Spot On: My Great South Texas Axis Hunt

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.

Before the Hunt

Huntress and Hunter (father/daughter duo) are dressed in camo, prepared for a day of axis deer hunting in Texas.
Camille sharing the hunt of a lifetime with her father at JL Bar Ranch in Texas.

As long as I can recall, I have wanted to hunt exotic game with my father. I grew up watching Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures and my dad and I really bonded when Eva Shockey started appearing on the show. I saw Jim and Eva travel around the world hunting together and I wanted the same for my dad and me. This dream didn’t fade when I moved 1,000 miles south of my childhood home for college. When I came down to Texas I started hunting more than I ever did up north. I showed my dad just how passionate I was about the outdoors and he started to take my hunting endeavors seriously. We decided to go on a daddy-daughter hunt during the summer between my junior and senior year of college. As summer hunting is pretty much limited to hogs and exotics—we decided to go after an exotic deer.

Before any hard plans were made, I did all of the research I could on the different exotics offered at numerous ranches in Texas. I read up about fallow, stag, axis, sika, and blackbuck—where they originated and the time of the rut. I watched numerous shows about hunters pursuing these animals and read reviews about which meat tastes best. At the end of the day, I decided I would be going after an axis deer, also known as a chital in their native India.

There was something about the beautiful spotted coat and big antlers that intrigued me. I learned these animals are similar to cattle, breeding all year round—meaning there is no set time for the rut or fawning. Perhaps one of the most notable characteristics of axis deer is the high quality and succulent flavor of its meat—deemed one of the most delicious of all game animals.

JL Bar Ranch

As I stepped onto the hot southwest Texas tarmac in Sonora, I gazed out into the vast hill country. We were met by our guide Ricky, who was ready to show us around the 13,000-acre ranch. We were chauffeured around to see the 1,500-yard long shooting range, the skinning rack and then the trophy wall. I had seen that wall before, it was where all of the pictures from their website came from and I aspired to be among the hunters who proudly posed with their animal in front of the JL Bar sign.

That night my dad and I devoured a nice steak dinner as we mentally prepared for the next morning. There is something about the night before a big hunt that makes it hard to sleep. I hardly got any rest that night—lying awake consumed by nerves and jitters about wanting to have the perfect hunt with my dad. The 4:30 wakeup call came early but I was up and ready to go. We sat in the lodge with Ricky and discussed our plan over a cup of coffee. As we loaded up the truck and set off on our adventure I couldn’t help but notice the excitement on my dad’s face. We sat in a blind 100 yards away and admired the axis that came into feed. It was the first time in my life seeing an axis in-person and my dad and I were both mesmerized by its beauty. It was a massive buck, clearly bigger than any whitetail I had ever seen, but Ricky was not impressed—he was confident we could find a much bigger buck.

Most of the time trophy axis don’t come into the feeder, so we climbed down out of the blind and decided to spot and stalk. The grueling sun beat down on us as we stalked these big-antlered beauties. Through thick mesquite, their coats blended almost perfectly. To spot them we watched for the big white patch on the front of their neck. I did not have any idea how difficult axis deer are to stalk. If a doe sees something she doesn’t like, she will bark, triggering the rest of the herd to run off.

Huntress Camille Middleton walks down a hunting path in Texas holding her rifle
Hunting is not about the kill, sometimes viewing beautiful animals from afar is all your going to get.

As the hunt progressed, my legs ached and my arms fatigued from carrying my rifle. I realized I didn’t have a ton of time to get a deer on the ground. I was having such a fun time looking at these beautiful deer from a distance with my binoculars but we just couldn’t get close enough to the big ones. I didn’t want to come home emptyhanded, but my dad reminded me that hunting is not all about killing. Every hunter knows the frustration of putting in hard work and time and coming home with no success, but for some reason, this hunt was such a big deal to me because it was with my dad.

The hunt was winding down and the sun was starting to set when Ricky said the upcoming pond would be the last place we would check before we would have to night hunt. Before I could even gather my thoughts about night hunting deer, Ricky stopped in his tracks. My heart raced as I looked through my binoculars and saw a big axis 300 yards in front of us. Ricky held out the shooting stick and asked if I wanted to shoot from here or try to get closer. We crawled about 25 yards forward while my dad stayed back to capture a video. I rested the gun on the stick and looked through my scope. Buck fever has never hit me as hard as it did in that moment—it felt as though my entire body was shaking. My breathing became heavy, my hands sweaty and I felt weak in my knees. This was the first time during the entire hunt I actually had my rifle on a buck. Adrenaline coursed through my body as I tried to steady my breathing. With every breath, the crosshairs bounced all over the place. The buck began walking away and I felt my stomach drop as I watched. Just as hope was lost, my luck changed and the buck turned broadside. I took two deep breaths, reached a comfortable respiratory pause and then squeezed the trigger.

