testing into ballistic gel, shooting a regular vaned arrow with the Blazers and an arrow with a FOB on it.

I wanted to see two things. First, I wanted to see how the penetration was affected by the fletching and by the FOB. Secondly, I wanted to see how effectively the FOB bounces off the gel when it is contacted.

I first shot the FOB and then the Blazers. On impact, the FOB bounced right back to my feet (about 4-5 yards).

FOB Penetration vs Blazer Vanes

The vaned arrow went through the ballistic gel and simply landed behind the gel block. It didn’t stick at all into the layer of MDF.

However, the bare shaft that had the FOB on it continued to fly through the gel and not only stuck into that layer of MDF, but actually penetrated all the way through it and popped out the other side and made a big dent in the next layer of MDF.

Notice that the arrow tip with the FOB on it penetrated better than the one with the Blazer vanes, because the vanes had to pull through the gel whereas the bare shaft just slipped right through.

After putting the FOBs through every test that I can think of, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was borderline shocked by how well they performed. They passed every test I have.

fob arrow through ballistic gel
The FOB popped off the arrow, as advertised, when passing through the ballistic gel. It also penetrated the MDF board in the back of the setup.
fob penetration of mdf board
The arrow with the FOB on it penetrated the MDF board in the back after passing through the ballistic gel. The arrow with the blazer vanes passed through the gel, but landed without any penetration of the gel.
penetration of mdf with fob arrow
The arrow with the FOB on it passed through the ballistic gel and even penetrated the MDF board in the back. The arrow with the vanes didn’t even penetrate the MDF.

Pros and Cons of FOBs

Here is a summary of what I think are 7 pros and 7 cons to be aware of when considering using the “FOBs” from FOB Archery.

  The Pros:

installtion of fob
Installation of a FOB takes literally seconds.
  • Speed of fletching: You can fletch a dozen arrows in less than a minute instead of about an hour. And, you can do it in the field just as quickly.
  • Accuracy: FOBs are every bit is accurate as a 4-degree helically attached Blazer vane. That’s pretty darn accurate. So, I know that my vanes at a 4-degree helical vanes are more accurate than straight vanes and even more accurate than offset vanes at long distances. The FOBS group just as well.
  • Drift resistance: The FOBs are able to handle wind drift amazingly well. They are much less affected in a heavy crosswind than Blazer vanes or other vanes. That’s an important asset when you are bowhunting out West or shooting at long range.
  • Penetration: The superior penetration of arrows with FOBs surprised me. Because the arrow didn’t have the drag of the fletching, it just zipped through the ballistic gel and penetrated through a half inch of MDF. The arrow with the Blazer vanes did not stick into the MDF at all. That’s quite a bit difference in penetration. The lack of drag makes the difference. That was impressive.
  • Durability: I am very impressed with the durability of the FOBs. I shot them a couple hundred times. I’ve hit the FOBs with the tips of other arrows a number of times (they call this a “FOBinhood” when you stick one arrow inside the FOB of another arrow on the target). The FOB got a little dinged up at times but I have yet to break one. And, even when they are dinged up, they still work fine. TIP: If you are in a dry climate, you can soak the FOB in water, inside like a Ziploc bag or container for a day, they get even a little more pliable. This will help them become even more durable than they already are.
  • Quick Change Colors: Another little thing I like about them is that I can change colors without having to strip everything down off of a previous arrow and put on another one. I can just pop off the FOB and add a different colored one.
  • Ability to use arrows with bare shafts: Another strength of the FOBs is that you can use bare shafts. One of my best archery buddies, Shane Chuning, taught me that to always have a bare shaft in my target quiver so that I can test the tuning of my bow. This helps me test my own personal form. And, nothing reveals imperfections in form and tuning like a bare shaft. So, I always try to designate one arrow like that. With the FOBs essentially all your arrows can be bare shafts. You just pull that off and then you got bare shafts. You put the nock back in and you can tune a whole round of bare shafts and then put the FOBs on and shoot a whole round of fletched ones. So, that’s definitely a plus as well.

