The 22nd Annual - World Championships of Performing Arts
We are pleased to announce that Blacktail athlete, Bella Gantt has been selected to Team USA for the 22nd Annual World Championships of Performing Arts. The competition will take place July 6-15, 2018 in Long Beach, California.
Contestants from more than 69 countries around the world will be competing for more than $500K in scholarships, Hollywood contracts, etc. Bella will be performing her 'foot archery' skills using her custom Blacktail Sitka series bow. We wish Bella the very best of luck! She has certainly worked hard for this opportunity and is a remarkable archer!
For more information about the World Championships of Performing Arts - WCOPA 🇱🇷, visit http://www.wcopa.com/ GO TEAM BLACKTAIL!
Blacktail Bow Company congratulates pro staff athlete, Juan Gomez Garate for his outstanding achievements on the world stage during 2017. Most recently, his selection to the Spanish National Team, continues his pursuit for excellence in archery as he prepares for the WORLD ARCHERY 3d Championships in Robion, France, September 19-24, 2017. "Juanucu" competes with his Blacktail Elite VL take-down recurve bow.
For more information, visit: (https://www.robion2017.com/)
We invite you to listen to TradQuest's James Orr, interviewing PBS President, Norm Johnson on the topic of PBS — The Professional Bowhunters Society. Click on the link below to listen to the interview.
Blacktail Bows congratulates Théophile Rault on winning the Silver medal (Vice Champion) at the 2017 FFTA France National Championships. Rault competed with his Blacktail Elite VL recurve bow during the competition.
We are delighted to congratulate Juan Gomez Garate for his outstanding achievement winning GOLD & SILVER Medals at 2nd round RFETA Field and 3D Archery Competitions.
Blacktail athlete, Juan Gomez Garate, continues world class performances at the 2nd round 2017 RFETA National League competitions. Winning GOLD (Field Archery) in Navarra, Spain on March 26th and SILVER (3D Archery) in Sevilla, Spain on March 13th — Juan competed with his Blacktail Elite VL series take-down recurve bow.
Introduction: The following story is the second in a series of informative articles Blacktail Bow Company will be posting during the year 2017. Whether hunting adventures, 'how to topics', tips & observations, or points of view, we hope these varied articles will be both entertaining and educational for the reader throughout the coming year.
Successful Nevada Mule Deer Hunt - taken by author.
Silver Anniversary Buck by Norm Johnson (Founder, Blacktail Bow Company, LLC)
The summer 2010 was a busy one for the Johnson household. Because of family commitments, my wife and I were not able to take time out and celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary on the 27th of July. So, we decided we would have to celebrate during our time away from home —on a high mountain pack-in mule deer hunt in Nevada. With season opener on August 1st, we left our home on the Oregon coast July 30th, driving 15 hours deep into the heart of Nevada. Passing through central Oregon, we would meet up with longtime friend and hunting partner Buck Davis. At the end of a long day's drive, we arrived in the late evening at a trailhead leading into the rugged mountains. There we would spend the next week in pursuit of early season mule deer. It is a trip we have done many times over the past 15 years —when of course, we were lucky enough to draw tags. This would be my wife’s third trip into the mountains and although she does not bow hunt, she absolutely loves the scenery of the high mountain backcountry and the journey. For Buck, it would be his first return trip since 2006. He had gone through total hip replacement in 2007 and after the surgery, he had reservations about ever being able to pack into the backcountry again. Thankfully, with advancements in modern medicine, conditioning, and determination — he was back.
This type of hunt involves many weeks of conditioning as well as careful planning. Our packs would need to hold enough food and gear to spend a full week in the backcountry as well as the provisions needed to take care of a harvested deer. For me, this means a pack-in weight of no more than 70 pounds; for my wife it meant 40 pounds. Lists are made and carefully gone over, as a return trip to fetch a forgotten item is simply not doable.
The trailhead has a starting elevation of 7,700 feet. Leaving at first light the next morning, we would be packing into the backcountry about 5 miles with our final destination and campsite at 8,700 feet. The horse trail leading into the backcountry sidehills its way through a deep canyon filled with aspen, mountain mahogany, and steep rim rock outcrops. The gorgeous scenery makes the work involved for a hunt like this all worth the effort. We left the horse trail about 3 miles in and began the final steep climb to our campsite. The final climb is a trail that Buck established many years ago on his first trip into the mountains. It is tucked away in Aspens at the low end of a high mountain basin out of sight of the bucks that are summering between 9,000 and 11,000 feet. More importantly it kept our scent out of the areas we would be hunting. It also has a creek nearby for a constant supply of water. We arrived at our camp in early afternoon. Just like in the past, it felt good to get the weight of the pack off of our backs, set up camp, and take a long needed nap as we got our bodies adjusted to the high altitude.