I lost the deer under recoil—he was nowhere in sight. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about missing such a bruiser. As I was beating myself up, Ricky turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and said, “You got him.” Immediately I felt a rush go through my head. I looked back and saw my dad walking towards us, we embraced and I tried to hold back the tears I could feel welling in my eyes. Ricky led us towards where the deer was when I shot so we could find the blood trail. We couldn’t find a single drop of blood or hair and I instantly felt the pain in my stomach come back. Ricky reassured me that he was positive I hit the deer, but I didn’t understand why there was no blood. As we started walking into the brush I turned to ask my dad something and saw my buck tucked behind a tree.

My head started to spin as I walked up on my trophy axis buck—I wasn’t sure if I was going to cry, laugh or just smile. Ricky dragged my deer out from under the tree and I gave my dad the biggest hug. He told me how impressive of a shot I made and how proud he was of me. When I finally got a closer look I saw the shot entry but there was no exit wound—this explains the lacking blood trail. Seeing that I had made a perfect shot from 275 yards back had me beaming with pride. I was proud because I sighted in my scope, I went to the range by myself to practice and I made a great shot on the back end of my comfort zone. My 143-grain bullet went straight through both lungs and lodged into the opposite shoulder. Words can’t describe the emotions I felt as I stood there looking at my buck. I was happy, relieved, proud and most importantly thankful that I could take such a stunning deer with my dad by my side the entire time. I proudly posed with my beautiful axis and JL Bar even hung my photo on their prized trophy wall.

Father and daughter posing with hunted axis deer
An impressive axis deer taken by Huntress Camille Middleton with the perfect shot.
Have you gone on the hunt of a lifetime? We’d love to hear your stories. Share them in the comment section.

 

Getting to the Heart of Hunting

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.

Axis deer heart
Eating the heart of your first deer is a tradition that many hunters chose to honor.

With hunting season just around the corner, it’s time to sharpen your knives and dig deep into the heart of controversy. There are a number of long-held—and sometimes odd—rites of passage hunters partake in when killing their first deer. In September 2016, a New Zealand father was ruthlessly attacked by internet haters for letting his daughter take a bite out of a raw deer heart. The dad, Johnny Yuile, posted the pictures on the NZ Woman Hunters Facebook page of his daughter and him over a freshly killed young stag. The young girl had recently taken her first stag after a tricky approach and they commemorated with the age-old practice of eating the raw heart. For many non-hunters, this was a form of barbarism. They criticized the dad for letting the daughter eat the raw heart due to the dangers of uncooked meat—demanding the dad be criminally charged

According to evidence, eating extremely fresh raw meat carries little danger. “There’s risks anytime you eat meat period,” says ER physician Dr. Travis Stork a host on the tv show The Doctors. “That’s just the reality. But there’s also a big difference if that heart had been sitting out for 48 hours. It’s different than coming across roadkill.”

For many non-hunters, it’s difficult to understand the timeless traditions passed down through generations of hunters. For Yuile and his daughter, the pair camped overnight in the woods and made the kill the next morning. When the young girl was asked about it she said, “I saw my uncle bite the heart, so I thought I might bite it too. It tasted quite nice.”

While some hunters take a bite of the raw heart, others have adapted that tradition a bit. In an article published in Peterson’s Hunting Magazine, outdoor writer, Brian McCombie, states,“In Wisconsin, after a hunter makes a kill, they simmer the heart in water with celery, onion and beer, then slice and eat it.” While some hunters eat the heart, others don’t quite take it so far.

Huntress Camille Middleton taking a bite from a fresh, raw axis deer she hunted.
Camille partaking in the rite of “blooding” and takes a bite of the heart of her first axis deer.

After I killed my first axis deer, I decided I wanted to take it further by not only wiping the blood on my face but taking a bite from its heart. I had heard that Native American hunters would eat the heart of the animal to embody the qualities of the animal. Although I did not eat the axis heart to embody the characteristics of the deer, I did take a bite to commemorate my hunt and to symbolize the joining of the small ranks of other axis deer hunters who have come before me.

Did you eat or take a bite of the heart of your first deer? Why or why not? What do you think about this tradition? Tell us in the comment section.

About the Author

Hey, Y’all! My name is Camille and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m currently a senior psychology major at TCU. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in the outdoors industry. I grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing whenever I could with my dad and grandpa. Any time I’m not working or studying you can find me in the woods hunting or on a boat fishing.  

