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Bruce: Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. And we welcome Kevin Paulson of Hunting Life to our community today. Kevin, welcome to the show. HuntingLife.com
Kevin: Hey, Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity and I’m super happy to be here.HuntingLife.com
Bruce: Kevin, why don’t you share with our listeners a little bit about you, and a little about HuntingLife.com, your background, and then at the end of course, we’ll have the promo section where you’ll be able to share specific details. But just give us a 300,000-foot view of Kevin Paulson and why you’re so passionate about whitetails.HuntingLife.com
Kevin: Fantastic. I’ve been hunting beside my dad. From the time I was about 5 years old on, I was following in his footsteps. My dad was 30 years in the United States Corps service so I grew up hunting and learned about conservation firsthand in our national forests. My dad was throughout California for the first 15 years of my life. The first year, I actually chased a mule deer at the Inyo National Forest in California. My Dad was transferred to Washington DC and moved to Virginia.HuntingLife.com
And I learned how to chase whitetail a little bit. I wasn’t really successful the first 4 or 5 years of chasing whitetail. Actually the first deer I actually shot was with a bow in Oregon, a blacktail. I started in the business and did pretty well in Washington DC, and I bought an outfitting business after going on a couple of elk hunts in Montana and Idaho. And spent a couple of years, I call it my Harvard education, I learned how to guide elk and mule deer hunts, and spring bear hunts, and mountain lion hunts.HuntingLife.com
And sold my interest in the outfitting business and bought HuntingLife.com the very next day. I found that what I really enjoyed about the outfitting business was the writing aspect of it and getting to talk with hunters and work with the conservation groups. We built HuntingLife.com to be a national news source for hunting and conservation, and we’re going on our 10th year. So it’s been a real fun experience.HuntingLife.com
Bruce: Thank you for the background. Let’s go back and talk about the relationship you had with your dad in regards to hunting. What are some of things that have stayed with you to today that’s a useful to hunting and just the lessons learned?HuntingLife.com
Kevin: Well, I think the biggest lesson that I learned and I instill with my kids was making hunting enjoyable, and making it more than just about killing, getting to be out there and experience the time outdoors, and spend the time necessary to become proficient with your weapon. When I first got to go deer hunting, I was 14 years old.
And I came to my dad, and I had a bow at the time, and I said, “I want to bow-hunt first.” And he looked at me and he said, “I don’t know if you’re quite ready for that.” And I said, “What do I got to do to get ready?” And he said, “You’ve got to place 50 shots in 50 yards, every single one of them into a paper plate.” And I said, “Okay.” So I sat down and I practiced 2-3 hours a day, every day that summer and I got proficient with my bow. And I spent the time necessary to learn how to use that weapon, and it’s made me a better hunter today.
Bruce: Listeners, I hope you took a note as I just did. I get quiet sometimes when I’m writing. But practice every single day with archery gear is paramount to having the confidence when that buck or doe walks underneath your stand that you’re going to put the arrow right where you want it. Would you agree with that, Kevin?
Kevin: Oh, absolutely. Aim small, miss small, spend the time to know your equipment to where it becomes second nature. I shoot the Mathews No Cam right now and I absolutely love that bow. It’s incredibly flat at shooting. But there’s a learning to make it muscle memory to where every single time you pull that bow back, the string coming across your nose, the pin sight’s exactly where it’s supposed to be, and it becomes second nature. Because when you’re out there on the stand, or you’re in a blind and you’ve got that big animal in front of you, you don’t want to be thinking about, okay, is my string correct, or is my pin sight correct, or am I holding the right form? You want to just be able to make the shot and you want to be able to focus on it.
Bruce: You said something right at the beginning, and I want to make sure I got it right –aim small, shoot small. Is that what you said?
Kevin: Aim small, miss small.
Bruce: Miss small.
