4 Successful Secrets Trapping Can Teach Bowhunters

By Bernie Barringer

It’s no coincidence that some of today’s
most successful bowhunters
have a background in trapping.
Here’s why!

I don’t remember much about being 14 years old, but some things are just burned in my memory. That was the year I became a trapper, and I remember my first muskrat vividly. I also remember my first mink, fox and raccoon. I could take you to the exact spot where I caught every one of them, despite the fact that it happened more than 40 years ago. I can remember the smell of the river, the feeling of lugging a raccoon home in my packbasket, the sight of glowing eyes in my headlight, knowing that other school kids wouldn’t roll out of bed for two more hours.

Trapping can help teach valuable bowhunting skills

A trapper is more than just a spectator of nature, he is an active participant. Being keenly observant of all that goes on around you is what makes a great trapper. It’s also a key attribute of being a good hunter. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

I carried trapping over into my adulthood and made a good living throughout my 20s catching fur in big numbers. I worked my tail off in order to stay one step ahead of the growing competition that high fur prices brought in the 1970s and ’80s. Trapping taught me a lot of lessons — lessons that have served me well in life.

Most notably, trapping has made me a much better bowhunter.

I have often wondered if others felt this way, so I posed this question to two friends who spent a lot of time trapping and bowhunting. Tom Miranda and Stan Potts are both nationally known bowhunters. You can watch them on TV most every week. They both have strong opinions and interesting observations about how trapping has made them better bowhunters, and are willing to share a few of their secrets here.

Skillful hunters credit the knowledge they receive from trapping for their success in bowhunting

Tom Miranda, Stan Potts and Joel Snow, three trappers who have taken their successes on the trapline and converted them to excellence as deer hunters. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

1. The Value of Persistence and Responsibility

“At a very young age, trapping taught me a valuable lesson,” says Miranda. “If I work hard, I mean really hard, good things would come from it. The grind of tending traps, working in bad weather, skinning and stretching the pelts, the long hours of early mornings and late evenings make trapping a real job.

“Trapping also taught me responsibility. I knew that rain or shine I needed to check traps. This requirement has helped in my hunting as I don’t ever let the weather bother me. If it’s prime time, I’m in the tree. My toughest bowhunt ever was in the Canmore bow zone of Alberta hunting bighorn sheep. It was 14 days of minus 20 and colder. Steep, slippery mountains, tent camping, deep snow, bitter wind chill and 10,000 feet elevation; hunting in extreme conditions has a lot in common with trapping.”

You can learn a lot from trapping that can transfer over to other aspects of hunting

The author believes that the work ethic he learned at an early age, like getting up early to check traps in any weather, has helped him be a more effective and persistent deer hunter. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

2. Attention to Detail

A fox trapper realizes that his target animal has the entire world to walk around in, and he must make that fox step into a one-inch circle. You need attention to detail and a very deep understanding of the animal’s behavior to be successful. “Picking a location to trap a fox or coyote is exactly the same as picking the right location to shoot a big buck,” according to Potts. “Set location is everything in trapping. You look for land features that come together, such as ridges, terrain and habitat changes. You must pick the exact right spot both in trapping and in hunting. A lot of it is instinct, but instinct can be developed over time.”

“A non-trapper sees a stream,” explains Miranda, “but a trapper sees the mink tracks under the overhanging bank. A non-trapper sees a farm field, but a trapper sees the edges, the funnels, the things that cause the animals to drift a certain way.”

Potts used a technique common to trappers to learn better buck behavior. “I would pick up the tracks of a big buck at the edge of a field where he was feeding and just follow the tracks until I jumped him. I would pay attention to the lay of the land and how he used it. This really helped me better understand why picking exactly the right tree is so important.”

