It’s Amazing what can Happen…When you Teach a Boy to Shoot a Bow

  • Mentors play an important role in our outdoor heritage and future
David Merrill with a huge elk that didn’t get away.

By Larry Whiteley

David Merrill grew up hiking, fishing, and camping in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was an amazing place where a young David would discover many life experiences in the great outdoors as he roamed through the mountains and valleys of this beautiful place.

In 1996, when he was 14-years old, his Uncle Kendall introduced him to archery. It was the beginning of a life-long passion for shooting a bow and bow-hunting. That passion continues to burn deep in his heart today. This world needs more people like Uncle Kendall who take the time to introduce kids to archery. It could change their lives, like it did David’s.

Later on in life, David moved to Alaska and lived among the wildlife and wild places of what is called the last frontier. While there, he spent every free moment he had out in the wilds, hunting Dall sheep with his bow and fishing for salmon.  The adventure and wide open spaces of Alaska is something a lot of us only dream about. I dream about it every time I watch the Kilcher family and life on their homestead on my favorite TV show – Alaska: The Last Frontier.

It was hard to leave Alaska, but with a growing family of his own now, he felt the need to be closer to extended relatives. So, in 2013 David and his wife, Crystal, moved and started their family among the mountains of Wyoming. Their two boys are the joy of his life. Here, he continued his passion of bow hunting for wild game. David says, “I cannot think of a purer way to feed my loved ones than with wild, free-range, organic game.”

In 2015, David was on a backcountry elk hunt with a friend. His bow was strapped to his pack as they walked along a mountain trail. They came around a corner in the trail and walked up on a huge bull elk. His friend hurried to unstrap David’s bow from the pack. He finally got it out, handed it to David and he drew it back, but it was too late. The elk of a lifetime was gone.

The vision of that monster elk still haunted him on the drive back home. He told his friend that he was never going to let that happen again to him or anyone else. That same passion he has for bow hunting started him creating prototypes of a product that would allow him to carry his bow safely and securely, but within easy simple reach to get out.

My grandson Hunter carries his bow with a Bow Spider.

After much trial and error, he got his product exactly how he wanted it. He called his lightweight, round bow holder – the Bow Spider. You attach an aluminum arm to your bow’s riser and that slides into a slot on the round receiver. The bow is held securely in place on the back of your pack with a gravity-locking system, but slides out easily when you need it. “If you can scratch the back of your head you can grab your bow and pull,” he said. “You’re going to be able to manage your bow very quickly and efficiently, to get it when you need it. It works with any backpack and any bow, whether you’re on horseback or on foot.”

Using the belt that comes with the Bow Spider, you can easily attach it to your backpack, hip, binocular harness, truck headrest, blind or tree. Using the bolts that come with it you can also mount it to any sturdy flat surface for storage. It is the most innovative bow packing system I have ever seen. My grandson has one, loves it and can’t wait to use it this fall out west.

The Bow Spider comes in green, tan or black. The $84.95 price is well worth it to keep you from having bad dreams about the huge elk or monster buck you might have tagged if you could reach your bow quicker and easier.

If you’re a bowhunter after western big game and strap your bow to your pack, you need a Bow Spider. If you are a whitetail hunter and need your hands free to get to your stand or if you’re trying to work your way through the woods stalking a big buck, you need a Bow Spider. Go to www.bowspider.com and check them out. Watch the online videos to see how easy the Bow Spider works.

The Bow Spider System.

If you are a crossbow hunter like me, you are probably thinking it sure would be nice to have one of these to use with my crossbow. Well, your wish is granted. A Bow Spider for crossbow hunters is coming soon.

Being a veteran myself, I think it’s great they give our veterans a 15% discount. All you have to do is call them at 307-438-9290 to place your order and get your discount. “We owe everything we have in America to the veterans that have served and are serving to keep our freedoms alive,” Merrill said. “Our discount program is simply a small way for us to say thank you to those who have done so much for us.”