Kevin: Yeah. And what I mean by that is if you can pick a hair on an animal, pick a very specific spot, and that’s the spot that you want to hit, that’s the only spot that you’re focused on. If you happen to miss that spot just a little bit, you’re still in that kill zone. That really makes a difference. That’s what’s allowed me to take several animals with a bow. I’ve taken 3 bears in Canada with a bow, and burying shots from 10-30 yards. And in every single one of them, I hit exactly the spot I was expecting to hit.
Bruce: How do you establish your shooting standard or distance with archery gear?
Kevin: I practice all the way up to 75 yards on a pretty regular basis. So that’s my wheelhouse. I know that my groups begin to open up as I go from 50 yards, to 60 yards, to 75 yards. That is something that I’m always working on. If I don’t have a set limit to exactly where I will and won’t shoot, it really depends upon the circumstances and the animal where I feel that I’m going to make a kill shot, and it’s just confidence in your equipment, confidence in what you’re doing, and every single person has to make that choice themselves.
Bruce: What type of group do you have at 75 yards?
Kevin: I can place about a 600th group. So I’ll shoot 6 or 7 arrows at a time, and I’ll have a 6 or 7 inch group. Now, if I’m hunting elk in Montana or Idaho, a 6 or 7 inch group on an elk is a pretty great area and I feel comfortable making that shot. Would I necessarily make that shot? I don’t know. It depends upon the moment and, like I said, whether I feel confident. Is that animal going to come in? Do have enough room to get closer? Is that the shot that I really want? I prefer a shot of an elk at 4 yards but it depends upon the opportunity.
Bruce: I hope everybody’s taking notice of it’s the confidence factor, it’s the practice factor, and then it’s the situational factor. Because all those will help determine whether you’re going to get a lethal shot, an ethical shot, or not. Thanks for those comments.
Kevin: Absolutely. I think every hunters are going to have to make those choices, and a lot of the circumstances, every hunter makes those choices in the field. And if you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t feel like you’re going to make that shot, don’t take it. I’ve had opportunities where I’ve come behind hunters and I’ve helped them track the animal, and I’ve said, “Do you feel confident with your shot?” And if the answer is no, then that’s why we’re spending time tracking that animal. So I encourage every hunter that are out there to really spend the time necessary to feel confident.
When I was guiding hunters, a couple of things that I constantly focused on . . . Mostly I guided rifle hunters and a few archery hunters. With the archery hunters, I took them to the camp and made them shoot in front of me and I put pressure on them. I stood behind them and said, “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” I constantly drilled that into their heads, I was putting pressure on them to see how they would react under pressure.
During rifle season when I was doing rifle guides, and one of the first things as a guide that I would take them to the range and make sure the rifle was loaded and I would always have them bring a full extra box of ammunition with them and once they made their first 2 or 3 shots and we knew that they were accurate, I would have them shoot 4 shot groups, one right after the other so that I could gauge how quickly they could make shots and still be accurate.
Especially in Elk hunting, the first shot does not always knock that animal down, and I think guys watch a little bit too much hunting television on television today, and they think that they pull the one shot and then they just stand there and look at the animal. I wouldn’t allow my clients to do that. I say, “Your job is to continue to fire until that animal hits the ground.”
Bruce: That’s wise information, folks. Very wise. Let’s talk about a couple aha! moments that you had last year or in recent years that you just couldn’t figure something out in the whitetail world, and then all of a sudden, the light bulb went on and you go, wow! why didn’t I think about that a week ago or a month ago?
Kevin: I wish I’d had that aha! moment last year. Last year was one of the first years that I didn’t take a whitetail for several years. I had it in Kansas and Nebraska. In Kansas, we had it with an outfitter, and was there filming a television show with a group called Lost Velvet Outdoors, and we had a deer coming in. It was a 180-class whitetail coming in every single day to the trail camp.
We got there and we looked at the set up, and decided at that moment that we weren’t going to go in that evening, and decided we’d go back first thing in the morning. And we had a blind set up, and we got into the blind the next morning, and I went to actually draw my bow back in the blind, and realized that the blind was too short and I couldn’t draw my bow back in the blinds. It was only 36 inches wide. So we learned a lesson right there. We took the blind down and I got out the double blind that I happened to carry with me on all the hunts and set that up, and that’s what we had for the rest of the week.
