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A Hunter Looks at 40

August 27, 2010
By Travis R. Hunt, OVO Pro Staff
This article is a combination of a good Jimmy Buffet song and a bad Dave Letterman top five list. No I am not a pirate, but yes I am looking at the tender age of 40. Actually today is my 40th birthday. This morning, as I drove in to my command in Pittsburgh, the black cloud dissipated and the path yet walked began to shine. I was reminiscing about the decade that I have hunted. I began hunting when I was a young 30 years old. Unlike many of you, I did not grow up hunting nor did I own a gun until that time. I began to chuckle to myself as some of my earlier hunting memories played out in my mind like a low budget B movie.

While I evolved from an anti-hunter into a hunter and now an owner of a majestic Ohio hunting ranch, I have stumbled many times during the pre-season, afield and post season. With these lessons learned and awakenings somewhat fresh in my mind, I want to write them down before the next 10 years pass (I may not be able to remember when I am 50). So, I humbly offer the following for your amusement:

Padding — The fall of 2000 was my rookie hunting season as was full of many firsts. I bought my first bow, camouflage clothing, boots and climbing stand. I even secured written permission to hunt land owned by Alcola Aluminum near Frederick, MD. So the opening day of that bow season, after studying and watching many hunting shows, I oozed confidence as I donned my boots, sprayed them with earth scent, grabbed my bow and stepped into the woods. I gently skirted the transition between woods and field as I scooted to my pre-scouted location. I found my tree, climbed the tree and surprisingly did not fall. I settled into the climber and waited for the protein machines to move into the field. After all, deer always do what we think they should do.

On this particular hunt the deer did just that. A matriarch doe and her yearling began to meander from the woods towards my location. I was ready; however, as the does crossed my entry path their noses dropped to the ground and their white flags went up. They did not like how my footprints smelled and they bolted off. I watched in disbelief as my plan crumbled into pieces. The solution I later learned was to always use boot pads, drenched in season appropriate scent, to cover my scent. I now use boots lined with carbon and I still soak my boot pads in doe urine as I make my way to my hunting location. One particular area that I hunt, I must cross a large creek about 100 yards away from the stand. I hang my boot pads on a tree branch on the other side of the creek. Therefore, I simply cross the water, put on my boot pads, apply scent and continue.

Camouflage — We all know that we must look pretty for the deer and even prettier for the turkey. This explains why camouflage clothing is a multi-million dollar American industry. Over the last decade I have approached camo from the understanding that I should match. Matching is good and the retail racks are full of matching camo. However, after spending many hours with Tom King, Founder of the Big Horn Outdoors, I was introduced to the Predator brand of camouflage. I now exclusively wear the Predator Fall Grey pattern in the fall and winter and the Predator Spring Green pattern during summer and spring hunts. Predator and a few other camouflage patterns present a pattern that is open. This means that upon looking at a hunter, donned in camouflage that is not open, the hunter is very pretty at 10 yards. However, step back a distance and the hunter now looks like a single colored blob. This is not pretty and is not good. That happens because most of these patterns are full of small sticks, twigs and leaves that are not individually distinguishable at a distance.

If you’re not swallowing this well, remember the classic United States military “woodland” camouflage pattern that served us well from Vietnam through the first Gulf War ear. The woodland pattern is open and full of big areas of color and not jungle leaves. Our military now uses a digital pattern, which as an uniformed service officer baffles me, but I am good at following orders. Luckily my woodland uniforms still hang in my closet.

Case in point, during an April 2010 hunt, in Chico, Texas, with AR-15 in hand and wearing my Predator Spring Green, I successfully stalked within 25 yards of a Scimitar Horned Oryx. The animal is pretty and so is my Predator Spring Green camouflage. The point is that my choice of camouflage was just as much a tool as was my AR-15. If I do not have the right tools I am not successful.

They are smarter that half the people I know. Before my first turkey hunt in 2004, Frank, my early hunting mentor told me that turkey are smarter than most people. Though, I rarely see Frank, this is one of the quotes that I use way too often. This quote actually applies to deer as well as turkey. As I think some more, it truly applies to coyote, sometimes squirrel and always wild boar, bobcats, black buck and oryx. Ohio deer are smart and so are Texas deer. Yes animals are smart, because if they are not they are not around the next day to complain about it.

Ted Nugent says that deer are like the French…. all they think about is eating, defecating and reproducing. This is true; however, they do not need to think about survival because God ingrained survival into their very being. Hunting is unlike any other sport for the simple reason that there are no referees. There are no referees to blow the whistle if the turkey flies off the roost too soon. There are no referees to blow the whistle if the deer is off sides and comes in from your blind spot. These animals are smart in part because we choose to do battle with them in their world and on their terms. We go into their house, and compete against their nose and their eyes and their ears. This stacked field results in me going home empty-handed many more days that I bring home the back straps.