The next morning Buck and I would leave camp an hour before daylight. We had decided to hunt the next basin to the east of us. It requires about 1 ½ mile hike and climb of about 500 feet in elevation to get to an area where we can set up and glass the entire basin during the morning feeding hours. As the morning sun began to light up the basin, we began to see deer. We are often glassing distances of more than a mile. But with the greenery of the mountains in August and help from the morning sun, the deer’s summer coats really light up. By late morning we had spotted a number of mature bucks. The bucks we were focused on fed their way up to the head of the basin following the shade line, as the sun climbed higher in the sky. By 10:00 am they had reached 10,000 feet and began to bed along a snowbank shaded by a big rock rim. Buck and I decided to leave these bucks for today and return at a later day in hopes that they had chosen more stalkable bedding areas. Being patient is a key when hunting mature bucks. Once they get bumped (because of a blown stalk, or bad wind), they generally leave your hunting area never to be seen again.
We decided to climb back over the ridge (dividing the basin we were hunting from the one we were camped in) to see what we were able to find in that basin. Glassing at midday is much different than glassing at first light. We would now be looking for bedded bucks. It is a slower more methodical type of glassing looking in those areas where bucks like to bed. One of the advantages with hunting the same area over the last 15 years is knowing those areas where bucks like to bed. Often times, only their velvet antlers or parts of antlers are the only visible body part. We found some minimal shade under some of the high mountain pine that grows on some of the north facing slopes. There, we took time for a bite of lunch and a drink of water before beginning to glass again. Over the next half hour we found a number of bucks bedded, but nothing that got us too excited. I then moved my searching from the head of the basin to straight across on the opposing ridge.
A quick sweep with my binoculars at mid elevation and I spotted a monster buck up and feeding in the heat of the midday sun. He was located on a small bench at about the 9,500 foot level. As Buck and I watched him in our spotting scopes we realized just what a special deer this was. After being up for only a few minutes, he bedded on the bench. The tall Sage swallowed him up leaving just the top half of his massive antlers exposed. It was a great setup for a stalk with the buck’s ideal location and the fact he was alone (with no other ‘spoiler’ bucks around him). I told Buck that it was his deer to stalk. With the effort it took to put himself back into the shape needed to do this type of hunt, I could not think of a more deserving guy to make the stalk.
With the afternoon thermals steadily rising, the normal stalk would be to cross the basin far below our present location, then climb well above the buck and descend from the rim above him. The buck had bedded slightly facing the uphill side, so the stalk would have to be an approach from behind. The other problem we had was time. Getting such a late start on a bedded buck (across the basin) was going to take several hours to make the two-mile hike and get in position above the deer. It was going to push into the evening hours at which time the buck would likely be up to feed for the evening. A feeding deer is extremely difficult to stalk and on a buck of this caliber, it was not a risk worth taking.
We both headed for the bottom of the basin. I setup in a spot on the edge of a small patch of shrubby Aspens. From this location I would easily be able to give Buck hand signals throughout his stalk. Buck climbed the steep wall of the basin to an area 100 yards behind the deer. Once there, he removed his pack and boots for the final stalk. It took him about 45 minutes to close the gap down to 20 yards. With his approach coming from behind (and not above the deer) and with the height of the Sage, he was not able to see the deer once in close. He was relying on my hand signals to let him know what the deer was doing. As Buck inched closer, the deer got up and began feeding away from him. I gave Buck the hand signal for “deer feeding” and another arm motion on direction. Buck then tiptoed uphill and toward the deer. As he stepped up on the same elevation plane as the deer, he now had him in full view — but no shot.
The deer was feeding straight away at 15 yards. Over the next few seconds, the deer turned while still feeding and gave Buck a 20-yard quartering away shot. I was able to watch him draw his longbow and release. The shot looked good from my view but, as I found out later, it was a clean miss just in front of the deer’s chest. Buck retrieved his arrow, boots, and pack, and then met me back in the bottom of the basin. I could see the disappointment on his face. I could certainly understand his disappointment, as it truly was a trophy of a lifetime. However, it was a great effort too and he made a tremendous stalk to close the gap to 15 yards. I have learned a lot about hunting this high country from Buck. He is one of the best there is at finding mature bucks and knowing how to get close.