Running traplines with family is good for passing along knowledge about animals

Running a trapline with family helps pass along the hunger for knowledge about the animals that helps any hunter or trapper be more effective. Here’s the author with some raccoon caught by his son Sterling. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

3. Scent and Wind Direction

Picking the right tree for whitetail hunting has been a topic hunters have hammered on for years, but trappers seem to have an upper hand when choosing the right locations. Part of that, according to both Miranda and Potts, is because hunters don’t spend enough time understanding how deer use the terrain and their senses. “A big buck’s number one line of defense is his nose,” Potts says. “A fox or coyote uses his nose to hunt. A buck wants to be quartering into the wind whenever he can. Just like you can use a canine’s nose to draw him into a trap, you can use the way a buck uses his nose to get him.

“The perfect wind for hunting,” according to Potts, “is usually almost wrong.” Subtle variations in wind can make a big difference; you will rarely find a perfect wind, so you must play the wind angles correctly.

“Trappers know that an educated coyote is just as tough to catch as an educated whitetail is tough to hunt,” adds Miranda. “Sitting tree stands with the wrong wind direction is a no-no, the same as setting a dirty trap.”

Tom Miranda credits his success as a bowhunter to running traplines

Tom Miranda is one of only a handful of hunters to bag all 29 species of North American big game with a bow, and he is the first to get them all on video. He credits the things he learned running a trapline as the foundation to his remarkable success as a hunter. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

4. The Common Denominator

You may have noticed one theme that runs through all of these comparisons between trapping and hunting: hard work. “Successful trapping requires dedication, commitment and hard work,” Miranda explains, “just like successful bowhunting. Lazy trappers rely on luck for success, and so do lazy bowhunters. Go early, stay late, hunt in marginal weather, take into account moon phase and position. Top bowhunters make their own luck. Average hunters and trappers would say, ‘I would rather be lucky than good.’ Top hunters and trappers say ‘Don’t Ever Quit!'”

While I am longer a commercial trapper, I still run a few traps each year to stay in touch with the land and my roots. The hard lessons I learned from my successes and failures have led to a lot of success in bowhunting. So if you find yourself wondering why so many of the top hunters have a background in trapping, you have now begun to understand the reasons why. And you have the option of taking the advice of the old adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”


About Bernie Barringer:

bernie-barringerBernie Barringer hunts and fishes for a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 11 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY Strategies for the Travelling Hunter. He is a recognized authority on DIY hunting, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.


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American Knife & Tool Institute Announces New Legislative Consultant

Knife advocate and law expert Daniel C. Lawson takes on the role

Daniel C. Lawson new Legislative Consultant AKTI

Daniel C. Lawson is the new American Knife & Tool Institute’s Legislative Consultant. (Photo: AKTI)

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) is pleased to welcome their newest legislative consultant, Daniel C. Lawson of the Pittsburgh law firm Meyer, Darragh, Buckkler, Bebenek & Eck. Lawson is a former Marine and avid knife collector, and has years of expertise in knife laws, rules and regulations.

Lawson will work with AKTI on an expanding legislative plan, helping the knife advocacy non-profit clarify and repeal knife laws by working with different legislators, members and other constituents. Lawson will also manage the group’s Legislative Committee’s activities on both the state and federal level.

Lawson has a J.D. from Duquesne University and a B.A. from Dickinson College. After graduating from Dickinson College, Lawson entered the Marine Corps, where he served four years of active duty and another nine years in active reserves, earning the rank of Major in the process. His love of knives has been life-long, and prior to his new position Lawson spent more than a decade volunteering his legal services to AKTI.

“Dan’s contributions to AKTI have been invaluable,” said Jan Billeb, Executive Director of AKTI. “His wealth of knife knowledge and experience helping knife industry companies and individuals with legal issues has provided a tremendous benefit to our members and the public.”

For more on AKTI’s newest Legislative Consultant, click here: AKTI Appoints Daniel C. Lawson as Legislative Consultant.


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Choosing the Best Do-It-All Scopes

By Ron Spomer

Always consider these six factors
when selecting scopes for your rifles!

Some shooters think Do-It-All scopes are as impractical as Do-It-All rifles. However, a rather strong argument can be made for the 30-06 Springfield and a 3-9x42mm optic.

