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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, I know many of you ask yourself, “how do I go about choosing the right taxidermist,” am I correct?
Of course, you could just speak into your phone an say, “taxidermist near me.”
But, that’s not going to tell you what you really need to know.
In this article, I’m going to explain what you should be looking for in a taxidermist that you will be contracting to mount your trophy of a lifetime.
Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If something doesn’t sound, look or even feel right, always trust your gut.
Questions That Need Answers When Choosing a Taxidermist
The answers to the following questions do not necessarily determine whether a taxidermist is competent or incompetent. However, you might learn enough to know whether or not you feel comfortable enough to risk putting your trophy in that person’s hands.
Is The Taxidermist “Online?”
In this technology-dominated era, one question worth finding out is, does the taxidermist you are considering for your trophy have an internet presence?
These days, almost all legit companies have some sort of online footprint, whether it be a fancy website, or a social media business account. So, do your homework!
What Is Their Contact Information?
Does the taxidermist you are considering have a dedicated business landline? If the answer is no, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign of cutting corners if it is their home phone or a mobile phone only.
Do they have a local area code for their business phone number? If not, it could mean that this person moves a lot, bouncing around and taking deposits and trophies with them and just never changing their contact information.
There are a lot of “here today, gone tomorrow” taxidermists out there. So, be careful!
What Type Of Payments Are Accepted?
A very important question to find out the answer to is, does this taxidermist accept only cash and/or ask for full payment upfront?
Now, you can always expect to pay a deposit before the work is started, but usually 50% is sufficient.
Demanding full payment up front and/or only accepting cash is a big red flag!
Being paid in full could give a taxidermist little incentive to complete your project in a timely manner, or in extreme cases, complete it at all!
Cash only transactions could mean they are hiding, or trying to hide, something from the IRS or the bank. There is no reason to not at least accept a personal check or even credit/debit cards.
If they are running from the IRS, they could easily disappear on you.
Also, make sure you sign a work order or contract with them on the work to be done. This agreement should explain in detail what is expected in the end-product, as well as the deposit paid and balance due. This will help to keep both you and the taxidermist on the same page regarding your requests and desires for your trophy mount.
What To Look For In Quality Taxidermy
Now that we have the business end of the matter out of the way, let’s discuss quality.
There are many levels of quality in taxidermy, just as there are in any other service industry such as home repairs, mechanics, restaurants, lawn care, etc.
Are you looking at getting your buddy that practices taxidermy on the side or as a hobby to mount your trophy whitetail? Or, are you looking a high-end professional job when it is all said and done?
Remember, this is something that you are going to display in your home or office that reminds you of a memory of a special moment in your past. You will be looking at this “piece of art” for the rest of your life. So, think it through.
There are taxidermists out there for everyone’s expectations as well as budgets. But, don’t have high expectations on a low-budget and do not settle for shoddy work when paying premium prices. It’s up to you to determine what you want, and what you are willing to pay for, in your taxidermy work.
Taxidermy Details (There’s More To It Than You Think!)
On to the work itself! Are you looking for standard, what we call “straight out of the box” taxidermy?
Or, are you wanting custom, all the bells and whistles taxidermy, that gives you and your guests the “WOW” factor when walking into the room to see it? Again, this is your decision to make, and it’s your money you are spending.
Some of you may be thinking, “what are the ‘bells and whistles’ in taxidermy? After all, a deer head is a deer head. A life-size bear is a life-size bear, right?”
All taxidermy work is not created equal! For instance, do you want your finished whitetail mount to have a solid jet black nose? Or, do you want to have the nose look realistic and show all the depth and colors that are really in a deer nose (believe it or not a whitetails nose is not solid black)?
Do you want the high-end glass eyes that look alive with white banding and veining detailed into them? Or, do you want generic, solid brown or black plastic eyes, just to fill the void in the mount?
What about your mountain lion or grizzly bear, even something smaller like a fox, bobcat or coyote? Do you want them to look realistic and alive, or look like a cartoon character having a bad day? Because, you can get either one.
These are all things you NEED to discuss beforehand with the taxidermist to make sure he/she can meet your expectations.
Don’t go by the ad they have in a magazine, on a billboard sign with trophies and ribbons in the back ground, or their website covered with competition pieces they have put hundreds of hours into to get those plaques and awards.
Go into the taxidermist’s showroom and view other clientele’s work that is waiting to be picked up. Go view someone else’s mount in their home that has been completed by the taxidermist in question.
You want to see what goes out of the shop on a day-to-day basis and make your decision based on those pieces, as opposed to the ones that were meticulously done with the intent of pleasing a judge at a convention and had professional photographers doing photo shoots for the website or ads.
I’m not saying that the competition pieces are a fluke, but it’s worth questioning whether a taxidermist produces, within reason, the same high quality, eye-pleasing work for everyday customers.
More To Consider
There are some more things to consider when choosing the taxidermist you would like to handle your work.
What Is Their Niche?
All taxidermist have their niche. They may not admit it, but they do.
So, just because taxidermist (A) does an awesome job on your trophy mule deer from your Wyoming hunt last fall, do not automatically assume he/she will do a high-quality job on that largemouth bass or giant catfish you just caught out of your private farm pond, or that beautiful pintail drake you harvested back in the winter on that frigid coastal morning you’ll never forget. You very well may need to get taxidermist (B) and maybe even taxidermist (C) involved to take care of these projects for you.
Also, you do not have to settle for the local guy if his work is not up to your standards. Trophies are shipped all around the world daily, so don’t think you are limited to a certain area.
When Your Trophy Is Not In Your Town
If you are planning an out of state or even out of the country hunt, and you are using a taxidermist in your hometown, check with them to see about expediting your skins, trophy antlers and/or horns back to you, or to the taxidermy shop, BEFORE you leave for the hunt. They should know all the ins and outs of taking care of these sort of things.
Likewise, if you are using a taxidermist local to where you will be hunting, inquire about the cost and process of getting your trophies back home before you leave them. Failing to find out the answer to this question could cost you big money, or even worse, the loss of your mounts.
Turnaround time to get your work back is another big issue for most hunters and taxidermists alike.
Always ask when you can expect to get your trophies back. Keep in mind it is an estimated time frame.
So many things can happen between drop-off and pick-up that are out of the control of both parties. For example, work load, illness, weather, family issues, can all affect turnaround time.
No one wants to hear excuses for why something doesn’t go as planned, but if your taxidermist gives you a completion time of six months, don’t call them at the four month mark asking, “Hey, just checking on the progress…” Give them the six months you agreed upon.
Likewise, if he/she gives you a one-year turnaround time frame (and you don’t have a problem with it), and a year goes by without an update, by all means give them a follow up call and they should be able to give you a much more accurate completion time at that point.
If the turnaround time is an issue for you and you would like to get it back sooner, most taxidermists offer a rush service, and for an extra fee will jump your project in front of others and give you a certain pick-up date for the extra charge.
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right person for your taxidermy job. Just like the time and money you put into your hunting food plots, equipment, traveling, scouting and guide services, you should also expect to put that same effort into your search for the right taxidermist for the trophies you harvest and would like to mount. The animal deserves that from you.
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
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…
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.
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
Outdoors at 40 Yards
With Fixed Blade Broadheads at 80 Yards
Ballistic Gel Testing
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!