DAY #2: We left camp a little before daylight and headed west of camp to a glassing area that would allow us to see most of the basin above camp. My wife would be joining us on the hunt today. The climb would take us up another 400 feet in elevation where we would break out onto a flat bench, at the edge of the Aspen thicket that exposes the more alpine areas of the upper basin. We used the edge of the Aspens as our backdrop to sit with our binoculars and spotting scopes. These high mountain basins rise well above the upper limits of trees. Most of this area is covered in mountain brush or a sparse cover of low sagebrush. Large boulders litter the lower portions of the alpine, after centuries of breaking loose from the rugged rims that make up the perimeter of the basins. As we approached the final 100 yards of our climb toward our glassing area, the aspens dramatically thin out and become much shorter in height. I was in the lead, with Buck 20 yards behind me. My wife followed closely behind Buck.
I had walked into a couple of beef cows feeding in the aspens. There are some beef cattle in the high country but encounters are rare, as they tend to stay at the lower elevations out of the alpine. I was lucky that they neither saw nor smelled me. I eased back a few steps and whispered to Buck that we had cows ahead of us. Not wanting to spook them, Buck advised we wait them out and let them feed out of our sight before we continued to move ahead. So, we stood whispering for a few minutes as the cows moved on. I walked quietly ahead to see if they had cleared out and ran into a calf that we had not seen earlier. I turned to look back at Buck and my wife (who were 15 yards behind me) and I immediately saw my wife giving me hand signals that there was a deer to my left.
I stepped back to open up my view and was dumbfounded to see a mature buck feeding straight away at no more than 30 yards. As we had very slowly eased our way through the aspens (giving time for the beef cows to feed out ahead), the buck had not detected our approach. It became quickly apparent the sounds of the cattle feeding through the area had masked the sound of our movements. As I stood quietly looking at the deer, I had no shot. I looked back at Buck and he had an arrow nocked (slightly crouching), trying to find a good opening through some low hanging aspen limbs. I could tell from his body language he just did not have a shot. He looked over at me. I then mouthed the words “do you want me to shoot”? Buck shook his head “yes”.
I turned to look back at the deer. He was still heading downhill but was now broadside to me. I don’t normally practice shooting with my pack on, but I knew the movement (and noise) of trying to remove my pack would get his attention. So, I picked a spot, raised my bow and drew slowly. He never detected the movement and the arrow was on its way.
It was a complete pass through tucked tight behind the front shoulder. The deer kicked his hind legs and was out of sight in the blink of an eye. I looked over to see Buck with a big grin and my wife with big eyes and mouth wide open. In all my years of bowhunting, she had never witnessed me shooting an animal with my bow. It was a great experience, (made extra special) simply by having my wife and good friend along to share in the experience.
We gave the deer some time before following a short 90-yard blood trail to his final resting place. After congrats and pictures, I began to realize --there was no prettier place nor a better way to spend our 25th anniversary.
We are delighted to congratulate Juan Gomez Garate for his outstanding achievement winning back-to-back GOLD Medals at RFETA Field and 3D Archery Competitions.
Blacktail athlete, Juan Gomez Garate, began 2017 RFETA League competitions with his new Blacktail Elite VL bow, after a hard training month adapting to a new draw weight. Competing in a field of a hundred archers in his class, the diligent practice paid off with excellent results.
Introduction: The following story is the first in a series of informative articles Blacktail Bow Company will be posting during the year 2017. Whether hunting adventures, 'how to topics', tips & observations, or points of view, we hope these varied articles will be both entertaining and educational for the reader throughout the coming year.
Successful Oregon Roosevelt Elk Hunt - taken by author
There's no place like home By Norm Johnson (Founder, Blacktail Bow Company, LLC)
That obnoxious alarm came all too early, following several hard days of hunting and hiking the Oregon coast range for Roosevelt elk. Tired sore muscles, and physical fatigue made it real tempting to push the button, roll over, and get some well needed rest. But, this is what I love to do each fall! So it’s a quick cup of coffee, a light breakfast and out the door for another day in the mountains.