We pulled all the cameras, we went back to the hotel room real quick, got some lunch, looked at the trail camp pictures. And the 180 buck had been in, but there was a bigger buck that was 194 that had come in as well. So we decided, we went back to the blind and just sat there. We actually sat for there for the next 7 days. That particular 194 buck had pushed the 180 buck off that particular area, and he was coming in every night, but he would come in just after dark, and he was completely nocturnal.
That deer, two months later, actually got shot with a bow, finally. But he finally made a mistake. It just took two months for that deer to finally make a mistake. And it’s a beautiful deer and the hunter’s incredibly happy, but we spent an entire week sitting there waiting for him to come out, and it just didn’t happen. I hunted throughout Nebraska last year and the area we’re hunting in Nebraska was hit with EHD a couple months ago and we’re just not seeing any deer yet rebounding.
Bruce: Again, I’m taking a couple of notes. Did you ever think of moving the stand, re-deploying trail cams to see where that buck was moving from? So you said he came out in the dark, so was there any way to get into a staging area?
Kevin: Well, for that particular buck, we were hunting in a CRP field of about a full section, so a mile by a mile. And where the buck was sleeping in the night was on somebody else’s property, and we did not have permission to go onto that property. We had no permission. We tried calling, we tried scent, we tried everything throughout the week that we could really throw all at the buck, basically. We rattled like crazy close to our last day. Like I said, we tried every single thing that we could, and it was really the only set up that we had.
But the area that we’re hunting is outside of Scott City, and this particular gear and the particular set up that we were there for was a CRP section on incredibly flat farm ground that you wouldn’t even believe that whitetails were even there. But we had the trail cam, so we were looking at him every single night. We would get 20 to 30 pictures every single night of this particular deer and several does that would come in. But we just couldn’t connect.
Bruce: Thank you for sharing that insight. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you’re doing everything “right” and it just doesn’t come together. But that’s why we love whitetail hunting.
Kevin: Absolutely. I had a great week with the team of Lost Velvet. And I got to really know those guys and those are moments that I’ll remember the rest of my life. And that was the one that got away. Sometimes, those are the ones you remember more than the ones you got.
Bruce: Agreed. What’s the one piece of advice that’s stayed with you your whole hunting career?
Kevin: Patience. Learning to manage patience. And it took me several years to learn that. I have a good friend, Harry Walker, who runs Sandy River Outfitters in Manitoba, Canada, and I’ve hunted bear and deer with him. In my youth, I got to go on a hunt with him and really learn from him. One of the big things that you experience in Manitoba, you’re gonna see that one big shooter once during the week. But you may spend 12 hours a day in the stand in order to see that one deer that’s respectable and shootable.
And learning that lesson was really tough for me. I’m not normally a stand hunter. My elk hunting background and my mule deer hunting background was all spot and stalk. And whitetails really require you to learn how to manage yourself and manage your focus so that you can spend the kind of time on stand that you need to in order to be successful.
Bruce: Share with us a funny story. It might not have been funny at the time but when you reflect back you go, that was pretty neat or pretty funny. Can you share one of those with us?
Kevin: Absolutely. When I lived in Virginia, I was rushed to get out to the hunting grounds. I had an early day off of work and just threw all my hunting gear in the truck and rushed off. Like I said, I threw everything in the back of my truck and the deer scent that I had was a dominant buck lure, and it leaked all over my pants.
So I walked down to the area, I was headed to go down the stand and, all of a sudden, I saw a deer. And so I sat down on a log and I had a pine tree right next to me. And this young three-point came up and he was pretty excited to want to be close to me. And he was on one side of the tree, and I actually walked around the tree and he was walking around the other side of the tree trying to figure out what I was. Finally, he stopped and I stopped from the tree and we were nose-to-nose, and he just looked at me and bolted off.
Bruce: That’s a close encounter, for darn sure.
Kevin: Oh, absolutely. I could have reached out and touched him.
