Conventional hunting wisdom offers countless solutions for the scenarios hunters face afield. Sit here. Stalk this. Wait there. But veteran sportsmen and women know there are also times when your best call is throwing the entire playbook out the window.
Keith Beasley knows the drill. Co-host of popular “Canada In The Rough” television programming sponsored by Federal Ammunition, the hard-hunting Canadian isn’t shy about sharing his thoughts on knowing when to break from tradition.
“There are definitely proven systems for hunting most types of game,” he says. “But you also have to be willing to think outside the box and break the rules when an orthodox plan isn’t working.
“My brothers Kevin and Paul (who co-produce the show) and I grew up in Ontario farm country near Peterborough,” he continues, “Matching wits with wily, heavily pressured whitetails taught us plenty of lessons about adapting to the situation and conditions at hand.”
As a result, the brothers’ current strategies are often founded on basic hunting logic—but easily tweaked when need be. “We treat hunting like poker,” he explains. “Do everything possible to stack the odds in your favor using all the cards you’re dealt. Keep the wind in your face, hunt funnels, stay out of bedding areas, and so forth. But when the chips are down, be prepared to reshuffle the deck and go with your gut to win the game.”
Buck After Breakfast
For example, when the Beasley brothers set their sights set on a cagey old whitetail buck that had survived seven years in their high-pressure homeland, they were aware a rule change could be in order.
“We’d only seen him twice in four years, so we knew he was going to be hard to hunt,” Keith recalls. “Adding to the challenge, the buck’s territory covered three different farms and five hunting parties were after him.”
The Beasleys’ original plan was to sneak to their stands well before sunup. “We crossed prime night breeding and feeding areas to get there, however,” Keith notes. “So we ended up alerting him to our presence and pushing him away from our stands.”
Game for a gamble, the brothers began slipping to their stands in the daylight. “We lost the magical first-light period on stand. Still, we almost killed him the second morning using that approach,” Keith says. “Our next change was pulling up stakes and positioning ourselves almost a mile away, between two bedding areas, in a spot where he wouldn’t expect to see any hunters, including us.”
The strategy paid off. “We finally got him, at a distance of less than 200 yards as ne nosed out of a thicket after a doe, totally oblivious to us,” says Keith. “Funny thing was, we weren’t even in a tree stand or ground blind when we killed the buck. We’d simply set up lawn chairs on a decent vantage point and waited for him to make the next move.”
Another example of rulebreaking gone right occurred on a New Brunswick bear hunt, though the groundwork was laid during a previous hunt that was by the book but unsuccessful.
“We went on a June bear hunt and got skunked for five days straight,” says Keith, who admits he had reservations about the original plan of attack. “I felt the wind was never in our favor, the stand wasn’t high enough, and we had a limited view of where the bear was coming from. The bear showed up on camera every night after we left, so I believe I messed up by not breaking the rules.”
Vowing redemption, Beasley made the outfitter an offer. “It told him if he kept the bait active, I’d come back in the fall,” he says. “Outfitters are our partners. They want a great show with a mature animal just like we do, and I was determined to make it happen.”
Beasley returned to find the same setup, and initially experienced the same results. “I tried it for two nights,” he says. “The bear had been coming in during daylight before we arrived, then suddenly didn’t show up until after dark. I knew he was winding or spotting us, and either way we had to change things around.”
To throw the bruin a curveball, he brushed in a ground blind. “Conventional wisdom says you can’t plop a new blob in the woods like that, but I knew it would cut down on our scent dispersion and visibility,” says Beasley. As a result, three hours after taking a seat in the new blind, he arrowed the elusive bear at 14 yards. “I don’t pretend to have everything figured out,” he adds. “But when you feel like something is wrong, you have to change it up.”
Beasley also recalls a hunt when the brothers drew a rare nonresident tag to pursue bull moose in New Brunswick. Unfortunately, their five-day adventure didn’t start well.
“We were standing in one spot and calling, to no avail,” he says. “By the fourth night, we still hadn’t gotten a big bull to come to our calls. When finally got a reply in the distance, the guide didn’t think it would be wise to go after him, but we begged until he relented.”
With an hour left of daylight, they pursued the Canadian monarch. “We went straight at him, breaking branches and grunting,” says Beasley. As they closed the distance, the mature bull Beasley estimates at 54 inches came out to challenge the interlopers. “There was still legal light remaining and we had a shot, but the cameraman called us off because there wasn’t enough light for filming,” he says.
Undaunted, the crew went after another bull the following night and sealed the deal. “The same thing happened on our last night with another bull cowed up in thick cover,” he says. “We went at him hard, and ended up killing the 49-incher at 21 yards.”
Follow Your Instincts
In the end, Beasley still advises sticking with solid rules of the hunt whenever possible. “But when the rulebook isn’t working, don’t be afraid to be the hunter you were created to be,” he says. “Early hunters depended on their instincts and creativity to get the job done, and those weapons are still just as powerful today.”