Universal scopes (3-9 power scopes mounted on .30-06) - Millions of hunters carry rifles with these scopes and it will kill any deer in America.

This is as universal as it gets – 3-9 power scopes mounted on .30-06. Millions of hunters across the U.S. carry something similar to this. One reason it’s so popular is that it will kill any deer in America, and you won’t need to be afraid to take it on that dream hunt for giant Alaskan moose.

1.  Power

No one scope is perfect for all occasions, but a variable that starts at 2X to 4X on the low end and tops out at 8X to 12X on the high end comes pretty darn close. It will provide plenty in field-of-view for a moose at 20 yards, yet enough magnification to target a groundhog at 500 yards. And it won’t drag you down while doing so.

Dedicated, long-range varmint or target shooters do better with a zoom range from 6X to 25X, but that has limited application in deer woods, and a lot of us hunt deer. Okay, so maybe a few coyotes, the occasional ground squirrel and every now and then an elk or moose. Even so, why tolerate scopes with upwards of 30 power?

At the other extreme, anyone jumping whitetails, elk or charging Cape buffalo in thick woods where shots rarely reach 100 yards doesn’t benefit from more than 4X. The buffalo hunter might prefer 1X!

So, we’re back to the mid-range 3-9X for your all-around big game rifles. Today’s longer zoom ranges let you step up to 2.5-12X or 3.5 to 15X in some cases. Nirvana. But don’t add power just to end up suffering from weight and bulk.

2.  Objective Lens

The diameter of the objective lens is significant because it contributes to brightness. A 50mm front lens should be brighter than a 42mm one, all else being equal. But it’s also heavier and bulkier.

Experience has shown that an exit pupil (the circle of light exiting the eye-end of your scope) of 4mm is usually bright enough for putting non-illuminated reticles on a brown/gray target well after legal shooting hours (usually 30 minutes after sunset) in most conditions. At 9X, a 42mm objective produces a 4.7mm exit pupil. A 50mm objective kicks this up to 5.5mm. Not a huge difference. Now, were I specializing in compact, lightweight mountain rifles, I’d shrink objective lens size down to 36mm or even 32mm to save a few ounces, but that’s a specialty use again.

At the low end of 3.5, these scopes give you a huge exit pupil over 12mm, but beyond 11 power the exit pupil's small – under 4mm – so not enough in low light.

Now you’re pushing it. At the low end of 3.5, these scopes will give you a huge exit pupil over 12mm, but beyond 11 power the exit pupil is quite small – under 4mm – and not enough in low light.

3.  Lens Coatings

Anti-reflection coatings are even more important for brightness. They keep light going through your scopes rather than bouncing around and getting lost.

If every lens inside and out has multiple layers of these coatings, light transmission is highest. Lens coatings weigh nothing and will not add bulk. Multi-coatings on all lenses provide the best brightness for your buck.

4.  Reticles

Reticles can enhance the performance of your scopes. I’ve never found illuminated reticles to be essential, but it’s also okay if you do choose to use them. They can help some shooters hold on target better than using simple crosshairs. They will add some weight (battery) and bulk (operating control) to the unit, but it’s tolerable.

Reticle styles can add a lot of performance. Ballistic reticles help in long range precision, but only if you study, learn and apply with much practice. Dialing turrets are simpler for most to use, but can get you in trouble if you forget to turn them back. With most modern cartridges zeroed at about 250 yards, you rarely need to use anything but the center aiming point from the muzzle to 300 yards. That lets you shoot quickly without adjusting anything in the heat of the moment.

The duplex-style reticle is the most versatile. If a few extra dots or lines won’t bother you, give one of the ballistic reticles a try. The dots on the horizontal bars to hold for wind deflection can be useful.

Varmint scopes for rifles have turret type wind and elevation adjustments. This one has a parallax adjustment on the left calibrated for yardage.

Nice, high-power varmint scopes have turret-type wind and elevation adjustments, and this one has a parallax adjustment on the left, calibrated to yardage. This definitely would not be considered a do-it-all scope.