Bruce: Let’s talk about the resources you use either on the web, books you’ve read, if you use social network, well, I know you use social network. Let’s talk about how you use the resources available to you to become a better whitetail hunter.
Kevin: Well, I think the biggest resource that I use is just looking through the news and communicating and talking to as many hunters as humanly possible so that you have an idea of where people are successful, learning from other people’s mistakes, learning what outfitters are good and not good, things along that line.
Here in Nebraska, we have a Public Land Atlas. So it’s a map of the entire state of Nebraska, it’s produced for game and fish. I know Nebraska has one, I know Kansas has one, and I know a few other states in the Midwest have them. And in those, they have all of the listings for public land access. And using that this year here in Nebraska and in Kansas, I’m out there scouting land, some of them are properties that I never would have believed I would have the opportunity to hunt. But these are actually public land areas. The state leases private farm ground and the you can manage the areas.
And you can go and hunt those areas without having an outfitter, without having too much knowledge about the area, and just picking up an atlas and driving from property to property. And I’ve gotten to hunt some properties, just absolutely fantastic properties this year that have whitetails on them, you know, some properties to hunt.
The other tool that I use, if you go to my website, HuntingLife.com, on the upper right-hand corner, there is a link to an app called PointHunter. And PointHunter is an app for you iPhone or your Android phone that allows you to track the points, the preference points that you have, in most of the Western states. And I’m using this app because it allows me to have knowledge of when I need to apply for specific tags.
Like I know I’ve got until April 24th to apply for my Canada deer tag. And this app sends me alerts, just letting me know that information. It also tracks my points in all the Western states. So like in Wyoming where I’ve got 9 points for mule deer, and 5 points for antelope, and a couple of points for sheep, it allows me to track that information and it’s a really, really good resource.
Bruce: Thank you for that. And ladies and gentlemen, I just went to Kevin’s site, HuntingLife.com, and PointHunter, what a great tool, what a super tool. Thanks for sharing that.
Kevin: Yeah, it has been fantastic, and for a $3 app or I think it’s $2.99 or something along that lines, but it’s just an app that, and to be honest, I only use it on a regular basis to track all of my points in all of the Western states.
Bruce: One final question before we get to your part of the show, Kevin. You’ve just acquired 100 acres in Nebraska, or Kansas, wherever want it to be. Walk us through what steps you’re going to take, what five things you’re going to do before next hunting season.
Kevin: I hunt a lot of public area. And I hunt a few private farms, but the private farms that I do hunt our here are not farms where I have an opportunity to put traps or anything along that line. So I’m hyper-focused on first trying to scout the property and figure out, okay, where’s the big areas? Where’s the property boundaries? Those are the first things that I really focus on. From there, I’m trying to look for trails. Just try and see where the trails go, where the deer will be coming from, where they’re going to be going to, and what are the food sources on that particular property.
The next thing I’m going to look at, where are all of the rubs from, historically you can see rubs on trees, so they may not be fresh rubs at that current point, but historically, deer follow along the same kinds of rub lines generally year after year. So I’m looking for all of the rubs, all the scrapes, those kinds of things. And then basically setting up trail cams so that I can try and get an idea of what kind of deer that property has so that I have a knowledge of what it is I’m really going to be looking for.
Bruce: How about when do you set up your stands?
Kevin: I usually don’t set up stands right until just right before the season starts. I’m trying to gauge where the animals are coming and going, first and foremost. And so a lot of the stands, I use a climber stand quite a bit. I’m a big fan of hunting in ground blinds and so I hunt off the ground quite a bit. Probably less than 20% of my whitetail hunting is out of a tree stand and my reasoning for that really is that it allows me to be mobile. Also, dealing in Nebraska, Kansas, the Midwest, you deal with a lot of wind.
And so I’ve found that being in a pop-up blind really allows me to secure my set a little bit more secure, and it gives me the opportunity to move around a little bit inside the blind so that I’m setting up a camera, I’m setting up my bow, I’m setting up a chair so that I can sit there and I can spend all day in the blind. And when I go in the morning, 5 a.m., I set up my blind, I’m trying to watch the wind as much as humanly possible. If the wind changes, I’m not moving from that particular spot, and I’ve found that that gives me the most success.