Summer Hunting Guide 2018

Written by Blake Johnson, Sellmark Marketing/Social Media Specialist

For many hunters, the summer months are used to prepare for fall, like checking feeders and getting stands into place. Some like to work on their accuracy at the range, and many turn to fishing. Still, there are those with the itch to get out and hunt, but with temperatures in the South reaching 100 degrees regularly, what is a hunter to do? Night hunting is becoming increasingly popular due to affordable night vision technology and more bearable temperatures. Below is a quick guide to popular summer hunting game, as well as appropriate gun set-ups. Be sure to check your state and local laws, as hunting laws do vary drastically by state.

What can you hunt in the summer?

Hogs

Wild hog in grasslands.
Hogs cause huge problems for landowners and farmers. You can hunt them all year long and take as many as you want.

It is well known that the U.S. has a widespread hog problem. Found in over 75% of states, the invasive wild hog has an estimated population of over 5 million. There are no natural predators to hogs. Hog hunting is beneficial to farmers and landowners to which the hogs cost millions of dollars each year in damages.

Hogs can’t sweat so they need a way to cool down, which is why they are often found rolling in mud. Where you can find water, you can usually find hogs. The problem is that hogs are smarter than given credit for, and most have become nocturnal from hunting pressure and the hot daytime weather. Purchasing a night vision scope is a great investment to successfully eradicate your local hog population.

Hogs are fast, thus a semi-auto modern sporting rifle (MSR) is favorable to use. Picatinny/Weaver rails allow you to add many attachments useful for night hunting. A night vision riflescope like the Sightmark Photon XT allows for clear nighttime viewing and an accurate, precise shot, something you’ll need with hogs. When using a bolt-action gun, I usually prefer to use something in .30 caliber or above. I would also recommend keeping a larger caliber pistol on you just in case. Hogs are vicious and will sometimes run straight at you. It’s always better to have a back-up in case your gun jams or you don’t have time to reload.

Coyotes

Night vision scope mounted to rifle with a wood stock
Compared to other digital night vision scopes on the market, the Sightmark Photon XT offers incredible value.

For deer hunters and farmers, coyotes are becoming an increasing nuisance. They will kill fawns, chickens, and house pets. It’s important to control coyote populations to ensure the survival of other animals. Though it’s entirely possible to spot one during the day, during hot months coyotes tend to limit their movements to the cool period between dusk and dawn. Yet again, you’re going to need a night vision scope of some kind to help spot them.

Using a call is a popular way to hunt coyotes. Electric calls utilizing pup in distress calls tend to work best and will have coyotes running in at a dead sprint. Even more so than hogs, you need to be covert, as ‘yotes are very smart in hiding behind terrain.

Bolt-action guns in lower calibers are well-suited for coyotes. My personal favorite caliber for coyotes is a .22-250 with a Photon XT 4.6x42S night vision riflescope when on a coyote hunt. I keep mentioning the Photon because, at the $500 price point, its value cannot be beaten. You can test Gen I scopes, but if you’re anything like me you will be disappointed until you try out the digital Photon XT’s.

Small Game and Varmints

Varmint hunting is another popular endeavor during the hot summer. Raccoons and other varmints are always getting into trouble: eating corn and other vegetation, getting into trash and preying on ground-nesting birds. Most all raccoon hunting is done at night when they love to cause problems.

Thermal image of a hot gun, hog is down
Night time hog hunts are even more thrilling with digital night vision and thermal imaging.

A lot of people use hounds to hunt raccoon and other varmints, but it can be easily done without them. A .22 with iron sights or red dot sight is a popular small game gun. With ample stopping power for small game, dirt-cheap ammunition, and an incredibly lightweight, .22’s are perfect guns to take in the woods. While a night vision scope is not necessary, having a night vision device is very helpful. The Sightmark Ghost Hunter series offers a variety of night vision monoculars and binoculars at affordable prices and in different magnifications. Use the night vision sight to spot raccoons then shoot ‘em down with the .22. A powerful flashlight like the Sightmark SS600 Tactical is great for spotlighting coons in trees before you take your shot.

There is no reason to hang up the hunting gear just because it’s summer. Though the days are hot, a night vision device enables you to scratch your hunting itch without having to wait until fall.  It also gives you something to look forward to during those long summer days. So, get out there and hunt!

Click here to shop Sightmark’s night vision products.

 

First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.

There are many factors you need to consider when purchasing a new variable-power riflescope. Many shooters only focus on the magnification range and price. A potentially but overlooked factor is the placement of the reticles on the first and second plane. What’s the difference?

First Focal Plane

Pinnacle TMD tactical mil-dash reticle illustration
The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash first focal plane TMD reticle gets you on target and keeps you there.