The Cons:

So, now that I’ve covered the 7 advantages of FOBs, I’ll cover what could be considered disadvantages:

  • Must use a drop-away rest: To use FOBs, you must use a drop-away rest. They will not work with a prong rest, because the FOB won’t clear it. You also cannot use something like a whisker biscuit, as the FOB would come off as the arrow passes through it.
  • Cheek Interference: If your anchor point is way back, or at the back of your head, the FOB could catch your ear. That wouldn’t feel nice. Or, if you mash your arrow into your face, or have a large beard, you may have a problem using the FOBs. For me, the anchor point is not an issue with FOBs. With the way I anchor, I didn’t notice it, even with a heavy mask on that I use during cold weather. So, this may be an issue for you, depending on where you anchor.
  • “FOB Pinch”: Another con would be a “nock pinch” of sorts. Some individuals with really long draw length that shoot bows with a short axle-to-axle length could experience this. Because the FOB is so far back on the shaft, the string could pinch the top and bottom of the FOB at full draw. If that’s the case with you, the FOBs wouldn’t be right for you. FOB Archery is supposed to be coming up with a solution for this in the near future.
  • In-Flight Sound: Some individuals that have used the FOB say the sound is an issue. I compared them in flight to the sound of my 4-degree helical blazers, which are louder than straight or offset Blazers. To me, the FOBs sound about the same as the Blazers. I couldn’t tell a difference. I even tried a decibel meter, putting it a halfway down range to try to see if they pick up a difference. The decibel meter wasn’t sensitive enough to pick up any difference between the two. Honestly, I don’t worry about arrow flight noise. Instead, I worry about bow noise and human noise at the shot. My reasoning is that bugs are zipping around deer all the time. Birds are flying by. Leaves are falling. I don’t believe the arrow flight noise is an issue worth being concerned with and I’ve never had a problem with it during a hunt.
  • Finding Arrows: Another concern is from those who use lighted nocks. The thought here is that during a pass through shot, the FOB pops off, taking the lighted nock with it. So, you would find your nock easily enough, but not necessarily your arrow. If the arrow stays in the animal, well, you’re going to see it running off with a lighted nock as normal. One way to address this concern is to use a reflective wrap. And I find those just as effective as a lighted nock at finding your arrow because you shine a light on it and it lights up like a Christmas tree. I like to use a lighted nock for videoing, but a reflective wrap really helps you in finding that arrow. So, while some consider this a con, I do not.
  • Weight: Adding the FOB to an arrow makes it 8-10 grains heavier than using Blazer vanes. That’s very minimal in my mind. It’s kind of the difference between using a lighted nock or not, which doesn’t really affect my shooting accuracy unless I’m out well past 60 yards. In that case, I simply sight in my bow for lighted nocks, and the FOBs hit right where my lighted nocks hit. So, again, this “con” is a non-issue for me.
  • Cost: One other concern that people have expressed at times is the cost. I wondered about that too. So, where do FOBs fit in cost-wise? They are about $2.25 each. You get a 12-pack for $29. So, they are more expensive than just getting vanes and attaching them yourself. But, they are less expensive than paying a bow shop to attach your vanes. They are also less expensive than buying the shrink wrap vanes and putting them on.

If you do decide to purchase FOBs from FOBarchery.com, use code LUSK10 for 10% off!

Conclusion

In conclusion, I really like the FOBs. They passed every test I could think of. I’m ready to take them into the field! Let me know your thoughts or any questions you have on this alternative fletching in the comments below!

antler shed lying on forest floor

Deer Antlers | The Growth And Shedding Process

Have you ever been walking through the woods and found the antler of a deer? It’s like finding hidden treasure.

But, how did it get there?

Every year, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and various other hoofed mammals shed their antlers.