I think just about all of us (who love bowhunting) relate more to the hunting we do close to home. Sure, those out-of-state (or even out-of-the-country) hunts leave memories that last a lifetime; yet, it is what we do close to home that probably was responsible for getting us hooked on bowhunting in the first place. It is at home that we accumulate (year-in and year-out) the memories that not only fill our freezers, but result in trophies for the den and photos for the album. For most of the hunting population, the goal is most definitely whitetail deer, after all, it is the most popular big game species on the planet.
Living on the Oregon coast, my bowhunting from home is a little different. The steep Oregon coast range, sometimes called the “Pacific Rainforest”, is home for Roosevelt elk, Blacktail deer and an abundance of black bear and mountain lion. Bowhunting Roosevelt elk has been literally my backyard bowhunting now for 36 years. As I have gotten older I realize just how much I took for granted the scenic views and the yearly opportunity to hunt one of the most beautiful animals that all of hunting has to offer. Over my 36 years of bowhunting my out-of-state and in-state travels have made me realize there’s no place like home.
On the morning of September 18th , 2009 I left home at my normal time of about 2 hours before daylight. I would be driving a short 10 miles northeast of my home, then hike about 4 miles into the heart of the coastal mountain range. I would be hunting privately owned timber company land that allows "walk in only" access during the late summer fire season. The timber companies use railroad iron gates to block all access points to prohibit the use of any motorized vehicles on their lands during the dry summer and fall seasons. These tracts of land or “tree farms” (as we locals call them) can be a few thousand acres, to hundreds of thousands of acres in size. With the distance I need to cover (many miles) and rugged terrain, I travel very light. My gear consists of my bow, quiver, four hunting arrows, a small fanny pack containing bare essentials along with a quart of water, binoculars, and grunt tube. The elk rut was now in full swing and the morning hours give a short window of activity before the elk head for thick cover to bed for the day. With the aid of a headlamp, I utilized the cover of darkness and an old abandoned logging road to hike to an area I regularly hunt by daylight. My morning hike would also be a climb of an additional 500 feet in elevation as well.
As morning began to bring huntable light, the foggy damp marine air began to warm and slowly lift out of the steep tight canyons. With a little patience to let the morning air clear, I took full advantage of my elevation to glass across canyons and draws into some of the recent clearcut loggings looking for the unmistakable blond hides feeding in the young replanted timber. “Reprod” short for reproduction timber, refers to young replanted trees as short as 5 feet to upward of 40 feet. This reforestation age diversity creates is an essential part of good Roosevelt elk habitat. The elk will utilize reprod in its younger stage as feeding areas and in its older stages as cover and bedding areas.
I worked my way along the top of a steep ridge top glassing off both sides for nearly a mile in either direction. The presence of several large rubs accompanied by the musky smell of rutting bulls told me there were mature bulls in the area. Finding no elk with my binoculars, I decided to descend into a small hidden basin that in past seasons had proved to be a good hiding spot for a bull with his harem of cows. Skirting the timber edge next to an older clearcut, at 10 yards I interrupted a large black bear feeding in the Himalayan blackberries. I honestly don’t know who scared who the most! I am always amazed at the ability of these bears to get out of the berry vines so quickly. The thorns on the Himalayan vines are ¼ to ½ inch in length and cut through human skin with ease. Letting my heart return to normal, I continued to move, looking and listening. But I could find no elk in the basin.
The broken, steep terrain creates many hidden pockets that cannot be adequately seen with binoculars. So, I began to "cow call" and bugle in the cool morning air. I kept moving, trying to cover as much country as possible in search of a response. With no answer coming from the basin, I felt I needed a new game plan. I began the quarter mile hike out of the basin to the ridge top where I had started my hunt. Once reaching the ridge top, I began to glass into the patchwork of logged areas some more than 2 miles away. With precious morning hours quickly passing I had to question glassing areas too far for me to hike to before the elk headed for their bedding areas. I decided to make the long trek across a deep canyon to a basin where I had a very close encounter with a young 5x5 bull the morning before. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t pulled the plug on the surrounding area too quickly, so I sent one last bugle into the morning air.