First focal plane scopes have the reticle placed towards the front of the optic. When the magnification of the scope is increased, the reticle’s size increases with it. In doing so, the reticle remains the same perspective on the target’s size as you increase or decrease magnification. These scopes allow for long-range and tactical shooters more accuracy due to the constant MIL/MOA values. Sightmark’s Citadel and Pinnacle riflescopes have first focal plane reticles.

Second Focal Plane

Picture of the Sightmark Latitude F-Class competition second focal plane reticle
The Sightmark Latitude has a second focal plane reticle.

Second focal plane reticles are placed towards the back of the scope. When the magnification of the scope is adjusted, the reticle’s size does not increase. The MIL/MOA values are only correct at one magnification. When the scope is adjusted to a different magnification, the spacing changes and is not consistent. A shooter would have to do some math to calculate the actual values of the subtension. Second focal plane scopes are most useful when using the same magnification. Sightmark’s Latitude riflescopes have a second focal plane reticle.

Hunting

First focal plane scopes are increasing in popularity with hunters because they are more versatile than second focal plane systems. Whenever you are hunting, you cannot predict the outcome before the hunt. The animal could walk out at 25 yards or 500 yards. Using a first focal plane scope allows hunters to make accurate adjustments, again, because they know the subtension values are consistent throughout the magnification range. Additionally, having a larger reticle means more precise holdover adjustments. Many Europeans prefer to a first plane scope because they are legally able to hunt later into the evening than in America. A first focal plane scope is generally more expensive than a second focal plane scope, however it is worth the money. Many hunters have switched to a first focal plane scope without looking back. Many long-range shots can be easily adjusted by using a first focal plane scope at any magnification. Furthermore, if you miss your first shot but see your point of impact, you can place your second shot more accurately.

Final Thoughts

A first focal plane scope might be more expensive than a second plane scope, but it is well worth the price difference. Being able to adjust your magnification without second-guessing your subtensions is beneficial when shooting. Additionally, if you happen to miss, this will allow for you to place an accurate follow-up shot.

Which scope do you prefer—first or second? Tell us in the comment section.

About the Author

Clayton was born and raised in Cypress, Texas just outside of Houston and is currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. Clayton hopes to pursue a career with Sellmark, or continue his education after graduation. Clayton is an avid deer, waterfowl, dove, turkey and exotics hunter. Growing up around guns, Clayton’s dad and grandfather are hunters as well. When Clayton isn’t in the office, at school or in the field, he’s on the water pursuing another favorite hobby—fishing. Clayton says, “Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.”

Laying Today’s Optic Foundation—A look at Sightmark’s New Tactical Cantilever Mounts

As an outdoor writer often ridiculously busy working with and writing about rifles, I routinely work with more than one rifle at a time. That said, I’m often working with only one or two optics, depending on the content type, distance and other factors. As an example, I may write about long-range shooting but only utilize a single long-range scope. By the same example, I may employ a close- to mid-range scope to rapidly engage targets at shorter distances. Still, I do exponentially more complete optic-with-mount swapping than traditional optic mounting when it’s time to shift gears.

I’m not alone in this practice. The truth is, optics can cost quite a bit, some may cost two or three times what one might pay for the rifle. With a problem like that, who wants to break out the torque driver and optic leveling set every time they need to move a scope from one platform to another? Past experiences have been time-wasters, even a bit frustrating when you realize you don’t have the right tools with you; moreover, who wants to carry tools everywhere? Honestly, as a gun writer, I carry more than I should already. Sometimes, I have so much gear to carry, I look more like I’m headed out on a duck hunt than an afternoon on a shooting range—I need one of those little off-road wagons!

Man shooting a WMD Guns Big Beast rifle long-distance with a Sightmark Pinnacle riflescope and tactical Cantilever mount
Using the Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mount

Fortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a pretty significant push in the world of single-piece mounts and in the realm of such mounting systems, serious innovation. Cases in point—the new Sightmark 30mm and 34mm Tactical Cantilever Mounts. While single-piece mounts look decidedly similar, they often are not. First and foremost, you have junk and then you have quality mounts. More than cost, a solid indicator of quality and performance is the warranty. Sightmark’s Tactical Cantilever Mounts include a lifetime warranty—not bad for a sub-$100 product. Yes, a willingness to back a product for a lifetime says a lot about the product and the company.