5.  Parallax

Parallax adjustment (which is really just a fine focus dial) isn’t truly needed until magnification reaches 10X or higher, or when wanting to shoot at 8X or more inside of 100 yards. This is when precise focus can be valuable. Nice for head-shooting squirrels; unnecessary on big game rifles. Front lens focus (turning the objective hood) can screw up zero if it’s not concentric or gets knocked out of line. Side parallax focus is perhaps more dependable.

Top-end 3-9 x 36mm scopes are the ultimate in quality and brightness without adding bulk.

Top-end 3-9 x 36mm scopes are the ultimate in quality and brightness without adding bulk. Its trim lines are a thing of beauty when mounted on rifles with gorgeous wood stock.

6.  Price

Surprisingly, most of these features are available in every price category, but the quality is not the same.

Many scopes with an MSRP of less than $250 aren’t fully multi-coated and they may not withstand heavy recoil. Turret adjustments may not be accurate or repeatable. Illuminated reticles might be too bright or thick. But with cartridges, up to about the .270 Winchester, a basic 3-9x42mm for $150 to $250 can perform well.

In the $200 to $400 price range, you usually get full multi-coating and more durable materials for truly solid performance on slightly higher recoiling rifles. You never really know when scopes will get kicked too much, but in this price range I’d stick to the 7mm magnums and less. Light transmission won’t be as high as in more expensive scopes, but pretty darn good. Before trusting long range dialing turrets or parallax focus, I’d step up in price again.

At $500 and up, scopes should offer everything including the quality materials and workmanship to pull it off. Differences between $500 and $1,000 are subtle, and between $1,000 and $2,000 even more subtle, but it should hopefully be safe to assume that the product’s durability and precision increase with price.


ron-spomer-160x139About Ron Spomer:

Ron is a rifles/optics columnist for Sporting Classics and North American Hunter magazines and host of Winchester World of Whitetail on NBC Sports. Learn more at www.ronspomeroutdoors.com.


Enjoy this read? Be sure to check out more
of Ron’s articles on his blog, plus see video,
images and other exclusive content.
Click here!

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Posted in Guest Writers, How To, How to choose, Hunting & Fishing Equipment, Hunting Tips, Prepare for Your Hunt, Ron Spomer, Scopes, Scopes | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Bowhunting: Add 15 Yards to Your Effective Bow Range

By Bernie Barringer

5 easy steps that will get you more shots!

Today’s archery equipment is capable of shooting remarkably well compared to even 10 years ago. Some of the most accomplished archers are shooting groups of eight inches or smaller at 100 yards under target conditions. Few bowhunters would take shots like that at animals, but the fact is that most modern, well-tuned bows are capable of shooting far better than you can shoot.

doe-ranged-at-41.5-yards-349x336

This doe was ranged at 41.5 yards. A heart shot put her down within 40 yards of the impact. Proper form and proper practice will extend your effective shooting range.

If your effective range is say, 30 yards, your bow is very capable of shooting much farther. All that is left is improving your skills so you can catch up. I have shot three deer in the past two years at just over 40 yards, which I consider to be my effective range. I am working diligently to extend my effective range to 55 yards, since I will be drawing an antelope tag for Wyoming next year, and the shots are likely to be long ones.

Here are five tips to help you add 15 yards to your effective hunting range. You can do this in two to three weeks if you are up to shooting about 50 arrows a day.

1.  Know Your Current Capability

Before adding any range to your shooting abilities, you must first establish a baseline. Start by being honest with yourself about what your current range is. If you’re punching groups that can be covered by the palm of your hand at 30 yards, that’s probably your effective range. That means under hunting conditions – with adrenal glands pumping, possibly some crosswind, and the likelihood that the target will move – your groupings will probably double in size. That’s barely good enough.

Shoot a dozen arrows and actually measure the group. One flyer out of the group is not cause for alarm, but it is something that needs to be worked on. If you can’t be consistent in a relaxed and controlled backyard environment, you sure aren’t going to be consistent when a big buck steps out. Plus, even today’s fast and quiet bows still cannot outshoot their sound. A tense deer is going to move a little before the arrow gets there. The longer the shot, the more it has time to move.