The dropping of the antlers may take place within 24 to 48 hours, but the entire shedding process may take as long as two to three weeks before the antlers actually fall off. Then, throughout the summer, new antlers will regenerate.

The shedding and regrowth of a deer’s antlers is an amazing process.

Read on and let’s take a deeper look into deer antlers, how they are used, and the shedding process in general…

two bucks fighting with antlers in snow
During the rut, bucks will fight using their antlers, in an effort to establish dominance and the right to breed the does.

What are those antlers used for anyway?

Male deer, or “bucks,” use their antlers as a weapon, whether to compete for a mate, or to defend themselves. They also use their antlers to display their physiological fitness and to show off their fertility and strength.

Bucks will violently clash their sets of antlers during the breeding season, or “the rut,” to display their strength and dominance. This can sometimes lead to broken antlers, bloody deer, and sometimes even death.

Because of the competitiveness that takes place during this time, bucks with the largest set of antlers (referred to as a “rack) often position themselves to be in the right place at the right time, as a female deer (doe) comes into estrous and becomes ready to be bred.

Now let’s take a look at the the specifics of the growth of this part of a deer’s anatomy.

Antler growth

A whitetail buck’s antlers during the growth phase are covered in velvet, growing up to 2 cm per day, making them the fastest growing tissue of any mammal on earth!

Increasing levels of testosterone, in addition to decreasing daylight hours, are among the major factors contributing to antler growth during the summer months.

Considered as the most extravagant display of a male deer’s sexual traits, these antlers grow much faster than any other bones among mammals.

A deer’s antlers grow from an attachment section on its skull known as a pedicle. Antler growth starts at the tip and initially forms as a cartilage, which is later replaced by a bone-like tissue that is similar to a honeycomb.

During the growth period, the pedicle is covered with a highly vascular skin, called “velvet,” that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the developing bones.

During summer, deer antlers grow rapidly within two to four months and – according to Peter Yang, PhD, associate professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine, they can grow up to 2 cm per day. During this process, the antlers eventually mineralize and harden.

But then, once peak levels of testosterone are reached, a deceleration of the growth rate of a buck’s antlers occurs.

During this period of peaking testosterone, the veins and arteries surrounding the velvet cut blood flow and supply of nutrients to the antlers. Because of lack of blood and nutrients, the velvet that encases the antlers wastes away and falls off when the deer rub their antlers on trees. This is often referred to as the shedding of velvet.

Because of their rapid growth rate, antlers may be a disadvantage because there is an enormous need for good nutrition in order for a buck to regrow them every year. But, this can also signify a buck’s metabolic efficiency and superior food gathering capability.

So, now you know how they grow, but why do deer antlers eventually fall off?

WHY do deer shed their antlers?

So, we’ve explored how the antlers grow, but why do deer shed them later on?

In exactly the opposite way that bucks grow their antlers, the shedding of those same antlers among bucks is triggered by decreasing testosterone following the rut, as well as increasing minutes of daylight.

In the wild, injuries and nutrition also play a huge part in the antler shedding process. For example, a healthier buck loses its antlers at a much later period compared to a weaker deer.

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pre and post deer velvet comparison
This is the same buck before and after shedding its velvet. Left photo: Late July. Right photo: late August.

The pedicle, or mounting point, where these antlers are attached and grow from, is also the location where the antlers break off.

Just as rising testosterone levels triggered antler growth at the pedicle, a drop in testosterone levels will cause the pedicle to weaken and eventually, the antlers will fall off.

WHEN do deer shed their antlers?

The particular time a buck will discard its antlers may be largely determined by its individual shedding cycle. This is separate from other bucks’ antler cycles and is possibly centered on its birth date.

In Mississippi, a study conducted among individual penned bucks found that they shed their racks about the same week every year. Other research studies on captive deer discovered that bucks often shed both horns three days apart of each other.