David’s products are 100% made in America and I love that. David, Crystal and their company also give a percentage of their sales to several recognized American conservation organizations. To me that says a lot. These organizations make it possible for hunters to go to these wild places across this great land to enjoy our hunting traditions.

The aspens are displaying their brilliant colors. There’s a coolness to the air. David is sitting on a rock looking at the majesty of the mountains that surround him. Ravens are talking to each other. An elk bugle echoes in the distance. He is thinking of his Uncle Kendall and the day he taught him to shoot a bow. He is thinking of the game he has taken since then and the places he has hunted. He is thinking it’s time to teach his boys to shoot a bow. He is thinking there would not be a Bow Spider if it were not for Uncle Kendall. It’s amazing what can happen when you teach a boy to shoot a bow.

Click the picture to visit with Crystal Merrill – see how to use the Bow Spider! 

Consider a Spike Camp This Fall

Choosing to hunt deer and elk without a guide from a tent camp in the heart to game country is high adventure and an affordable option.

Out early on opening day. When you hunt from a spike camp you are already in game country and can set your own course.

Shooting light had barely arrived when a bull elk stepped from the edge of the park 200 yards away. Although I only caught a glimpse, the animal’s creamy colored coat caused my adrenalin to noticeably rush. Four days of hunting had brought incredibly close calls, yet finally, would I get a shot?

Crouching low against a log to steady my aim, I turned the scope to its highest power, hoping the bull would appear in one of the parks slender shooting lane. Anxious seconds passed, when suddenly, the sound of hooves crashing down the mountain behind me stole my attention as a bull elk raced through a sea of vegetation, just 50 yards away. Instantly, I threw up my rifle and swung with the speeding elk, yet with the scope on high power, the animal filled the scope, making a proper lead nearly impossible.

The author took this 4×5 on the dead run after having numerous close calls slip away.

Instant Success Almost

This was my third hunt in the past five years for deer and elk from a remote camp in Colorado’s White River National Forest, a chance to learn the terrain and animal travel habits from the convenience of a deep mountain spike camp. Based on previous experience, I headed for the spine of a ridge where I could peer down into numerous canyons that provided excellent shooting opportunities with little chance of being detected.

Opening morning, the season was barely 20 minutes old, when I slowly peeked over a deep canyon hoping to catch moving or feeding game. Seeing none, I turned to move to the next opportunity when I came face to face with a mature bull. Just 40 yards away, our eyes locked into an OMG moment before the beast whirled and raced away.  I jogged a few steps behind it, but this animal was no dummy and raced away at full speed.

Of the six members in our camp, three took bulls, quite an accomplishment for hunters without guides.

This wasn’t a monster bull, but a mature animal with high, white-tipped points, the image indelibly etched in my mind. Had the bull been feeding, looking straight ahead, or otherwise distracted, opportunity could have knocked.   On an unguided mountain, elk hunt, one opportunity is all you can hope for. Had I blown mine in the first half-hour of the season?

The Camping Experience

Spike camps are best done with friends or at least acquaintances you know and respect. In the heart of the wilderness, everyone must work together for the process to work. Roles must be decided. Who buys the food; what foods to bring; who cooks; who does the dishes?

The author used a Ruger American rifle in .300 Winchester and Hornady Superformance Ammunition. Marksmanship is critically important in mountain terrain.

Prior to our October hunt, one member hosted a cook-out where we reminisced about previous hunts and went over the menu and various elements of camp life including who does what. Three members of our group fly to Colorado while three others drive, allowing us to “ship” our gear out and meat back. The fliers help pay for driving expenses which fairly distributes travel expenses.

Emergencies can happen in camp. One fellow came down with a day’s bout with nausea and diarrhea, a nightmare in a mountain camp. Another gashed his finger while field dressing an elk to the point that it required stitches. Luckily, a physician is a member of our group. We pack in the day before the season and cut firewood with a chainsaw, something I have extensive experience with, yet I do so with great caution.

After the first day of hard hunting above 8,000 feet, our tent was an absolute snore-fest and I slept while wearing shooting muffs. I’m also the camp rooster setting the alarm, stoking the fire, and usually one of the first members up each morning.