Therefore when opportunity, which is the result of planning and luck, is present, we owe it to ourselves to be ready. We must be scent free or surely our prey will not stay around long enough to offer a justifiable shot. We must have our bows sighted in from an elevated position if we are in a tree. After all, arrows will fly short when flung from a tree stand. We must, as Mel Gibson says, aim small so we miss small. We must bring extra ammunition so that after your son misses a buck during the 2005 Ohio Youth Hunt, you are able to reload before the next buck walks down the path. Believe me, there is nothing worse that having an empty shotgun and a buck standing in front of you. On that day, my son told me that the deer was smarter that me and I agreed.

If you build it they will come — Translated into hunter speak: “if you grow it they will eat it.” The bottom line is… as a uniformed service officer and father of five my time to hunt is limited. Therefore, this preface demands that I must hunt efficiently. Food plots and supplement feeding are the most influential activities that a hunter can perform to draw, hold, nourish, and grow deer and for that matter any wildlife. For example, during the late 2010 Ohio spring turkey season, I observed ducklings from my creek exploring a big puddle in my freshly planted clover plot. Since the clover was barely breaking the soil one puddle in the field drew the ducklings. After a while, and then day after day, I would see them all the time nibbling on greens sprouting from the ground. Who ever heard of a food plot for ducks?

One day, a few years ago, while standing in line to buy shelled corn in Steubenville, OH. An older lady behind me in line heard me place my order and in turn I heard her big sigh. I knew that this was about to be an opportunity to educate a liberal, anti-hunter or what ever anti-freedom person she may be. With a smirk on her face she commented on my corn and asked if I was going to use that to “help me shoot deer?” I proudly said ‘yes ma’m.” After all Texans always say ma’m. She rolled her eyes. However, before she could begin her rant, I told her that she should see my corn bill and seed bill. I explained to her that some months I spend more filling feeders and planting food plots than I do feeding my seven hungry mouths. Then, with my son listening on, I told her that yes I will shoot a deer and yes my son will shoot a deer or three, but that will feed my little family of seven, meat for months. Furthermore, I continued, I love my deer, my turkey, my squirrels and yes my coyotes (because if they are on you land they are yours…. we all think that), and feed them all year long.

Reflecting on that discussion, this was particularly demonstrated during the winter of 2009. That winter, the snow dumped by global warming (just a little jab), made for the worst Ohio winter on record. That winter found me manually lugging corn to fill the feeder because both my Kawasaki Mule and Nissan Titan could not get through the snow to the feeder. The hunting season was long over, but on our ranch we know that it is important to provide any assistance to our animals that we can. We fed them in the snow and they definitely came. I even think they thanked us in their own little way.

Extreme experiment! — I figure at 40 years old my game clock has ticked to half-time. Therefore, more so today than yesterday, I know that sunrises in the treestand will end at some point. With this ingrained in my conscious I have pledged to continue to pursue this passion to the extreme. This is how I do what I do. I am an extreme person. I love Jesus to the extreme, I love my wife to the extreme, I love each of my five kids to the extreme, I love my country to the extreme and those few that I call friend (especially the Mayor of Broadacre, OH), I love to the extreme. Of course like a great country song, I love my dog and my big 4x4 truck and each and every one of my weapons from my first PSE compound bow to my AR-15 to my sub compact .40 Springfield XD (which is my carry weapon of choice)…. I even love each of my goats. This passion for this sport has changed my life and done more for me and my family than I can ever do for the sport. A mere 10 years after holding my first bow we have realized the importance of land. As I write this we are one year into ranch ownership and passionately document each move event at hunthavensranch.com.

Though my wife and I spent many years at the beach we do not take as many family vacations to the beach as most of our acquaintances do. Though we have taken the kids to Disney we do not make an annual pilgrimage as some of our acquaintances do. Instead you find us on our homestead or as any transplanted Texans call it…the ranch, as we call it… Hunt Havens Ranch. You find us on ATVs, and side by sides, you find the little girls walking the goats, you find us tending apple trees, mowing food plots, filling feeders, playing volleyball, exploring the creek, shooting everything or simply basking in the glory of blessing from above. No, we will not hang out countless hours in Florida with the crowds and Mickey and Minnie. But we will hang out countless hours with our family as we participate in the vision of the Founding Fathers, the vision of extremism, the vision that I was unable to see until I became a hunter 10 years ago. I owe much to the extremists before me. When the time expires on the field and my fourth quarter is over, I am confident that the younger players on my team will continue to fight the good fight or at least be as extreme as mom and dad were.

Greetings from the woods of Ohio…. I hope to see you out there.



Editor’s Note: Hunt is one of the newest OVO Pro Staffers. He joined the staff in July of this year. He lives near Wintersville, OH and offers a limited number of hunts each year on his land. Find out more at www.hunthavensranch.com.

Article Photos

The author with a nice oryx, taken in his home state of Texas. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife and five children. (Photo courtesy of Travis Hunt)

Fact Box

...animals are smart in part because we choose to do battle with them in their world and on their terms.

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