2.  Shore Up Your Style

set-up-shooting-area-448x299

Setting up a shooting area at your home makes practice easy and fun. The more accessible your practice area, the more you will use it.

Take a critical look at your form and style. It’s not a bad idea to enlist the help of an archery coach. Any little mistake you make at short to medium ranges will be magnified at longer ranges.

Several fundamentals need to be critiqued, such as arm position and elbow bend, anchor consistency, head position, stance and back tension. Work very hard on using good form before you try to extend your range. It will also make a big difference in your confidence. If you shrink your 20-yard groups, they’ll be smaller at 40 yards, too.

3.  Practice Properly

Practice is important, but the right practice is even more so. If you set out to shoot 50 arrows a day, do not shoot all 50 in one session, especially at first. If you haven’t been shooting every day, chances are you’ll get tired before you get to 30 arrows. Your form will suffer, which will open up your groups and increase the number of bad shots.

Remember, you are trying to simulate hunting conditions as much as possible. In hunting situations, you are not going to be shooting a bunch of arrows. You need one shot to count. It’s impossible to shoot 50 arrows like each one was your first. Better to shoot five sets of 10 shots over the day.

shoot-a-few-arrows-at-a-time-312x448

Shooting a few arrows at a time over the course of a day and week more effectively mimics hunting conditions than shooting a lot of arrows all at once. With every shot, focus on proper form.

With each shot, concentrate on your form and fundamentals. Take your time and as the days pass, proper form will become second nature to you as muscle memory helps your brain perform properly.

4.  Take Baby Steps, Not Giant Leaps

Don’t try to add 15 yards all at once. Add five at a time. As you become confident with the addition of five yards, add five more – maybe five a week for three weeks. I cannot overstress how important confidence is in your shooting.

Many things can go haywire in your mind. For example, if you notice that your pin is hanging up right below the bullseye and you have to forcefully move it up, you’re going too fast. Slow down. Relax. This should be fun, and it will be so much more fun when you see yourself making progress toward shooting great groups at longer distances.

5.   Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities

Now that you’re confidently shooting farther, it’s easy to forget the critical issues we talked about in steps one and two. Although you now have a 15-yard greater radius when setting up your hunting locations, you still have to factor in environmental conditions whether you’re hunting from a ground blind or a treestand.

Don’t take chances on alert deer. Keep in mind the effect uphill and downhill shooting has on your range. Remember that wind might play a trick on you. Anything that goes wrong at shorter distances goes even more wrong at longer distances. Trust your instincts and be ethical in your shot selection.

Wait for the right shot, and then make it count!


About Bernie Barringer:

bernie-barringerBernie Barringer hunts a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored ten books on hunting, fishing and trapping. He is the managing editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.


Be sure to read more of Bernie’s writing here!

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Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Named 2014 Conservation Partner of the Year from Bass Pro Shops

Award honors TRCP’s efforts at providing quality places for hunting and fishing

TRCP named Conservation Partner of the Year by Bass Pro Shops

TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh accepts the 2014 Conservation Partner of the Year award from Bass Pro Shops’ founder and CEO Johnny Morris. (Photo: TRCP)

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a non-profit coalition dedicated to preserving the traditions of hunting and fishing in the U.S., has been honored by Bass Pro Shops as their 2014 Conservation Partner of the Year. The award recognizes the TRCP’s continued efforts at providing quality places to hunt and fish, and TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh was on hand to accept the award.

The TRCP works to guarantee sportsmen from across the country access to quality areas for hunting and fishing by working with partners in order to strengthen federal policy and funding.

“Whit Fosburgh and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are so deserving of recognition, and all of us at Bass Pro Shops are honored to be their partner,” said Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris. “They are a leader in the conservation world, able to bring together their many partners to identify shared areas of concern so they can work on those conservation priorities.”

For more information on the award and the TRCP, click here: TRCP Named Bass Pro Shops’ Conservation Partner of the Year.


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