Bruce: Thanks for sharing that because that’s some information that I haven’t heard recently on Whitetail Rendezvous about ground blinds. More and more people . . . and I shot the buck that I took in Iowa last year out of a ground blind. And it was extremely comfortable, warm, and I could move around. I didn’t have to be still for 10 hours.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s absolutely my thing as well. I think tree stands are great to hunt out of. I’ve hunted out of quite a few of them throughout my career as a hunter. But the reality is if I want to be sitting in one spot for a long, long period of time, then I know for a fact that I want to be hunting mobile.
Bruce: Kevin, we’re at the time of the show where it becomes an open mic and you can share whatever you wish with our listeners about your business, about specific gear that you use that’s stood the test of time. So the mic’s yours.
Kevin: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing is if you want to be paying attention to what’s been going on in the hunting/conservation world, our site, HuntingLife.com, is a national resource for hunting and conservation for years. We post, on average, between 20 and 30 articles every single day focused on what’s going on with Remington, or what’s going on with Mathews, or what’s going on with Carbon Express, or what’s going on with any particular company, as well as what’s going on with all the conservation organizations.
We have worked over the past 10 years to secure relationships with all of these conservation organizations. And we run all of their press releases and their information, as well as interviews with individuals throughout the hunting industry. We’ve interviewed Jim and Eva Shockey, we’ve interviewed Rebecca Francis, we’ve interviewed Ted Nugent, some of these individuals, and we’ve gotten the opportunity to connect with them and learn a little bit about what they’re doing, as well as getting some of those hardcore tips from them about what they appreciate in the hunting industry.
We’re at a majority of the shows throughout the year, SHOT Show, ATA, etc., looking at the latest and greatest products. And we provide peer reviews on gear that we really find incredibly effective. This year, we’re really excited about the new Mathews bow. To be honest, we are sponsored by Mathews, and that’s my disclaimer there, but at the end of the day, even if Mathews was not a sponsor of ours, this is the bow that we’d be shooting. It’s probably the flattest, easiest draw bow that we’ve ever had. And it’s quiet.
I’ve looked at all the speed bows, and I’ve probably shot just about every bow on the entire market, and when you’re going to make a 30-40 yard shot on an animal, speed is really, really important, but being quiet is even more important because you don’t want that animal to jump that string. And so having a quiet bow, to me, is more valuable than having a fast bow. And I think this bow is plenty fast enough. But it’s incredibly quiet. It’s probably the quietest bow I’ve ever shot in my life.
From there, I was shooting Carbon Express Arrows. I’m incredibly happy with them. I also like the Easton FMJ arrows, which is their full metal jacket variety. I probably shoot Carbon Express for mule deer and whitetail, and I would shoot FMJs for elk and bear. My reason for that is I want a heavier arrow when I’m shooting bigger game so that I have more kinetic energy at that range. So that’s probably it.
Please go to our social media. Hit us up on Facebook.com/HuntingLife, Twitter.com/HuntingLife. We have active communities and we share pictures from all of our readers all the time on all of those pages. Our social media is really about our readers, it’s not about us. And so I think what you’ll find is you’re not going to see a bunch of stories that are focused on our hunts and our ego, it’s going to focused on the everyday hunter who’s out there shooting a gun year after year.
Bruce: Kevin, thank you so much. And listeners, Kevin is a humble man, I can tell that already. I’m on his site, HuntingLife.com. He has 155,000 likes on Facebook, 221,000 Twitter, LinkedIn, 4,400, and YouTube, 206. So he has effectively used social network to bring the best information he possibly can to your desktop. So check him out. And Kevin Paulson, thank you so much for being on Whitetail Rendezvous, and may all your hunts be great ones.
Kevin: Fantastic. Hey, thank you. I really, really appreciated it and I look forward to a time to maybe spend a couple of days in the field with you.
Bruce: Let’s do it. Thank you again, Kevin.