I had the luxury of spending quality time with Sightmark’s latest and greatest prototype Tactical Cantilever Mounts during a long-range shooting demonstration with Green Top in Ashland, Virginia. Event attendance was bursting at the seams with a longer line than I expected of folks hungry for long-range shooting, up to 600 yards—a chip shot for some of us here in Texas but in Virginia, I understand, distance shooting like that is anything but commonplace. Still, we shot steel, starting with a large square plate and ending with what appeared to be a 1-MOA steel gong. Top shot of the day was an elderly woman hitting the 600-yard steel plate no her first shot. She listened to my coaching, squeezed the trigger, I saw the splash and called her hit, and then she smiled wide, saying, “I’m telling my friends I’m never shooting at 200 yards again!”

Experiences like hers, or for that matter, the similar experiences of hundreds of shooters that day on two amazing rifle systems, a McRees Precision BR-10 and a WMD Guns Big Beast, both world-class match rifles in their own rights and both chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, generally don’t happen with shoddy rigs, mounts and optics. The shooters and rifles did their parts, the optics—for these rifles, Sightmark Pinnacle 3-18×44 TMD and Sightmark Latitude 6.25-25×56 PRS first-focal-plane riflescopes—delivered razor-sharp sight pictures and the precision-machined Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mounts ensured the optics were rock-solid throughout the shooting experience. After a full day of long-range shooting, the optics still held zero—a testament to the scopes and the mounts.

Sightmark’s new Tactical Cantilever Mounts feature vertically-split rings with four retention screws each, aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum construction, a durable matte black finish and, as mentioned previously, a lifetime warranty. Sightmark Tactical Cantilever Mounts are available in both 0 and 20 MOA platforms, for 30mm and 34mm optics, with fixed or locking quick-detach mounting systems perfectly compatible with Picatinny rails.

Click here to check out the 34mm Cantilever Mounts.

Sightmark Sets Sights on TTHA Fort Worth Extravaganza

A woman and man hunting
Stop by the Sightmark booth to check out the Pinnacle and Citadel riflescopes.

(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/07/16) – Sightmark is happy to announce participation at the upcoming Texas Trophy Hunters Extravaganza, August 10-12, 2018 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The event is comprised of hundreds of vendors, numerous hunting and shooting clinics, contests, celebrities and some of the most passionate and dedicated hunters from around the world.

Sightmark plans to display optics and firearm accessories geared toward hunters, including the new Citadel and Pinnacle riflescopes, Ultra Shot RAM series red dots and Photon RT digital night vision riflescopes. If you’re planning to attend the Ft. Worth TTHA Show, be sure to stop by booths F877 and F879 to visit with Sightmark’s knowledgeable staff about their first-class product lines.

About TTHA

The Texas Trophy Hunters Association is the “Voice of Texas Hunting” and will continue to promote, protect and preserve Texas’ wildlife resources and hunting heritage for future generations. For over 40 years, the Texas Trophy Hunters Association has promoted the sport, science and heritage of hunting in the great state of Texas.

Trailing Blood: 7 Steps to Find Your Deer

Dead deer
If your shot isn’t perfect, you will have to trail your deer.

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.

Following a blood trail is one of the last things a hunter wants to do. Knowing that you wounded a deer is not a pleasant feeling to have. It takes a lot of blood trails and experience to become a talented tracker. Helping other people locate their deer is a great way to gain experience. Check out these seven tips to help you become a more experienced and successful blood tracker.

Point of Impact

One of the most important things you can do when you shoot is to watch your arrow or bullet hit the deer. Slow down your breathing and focus when you take the shot. Knowing the point of impact can help you establish if it was a good shot or not. An alternative option is to record your hunts and watch where the impact is. Additionally, watch how the deer reacts when they are hit. If the deer kicks like a bronco, it is sometimes a lung or heart shot. However, if the deer hunches over like it is sick, it is usually a gut shot.

Stay Put

Many hunters rush out of their stand filled with excitement after they shoot. Deer are strong animals and sometimes take multiple hours to die. The length of time it takes for a deer to die depends on your shot placement. Make sure you give the deer enough time in case you made a bad shot. As a rifle hunter, I like to wait 30 minutes after I shoot to let the deer die. If you are too quick to approach the deer, you risk spooking the deer and causing them to run further. This results in more work for the hunter.

Starting Point

To save time and effort, always start blood trailing where the deer was standing when you shot. Use a physical marker to help you remember that location. Starting from the beginning allows you to get a feel for what the blood trail is like. It is much easier to start there because when you climb down from the stand your perception of everything is changed.

Blood Analysis

The color of the blood is the dead giveaway to your shot placement. Seeing red or pink blood is a positive sign that you placed a good shot on the deer. Dark red blood indicates you hit the heart or liver. Pink blood can mean you hit the lungs and you will also see bubbles within the blood. Green matter indicates you have a gut shot. Obviously, the more blood the better. Sometimes high lung shots will not bleed as much because it takes longer for the body cavity to fill up. When looking for blood, do not look for a definite trail, sometimes the smallest droplets can help you locate the deer.