On two of our four hunts, mild-mannered insurance agent Charley Toms has killed an elk in the first hour of the season, relegating him to “camp bitch.” Charley cheerfully cooks, cleans, and roost for someone else to kill an elk so he can have company during the day.   Drop camps will save 50-75 percent of the price of a fully guided hunt and boosts camaraderie exponentially. We hunt for one week, plan and reminisce for the next 103, and already have dates for 2017 on the books. Technically, we save about 50% by using a drop camp, but it actually allows us to hunt twice as often.

The Final Day- Luck at Last

After that opening morning confrontation, I had been close to elk numerous times, yet could not get a shot. Determined to make the most of my waning opportunity, I hit the trail well before dawn. Elk hunters often debate whether it’s better to leave camp before daylight or sneak to positions when it’s light enough to shoot? On our hunt, the moon had set well before dawn so I believed it best to sneak to a stand in total darkness, believing that elk would be bedded and I could travel without disturbing them.

Daylight arrived as I sat against a huge log. Suddenly, I saw a bull in a distant park, as mentioned earlier. Colorado has a 4-point minimum for elk and I cranked up the magnification of my Nikon for a better view.

Within seconds, a horse race seemed to break out behind me and a heavy horned bull raced past my position. Without time to turn down the scope, which entered my mind, I swung with the bull, fired, and shot that jinx right between the eyes… because the bull stopped.

I don’t remember cycling the bolt or squeezing the trigger, but when the rifle fired, the cross-hairs were centered on the chest.   The bull broke into a dead run and piled up 75 yards away.

Walking up to the bull that lay in a sea of ferns in the deep mountain canyon, my head was a-swim with thoughts and emotions. Had this really happened? This bull ran nearly the same course as elk the previous day when I didn’t get a glimpse. Was this the best log to sit on in the Rocky Mountains or what?

When booking a spike camp, make sure the outfitter will pack out your game. That amenity was part of our package.

Equally as fortunate my good friend, Steve Sachs, was just one canyon away and soon came to help with the butchering of the animal. Quartering an elk alone is a mountain of work and a partner made the chore a pleasure. By 12:30 we concluded the mile hike back to camp, tired, panting for breath, but totally exhilarated. Every elk is a trophy, yet when you can bag one without a guide deep in the wilds of public land; it sparks images of Jeremiah Johnson, Pilgrim.

What You Need this Fall: Elk Calls with Passion

Built by Elk Hunters for Elk Hunters
By Brad Fenson

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I’m already preparing for elk hunts this fall and like every year, I look for any advantage I can find to help me anchor a bull when I head to the woods. Checking out the new Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls (RMHC) at buglingbull.com, I found new items that sparked an interest.  Wanting to learn more, I did some homework and eventually got to talk to the man behind more than 36 years of elk calling history and call innovation.

If you’ve grown up hunting, you know that hunting can define your life.  As hunters, our passion often describes our lifestyle, not just our pastime.  As hunters, we’ve been fortunate to see, and use, so many engineering and technological advancements of our hunting gear in the last 50 years.  It’s impossible for many oldtimers to comprehend the gains.

If my grandfather had the opportunity to try modern firearms, bullets, clothing, boots, calls, and backpacks, he would’ve been in seventh heaven.  With the hunting skills he required back in the day, he would have been lethal with the updates.

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Rockie Jacobsen, owner of RMHC, was just 12 years old when he obtained his first elk license. Of course, he had been along on hunts at a younger age, but once he became the hunter, his passion for elk blossomed.  By age 16 he was calling in bulls to fill his tags.  To this day, his desire to talk with elk is the reason he works all year—simply for the opportunity to be back out hunting.  It is a life-long passion that defines the man today.  Now that’s the kind of guy I want designing the elk calls I use!

Most elk hunters will know of RMHC, which used to be called Bugling Bulls Game Calls.  A change in name was required to better reflect the wide array of game calls they produce, now covering coyotes, hogs, deer, moose, turkeys and elk.  The RMHC’s elk calls themselves have won over 50 World Elk Calling Championships, with 28 wins for the Jacobsen family alone.