Most bucks will retain their antlers through the winter and into the early Spring and then start shedding their racks anywhere between January and April. Some bucks may shed their antlers earlier or later depending on the maturity of the deer, its physical condition, and the habitat where they live.

Photoperiodism is the physiological response of different organisms to the length of night or day. This happens both in plants and animals. Among bucks, photoperiods occur alongside the testosterone to grow the antlers and define when they will fall off.

Testosterone levels increase during the development and the ensuing shedding of the antler velvet. As the seasons start to change, the biological reaction of antler shedding is activated.

buck shedding velvet over mineral block
When testosterone levels peak, the mineralized antlers have hardened and bucks shed their velvet that had covered the antlers.

Genes also help define early or late growth and shedding of antlers, mainly due to family history which may have an influence on the overall health of the deer.

In general, a deer will lose its antlers during the same time period each year, except for other factors such as health conditions or injuries.

Emotional factors can also play a part in the deer antler shedding process. Just like humans, deer experience social anxiety which may have a negative impact on their health condition and lead to earlier shedding.

Other factors such as weather, altitude, and food availability may also influence when antler shedding takes place.

Some scientists believe that the shedding process is necessary in order for bucks to replace broken or damaged antlers. If a deer has to live with a broken beam or cracked tines his entire life, he will not have the necessary tool to fight off rivals or have the stance to attract does. New racks can grow anywhere from ten to thirty inches bigger every year and this allows bucks to also keep up with their increasing girth and weight as they mature.

How long does it take a deer to shed its antlers?

The duration of the shedding process all depends on how fast a buck decreases its testosterone levels. In most cases, this may happen in less than two to three days.

buck standing in snow with one antler
Individual bucks will typically shed their antlers at the same general time each year.

Although the antlers may appear solidly fixed, they may start to loosen up rapidly as the mating season progresses and natural physiological cycles happen.

After a while, an abrupt jerking actions or a sudden scare from nearby predator can cause enough force to cause the antlers to fall off. The muscle is no longer tough enough to support the weight of the rack, and as a result, the antlers simply fall off.

Early Shedding

As the connecting tissue withers and shrinks, the antlers become loose and fall off. In areas with an early mating season, testosterone levels of bucks will decrease earlier, causing some bucks to cast their antlers off at an earlier time than usual. A harsh winter with a tons of snow can also cause stressed deer to shed racks earlier.

Compared to younger bucks, many older bucks shed antlers earlier. After the mating season, the decreased levels of testosterone cause the formation of an abscission layer between the pedicles and antlers.

Late Shedding

In general, bucks in peak physical condition will hang on to their racks much longer than weaker bucks. Their prime health allows them to have stronger tissue and maintain a better physical condition causing a higher than normal antler to head stability.

Late shedding may also be caused by several other factors. Changing deer populations in a specific location may play a large part in later shedding. Low population indicates antler shedding may not reach its peak until late March or April.

First year bucks that reach the right rearing weight during their first winter will experience the estrous cycle, the recurring biological changes that are produced by reproductive hormones. This will keep the testosterone level of a deer higher for a longer period of time, which may lengthen the amount of time a buck will keep its antlers.

Other Facts About Antler Shedding

Individual deer also have unique shedding patterns. It is also worth knowing that some equatorial deer never shed their antlers regardless of the condition.

In the past, people believed that deer look for a more secluded area to shed their antlers, away from does and rival bucks to avoid public display of their loss of virility.

But, researchers debunk that idea saying that bucks are probably oblivious of when and where they will lose their antlers, although some may follow a regular pattern depending on the conditions.

Some deer will drop both antlers, if undisturbed, almost on top of each other each year. However, some bucks will drop their racks anywhere from a hundred to four hundred yards apart from each other.

In Conclusion

The process of deer antler growth as well as the shedding process is truly an amazing occurrence. So, next time you come across a deer antler in the woods, remember, it went through a lot just to be there!

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