Tracking

Getting low to the ground can help you see small blood droplets easier. It might be painful on your knees, but you will forget about that when you find your deer. The most important thing to do when tracking for blood is to mark the last spot of blood. As you are trailing and looking down at the ground, it is easy to get turned around with directions. Flagging tape is a great way to mark last blood. You will slowly establish a general idea of the direction the deer is traveling in with the flagging tape. Do not move forward until you have located more blood. Walking aimlessly through the woods will ware you down and cause you to become hopeless. When walking pointlessly through the woods, you have the chance to smear blood or cover blood up with vegetation. If you lose the blood trail, continue in the same direction walking in small half circles looking for the next drop of blood. Many times you will find blood on the side of vegetation, not just on the ground. Getting down at the deer’s level is a great way to locate additional blood

Habits

Many hunters have noticed that deer have circle backed, or double backed on themselves. If a deer does a hard double back, it adds difficulty to the tracker. If the blood trail suddenly stops, turn around and see if the trail continues in a different direction.

Help

Having multiple sets of eyes looking for blood greatly increases the chances of finding more blood. Make sure you do not have too many helpers or you will all be walking on top of each other. I have found that one or two additional people is a good compromise on extra eyes verses too many people. If needed, you can use a dog to find your deer. This is not legal in some states, so double check with your local hunting laws before using a dog.

Final Remarks

Make sure to use all the legal tools you can to help you find the deer. Watching your point of impact will help you understand the situation that the deer is in. Make sure to give the deer enough time to lay down before you pursue the deer. Always stat trailing where the deer was standing when you shot. Identifying the color of the blood will help you know where your shot placement was, and possibly the state of health that the deer is in. Make sure to grab an extra pair of eyes, so you do not overlook any blood. Make sure you find your deer before the predators do!

About the Author

Clayton was born and raised in Cypress, Texas just outside of Houston and is currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. Clayton hopes to pursue a career with Sellmark, or continue his education after graduation. Clayton is an avid deer, waterfowl, dove, turkey and exotics hunter. Growing up around guns, Clayton’s dad and grandfather are hunters as well. When Clayton isn’t in the office, at school or in the field, he’s on the water pursuing another favorite hobby—fishing. Clayton says, “Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.”

Upgrades Come to Sightmark Core SX Crossbow Scope

MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/07/09) – Sightmark, known for bringing top-performing optics in a rugged yet lightweight aluminum body, has updated the Sightmark Core SX 1.5-5×32 Crossbow Scope (SM13060), the scope designed for avid crossbow hunters. The Core SX will deliver precision quality optics alternatives for serious professionals, hunters and shooting enthusiasts who prefer a slightly less traditional method.

Black crossbow scope
The Core SX crossbow scope has an illuminated reticle.
Woman crossbow hunting with a camo crossbow and black crossbow scope
The Core crossbow scope has variable zoom and is waterproof.

 

Tuned to 260-450 fps crossbow speeds, the Core SX 1.5-5×32 Crossbow Scope achieves arrow drop compensation with extraordinary accuracy. The etched glass reticle is red or green illuminated with variable brightness range, making visibility optimal even in low-light situations. Featuring variable zoom, the Core SX Crossbow Scope adjusts easily to a wide range of hunting environments. This crossbow scope is IP67 waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, fogproof for reliability in different environments.

Flying With Firearms

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Nate van Noort.

Flying with firearms seems like it would be complicated and nerve-racking for any passenger or airline but truth is that if you follow the fairly simple rules, chances are you’ll never have a problem. All airlines are required to follow TSA rules and regulations, though it is important to know your airline’s rules on flying with firearms because some have additional rules.

Front view of airplane landing
Flying with firearms is relatively easy and painless if you follow this guide.

Packing to Keep Your Gun Safe and Legal

In a world where pocket knives, snow globes, and even gel insoles can’t be stored in carry-on bags, it should come as no surprise that you can’t take a gun in your carry on. They must be unloaded and stored in a locked hard-sided container that can’t be easily opened. Cases with two or more locking points are recommended. This case can then be placed inside your checked baggage or, as a checked bag itself. Multiple guns can be placed in the same hard-sided case. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use a regular TSA lock used for regular baggage, which is actually illegal to use for firearm storage because they can be opened by anyone that has a TSA master key. You should have the key on your person and not in your checked baggage. Otherwise, what’s the point of the lock? You should invest in a really good protective case for both your peace of mind and for the TSA’s. After all, your case is the primary protector from the less than careful baggage handlers. In addition to being sturdy and durable, many gun owners also like to travel with gun cases that don’t obviously look like a gun case. In that situation look for a hard-style case used to transport golf clubs and other equipment, just cut foam inserts to keep everything protected and in place during transport.