There was an immediate answer that came from behind me — further out on the ridge top at what I had guessed to be about 200 yards away. I was familiar with the area so I immediately turned around and headed up the old dead end logging road. I had assumed the bull had cows and made the decision not to answer. Instead, I covered about half the distance before I found a spot along the road to check the wind then duck into the reprod and call again. I was careless in thinking he had cows. As I approached a blind corner in the old road, I looked up in time to see half the bull's face and left antler coming at me from the other direction. Without hesitation I jumped to my left and downhill into the reprod while simultaneously cow calling. I wasn’t sure how much the bull had seen but did my best to fool the bull into thinking he didn’t see what he really saw. Once in the reprod, my view consisted of small patches of his blonde hide. With the bull standing broadside at a distance of 35 yards he was looking for the cows he thought he had stumbled into. My eyes were fixed on a small gap in the branches that exposed the perfect spot for a double lung hit. I picked a spot and came to full draw with my 66” Blacktail Elite VL One-piece recurve. After a short hold at full draw to hit my anchor point the arrow was on its way. In the blink of an eye the arrow deflected on a low hanging branch and sailed high over the bull’s back. I made a common mistake with this shot in the fact that we see in straight lines and arrows travel in arcs.
The bull whirled and headed back in the direction he had come from. I immediately cow called and bugled. The bull ran up the old road about 50 yards and stopped at the sound of my calls. Through a small gap in the limbs I could now only see the lower half of his hind legs. I was convinced the bull could see no part of me. The standoff continued as I held his curiosity with periodic cow calls. I watched his hind legs slowly slip out of my line of sight as he disappeared into the reprod. The bull was now out of sight in the thick reprod 50 to 60 yards in front of me. My calls kept him convinced there were cows to be had. He was going to take a more cautious and hidden approach through the reprod.
I knew the bull approaching me through the small thick trees was not going to give me any shot opportunities so I quietly stepped out of the reprod and back on the logging road. I cautiously tip toed to where I had last seen the bull’s legs disappear. As I approached the spot I could see the bull moving slowly in the 15 foot trees. I cow called and stopped him. At 30 yards his face was covered from view by limbs, only his black antlers were exposed. A gap in the limbs revealed a lung shot. I drew my bow, picked a spot, and released. The arrow slipped through the gap untouched, followed by the unmistakable sound of the arrow finding a big chest cavity. The bull bolted at impact and was immediately swallowed by the reprod. I quietly listened at a few quick fading sounds of the bull leaving. I glanced at my watch and it was 7:45 am. With no sense of urgency, I decided to give him a full hour before I started tracking.
We’ve all been there with that urge to get tracking along with second guessing the shot placement. As the adrenalin began to wear off I found myself taking a moment to sit and reflect on the hunt and look around at the views of God’s creation. I was thankful and fortunate for the second chance. After sitting for a few minutes I flagged a tree branch to mark the spot where I had shot then hiked the old logging road for a ½ mile as it looped around to the opposite side of the canyon. The view from this side allowed me a great opportunity to glass the area into the reprod where the bull had run. Had the bull died before he made it to the canopy of the older timber I just might find him in my binoculars from across the canyon. This would also occupy my time for the next hour giving the bull plenty of time to expire.
While glassing I enjoyed watching a small blacktail buck and a doe feeding in the lower part of the canyon but could see no sign of the bull. An hour had passed so I hiked back up the road to my flagging and began tracking the bull. The blood trail and running tracks followed a steep side hill line for about 100 yards to the timberline. As I entered the dark timbered canopy the tracking became more difficult. The dim light mixed with bright streamers of the morning sunlight coming through gaps in the canopy make it hard for my eyes to adjust. The ground was steep and littered with blow-downs and dead limbs. Fortunately the bull’s run took him only another 40 yards inside the older timber before piling up. After hitting the ground he slid another 50 yards down the steep hillside coming to rest against a downed log. The broadhead had passed through both lungs leaving the arrow hanging by the feathers on the opposite side. He was a mature 5 year old 5x5 Roosevelt bull. His antlers were black and heavy with one broken brow tine indicating the possible reason he had no cows of his own. His total body weight was nearly 900 pounds.
Standing over the bull my emotions ran high as I began to reflect on the last two weeks of hunting. It had been an incredible season with numerous other encounters including two mature bulls at less than 20 yards (with no shot opportunity). I had pushed hard and lost 7 pounds in a two week stretch. Earlier that morning, thoughts of taking an easier hunt had crept into my mind. Funny how success takes away the fatigue, and tired sore muscles replacing it with that indescribable feeling that only those who experience these moments know and understand. I had meat that would fill my freezer and feed my family for another winter. I also had precious memories of the hunt to last a lifetime. After 36 years of bowhunting these magnificent animals in Oregon’s coastal mountains, it just never gets old.