RMHC has been in business since 1980 and continued to grow and expand their product lines.  Rockie developed unique designs and new engineering in diaphragm calls, which many other manufacturers have used over the years.  The Palate Plate was patented and used by other call manufacturers who couldn’t come up with a better design.  When it comes to calling elk, Rockie continually strives to improve on this proverbial mouse trap.

Now We Finally Have a Better Call 

If you use a diaphragm mouth call, you know how effective they are in producing a diversity of bull and cow elk sounds.  The more proficient you are with such a call, the more consistent and realistic you sound.  To help hunters and calling contestants up their game, RMHC has come out with a Tone-Slot Technology (TST) series of diaphragms.  A plastic dome incorporated into the call has a slot running in the center of it, creating a chamber over the latex.

elkcalls3The dome and slot allow the air you blow to center on the diaphragm for better sound, volume and consistency. The slot ensures the proper angle and position of air movement every time, making it easier to use and producing sounds with realistic clarity.

Within the series, you can pick calls to produce specific tones or sounds, like the Rockstar model, which emulates medium to large bull and cow sounds, and can create more nasal cow sounds and high pitch screaming bugles.

With every call, every little detail is examined during production, accounting for the development and use of the new Firestorm Latex.  The new latex is used in RMHC diaphragm calls and comes in yellow, red, gray, and clear, providing more consistency between calls, since they are easier to work.  If you’re a regular user of latex calls, you’ll quickly feel and hear the difference.

The RMHC diaphragm calls are worth a look if you’ve never been able to successfully use a diaphragm placed in the roof of your mouth.  Unlike conventional diaphragms, the new series of calls is placed closer to the front teeth and tipped up.  The first thing the forward placement does is eliminate or reduce the gag reflex some people fight with.

When it comes to bugles, the RMHC systems have a huge following amongst hunters and calling competitors.  The diversity of RMHC mouth calls, tubes and accessories provide the right combination for any elk hunter.  New this year is the Threat Bugle Tube, with a shorter cylinder.

elkcalls5Now, before you start to scoff at a shorter tube producing less volume, understand that the call’s mouth piece includes a spring that is tuned to the specific dimensions of the adaptor it sits in. The grunt tube comes assembled with the spring and adaptor insert making it ready to use with mouth call diaphragms. The spring creates more volume, making the Threat sound as loud as any of its big brothers.  Users will notice it is easier to stabilize higher notes and create raspier low growls, and is just easier to pack or carry around.

elkcalls4The technical name for the new mouth piece and “Insert Innovation is Volume Enhanced Tone Technology, or VETT, making the bugle easier to use and smaller to pack.  There is also a vibration dampener known as the Tube Tamer, placed on the inside of the tube on the large end, ensuring crisp, clear sounds.  This also eliminates plastic vibration and helps produce deeper sounds for chuckling.

I’m already driving my wife crazy practicing with the new calls in the house, car and yard.  I’ve even started placing a diaphragm call in my mouth to chirp and mew when shooting my bow for a real hunting simulation.

Better calls are always a good thing when we want to talk wapiti in the proper dialect or get a leg up on our competition. 

If you’re in the market for a new mouth call or tube, now is the time to try out the ones you’re interested in and start practicing.  Find the calls that work best for you, and make sure you take a hard look at the calls the good folks at RMHC have crafted.

It may be the difference between a happy hunter, or a sore loser!  Check out RMHC products offered on http://www.elk101store.com/calls/bugling-bull.

Ruger American Rifle goes “Magnum”

The author's bull went just 50 yards after a through the shoulder shot from the American and the Hornady payload that completely passed through.

The author's bull went just 50 yards after a through the shoulder shot from the American and the Hornady payload that completely passed through.
The author’s bull went just 50 yards after a through the shoulder shot from the American and the Hornady payload that completely passed through.

One of the best deer rifles in the country just got an upgrade.  Here’s a report from one of the first users.