Picking Up Your Gun from Baggage Claim

View from inside an airplane out the window of a orange, red, pink and yellow sunset behind a tall palm tree
Before flying with your firearm, check the laws of the state you are traveling to.

Once you land, large gun cases that are checked as an individual piece of luggage rather than stored in a checked bag may have to be picked up with large or unusual items, like skis, instead of with other checked baggage. Usually, they’ll just come down the carousel with everything else though. Ammunition also has to be checked and must be stored in containers specifically designed for carrying small amounts of ammunition. Shotgun shells and ammunition .75 caliber or less can be stored in the same hard case as a firearm. Loaded or empty magazines and clips must be stored the same way as guns, but firearm parts like bolts and firing pins can just be stored in checked bags. Even though TSA says boxes made of cardboard, like the box the ammo comes in, are alright for storage, you may want to go with a more solid container to avoid the risk of your ammunition being scattered in your bag.

Breeze Through Declaring Your Firearm

When checking your baggage, you need to declare any guns or ammo to the airline. You must do this every time you travel, so don’t forget to declare your guns and ammo again if you switch airlines during the same trip. What does it mean to declare your gun, though? Declaring a firearm is not a big deal and it won’t get you funny looks or suspicious treatment. Just go to the ticketing desk inside the airport (you can’t declare a gun curbside) and tell them you need to declare a firearm. They’ll give you a card to fill out with your primary contact info, verifying that you’ve properly stored your gun. The agent will check that the case is locked. After a few questions to make sure any accessories or ammunition are stored properly, you’re usually good to go, but the agent may want to look inside the case. TSA and airline agents also shouldn’t handle your firearms. If they feel it needs inspection, they are supposed to call over a law enforcement officer. Once you’ve finished declaring your firearm, stick around the desk for 20 or so minutes in case they need to call you back for an inspection. Declaring is usually a quick and easy process, but you want to allow yourself at least an extra hour in the case of one of the rare occasion where it does take longer.

Other People’s Rules

The TSA isn’t the only person who makes rules about flying with a firearm, and you need to know which ones will affect you. Most airlines have rules for flying with guns on top of the TSA’s, and exactly what these rules are varies from airline to airline, so you’ll need to check what your airline of choice requires. For example, Delta requires that guns be stored in a manufacturer’s case and puts a weight limit of 11 pounds of ammunition, among other limitations. You’ll also need to know the laws for wherever you’re flying to. Airport staff is only checking to make sure you’re following the airline and the TSA’s rules, so even if your gun is legally checked, you may be in violation of local laws once you reach your destination. For international travel, booking a direct flight as much as possible minimizes the countries you pass through, and cuts down significantly on the number of customs requirements that you have to deal with.

Final Thoughts on Flying with a Firearm

outside an airport tarmac at sunrise
Using this guide, you should be able to fly with your gun with relative ease, but when in doubt, contact your airline or the TSA directly.

To sum up:

  • Guns and ammunition both need to be in checked baggage.
  • Store your gun unloaded in a hard case with a non-TSA approved lock.
  • Using a solid container to store your ammunition is safer and easier.
  • Be sure to declare your firearm.
  • Know your airline’s rules.
  • Know the laws of wherever you’re going.

Using this guide, you should be able to fly with your gun with relative ease, but when in doubt, contact your airline or the TSA directly. For international travel, refer questions to the local consulate or embassy of the country or countries you’re visiting.

Have you flown with your firearm? Leave your tips in the comment section.

About the Author

Aspiring pilot Nate van Noort is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington majoring in Marketing with a minor in Finance. His family are big pheasant hunters, sharing hunting land in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Perryton. Nate enjoys sporting clays and shooting his Glock. When he’s not studying, working or out at the lease, he’s playing disc golf, reading or wakeboarding.

7 Highly Effective Habits for Big Buck Hunters

A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Camille Middleton.

Don’t ProcrastinatePicture of a deer and the words, "There is deer season and there's waiting for deer season."

There is nothing better than the sweet-smelling aroma of the woods on opening day. Conversely, one of the worst feelings is taking your treestand down and packing everything up on the last day of the season. Take advantage of these deer-free months to start preparing for a successful upcoming season; after all, preparation and hard work in the off-season can mean the difference between bagging a booner and coming home empty-handed. For die-hard deer hunters, the off-season months, most often, February through August, may feel like the longest, slowest time of the year—this is the perfect opportunity to leverage your future hunting success.

Christmas in July

Some of the best deals on hunting-related merchandise can be found in the summer. Big-name stores clear out their inventory by dramatically reducing the costs of such items before they get new gear in for the following season. If you are looking for stellar prices on good quality hunting clothes, I advise you to do most of your camouflage shopping during those hot summer months instead of waiting until the season opener.

Food Plots—A Key to Success 

The off-season is not limited exclusively to shopping. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu suggested, “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” His statement bodes a glaring similarity to hunting… and many other facets of life in general. Preparing for the fall hunting season takes real work if you want to bring in the big boys of fall. The hunter who sweats in the off-season building food plots is probably going to be more successful when the season kicks off. Food plots and other habitat improvements are by no means quick and easy, they take time and hard work but I assure you, that juice is worth the squeeze

Predator Control—Deer Management

Picture of a wild hog through the lens of a scope
Predator control during the off-season helps ensure you have a healthy deer population when it’s time to hunt.

One of my favorite things about the off-season is predator control. No matter if you hunt on a lease, farm or public land, it is important to keep the predator population down. Hunters, landowners, and managers all have a vested interest in the well-being of fawns, lambs, calves, turkey poults, or whatever they may be raising or trying to conserve—in this case, our deer population. Pure, raw, logic here—without babies, there are no adults, plain and simple.

Predator control is not eliminating a species, it is merely controlling the number of predators capable of harming your targeted game. For a deer hunter like myself, I focus primarily on coyotes, bobcats and feral hogs. When it comes to predator hunting, it’s important to set up with wide-ranging visibility, most often, in a big, open field. Although cheap, hunting with a spotlight is not as effective as using digital night vision or thermal. For night vision, I prefer the Photon RT on an AR-15. It allows the hunter to be able to send multiple rounds, ideal in fast-paced hunting situations.  If you are looking to spend the extra money it costs to get a thermal, Pulsar offers top of the line riflescopes and monoculars. Thermal scopes have burst onto the hunting scene and, to be honest, once you go thermal you won’t go back to anything else.

Fine Tune Your Weapon

Before hunting season begins, it is important to take your gun to the range to practice and to re-check your zero. Even if it has been sitting in a gun safe, it is possible your scope could have been knocked off zero. When sighting-in your rifle, it is important to use the same grain ammunition you plan to use when you actually go hunting. A quick solution to seeing if it is still sighted-in is to purchase an in-chamber boresight and check for a 100-yard zero. Both Sightmark and Firefield offer great quality boresights, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced shooter.

Sharpen your Knife and Make a Survival Pack

One thing that many hunters overlook is preparing for their hunt with emergency supplies. I always make sure my truck is stocked with warm blankets, extra water, and a first aid kit. You never know what might happen and if you end up getting stranded where you are hunting, you will want to make sure you don’t get cold or thirsty and have adequate supplies to care for wounds. The UltraLite Mini First Aid Kit is a great option to keep in your truck or in your hunting backpack for emergency situations. The kit is lightweight and includes 90 pieces of medical supplies to treat most injuries. While first aid is critical, one of the most important pieces of equipment is a sharp knife. Your knife must be sharp before a hunt so your buck of a lifetime can be field-dressed and capped-out, and if necessary, the meat processed in the field. A dull knife simply won’t make clean cuts and you risk puncturing vital organs—never a pleasant experience.

Scout—Know Your Game and Ground—Prepare Accordingly

Understanding the deer activity and environmental features of your hunting ground play an important role in optimizing your opportunity to put meat in the freezer. Prepared public land hunters routinely study the areas they are hunting—the strategy is nothing new and always offers valuable insight into what-where-whens of hunting. The easiest way to do this is by mapping out your property. Start by drawing the perimeter of the land and marking key features—water and food sources, bedding areas, open fields, wooded areas and visible trails, paying special attention to high-traffic intersections and pinch-points.

The result is a map that tells you quite a bit about routes to and from water sources, better stand locations, and the best spots to place trail cameras. Trail cameras are a great scouting tool to reveal deer hot-spots, feeding times and more, all great information to help you pattern activity and target mature deer. I also suggest scouting multiple times through the off-season to stay on top of patterns and adjust accordingly. I also suggest scouting in a hunting frame of mine—practice scent control, slip in to observe, slide out just as quietly and do your best not to push the wildlife around.

What do you do during the off-season to ensure you have a successful hunt? Tell us in the comment section.

About the Author

Hey y’all! My name is Camille and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m currently a senior psychology major at TCU. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in the outdoors industry. I grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing whenever I could with my dad and grandpa. Any time I’m not working or studying you can find me in the woods hunting or on a boat fishing.  

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