Sometimes a fellow gets lucky and that’s how I felt when I had the chance to hunt elk with Ken Jorgenson, marketing director of Sturm Ruger.  The American Rifle was introduced in two magnum cartridges for the first time and what better caliber to hunt elk, than with the .300 Winchester Magnum?

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The author received the rifle just prior to the hunt with limited time to bench test it, yet got a 200 yard MOA group on the first try.

Unfortunately, the rifle arrived just prior to the hunt with enough time to sight it in properly, but not much experimentation.  I teamed the Ruger with Hornady Superformance ammo and quickly learned that the Ruger American Rifle was one MOA (Minute of Angle) at 200 yards.  This equates to approximately two inches of accuracy at 200 yards (similarly, one-inch at 100 yards, three-inches at 300 yards, etc.).

The hunt I booked was a do-it-yourself event in the White River National Forest during the second bull elk season when tags were available over the counter.  Typically, a hunter in this area sights a rifle in at 200 yards so that an elk from zero to 300 yards is at “point blank” range.

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We discovered that Hornady Superformance magnum ammo provided consistent accuracy and an extra margin of knock-down for big game animals when teamed with the Ruger American Rifle.

Ironically, the hunt nearly ended after 20 minutes.  I walked a buddy to a likely elk crossing and then sneaked back toward a ridge top overlook and walked smack into a nice 5×5 bull at 40 yards.  Sometimes elk can act unresponsively when they first see something they can’t identify, but not this one.  As we came eyeball-to-eyeball on the ridge top, the bull whirled and crashed into nearby oak brush in a heartbeat.  I tried to circle back and out flank the fleeing animal, but it was in high gear and completely gone.

I had taken every precaution to maximize opportunity in long range conditions with an accurate rifle, powerful Hornady Superformance ammo, and Nikon optics, including a 2.5-10X Prostaff Scope, Prostaff 8×42 binoculars and rangefinder.  If I could see a bull, it was probably within range.  Ironically, I’d fill my tag at 50 yards and a broadside shot.  Not complaining, mind you, but not the long range shot I’d prepared for.

Since I also had a mule deer tag, I spent seven full days with the Ruger American Rifle from dawn to dusk and quickly learned to appreciate its assets.  Here’s a quick rundown of the rifle’s merits in bullet point fashion:

  • Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger offers a crisp release with a pull weight that is user adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds, allowing shooters to make that perfect shot.  In the field, this is one of the most critical variables of accuracy.
  • Ergonomic, lightweight nylon synthetic stock designed for quick, easy handling blends a classic look with modern forend contouring and grip serrations.  It didn’t reflect light and looked great after banging it on the rocks.
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The Ruger American series includes a variety of models and calibers. New are the 7 mm Rem Mag and 300 Win Mag.
  • Soft rubber buttpad is crafted for maximum recoil reduction and came in hand with the recoil of the .300 Win Mag
  • The one-piece, three-lug bolt with 70° throw provides ample scope clearance and utilizes a full diameter bolt body and dual cocking cams for smooth, easy cycling from the shoulder.
  • Patent-pending Power Bedding®, integral bedding block system positively locates the receiver and free-floats the barrel for outstanding accuracy.
  • Offers ONE minute-of-angle accuracy that can make every hunt a success.  My first 200-yard group was MOA.
  • 5/8″-24 threaded barrel is cold hammer-forged, resulting in ultra-precise rifling that provides exceptional accuracy, longevity and easy cleaning.
  • Features a visible, accessible and easy-to-actuate tang safety that provides instant security.
  • Single-column detachable box magazine.
  • Also includes – magazine; sling swivel studs.  A rifle strap is a must when climbing in difficult terrain.
  • Factory-Installed One-Piece Aluminum Scope Rail.  This sounds like a small item, yet if a base comes loose, accuracy heads due south to a warmer climate. If you are looking for a big game rifle at a very modest price, give one of the new Ruger American magnum rifles a look.  I’ll bet you won’t be disappointed. Check www.ruger.com