Each month for 35 years, H.G. “Tap” Tapply shared serious hunting and fishing know-how in his wildly popular Field & Stream column, “Tap’s Tips.” His encyclopedic knowledge covered all things outdoors, but here, we’ve compiled 18 of his greatest hunting tips, first published in the ’60s and ’70s. Though old enough to be antiques, these bits of advice still ring true, and we’re sure they’ll help you find success in the woods this season. —The Editors
Keep looking behind you when you are still-hunting for deer. A buck that stays hidden and motionless while you approach may step boldly out into the open to look you over after you pass by, giving you an easy standing shot at close range.
Wear a pair of inexpensive plastic rain pants between your long-johns and outside pants in wet weather. Your legs will stay dry, and there’ll be no wet shine or slapping noise to scare the ducks or deer. (Suggested by Skip Abel, Garland, Texas.)
If ducks flare away from your blind for no apparent reason, it may be due to light glinting off your gun barrel as you shift position to shoot. Try this: stick a strip of dull black tape along the top of the barrel. It peels off easily later.
To remove a dent from a gunstock, cover the area with a moistened cloth and press it with a hot Iron. The steam will raise the dent. Then smooth the steamed spot with fine sandpaper, followed by steel wool, and refinish to match the stock.
You can tell a knowledgable gunner by the way he closes the action of a double-barreled shotgun. You’ll notice that he always holds the barrels by the fore end and lifts the butt up to it so that the two parts click together. He never, not ever, slams it shut.
When you sight in a rifle, always use the same ammunition you plan to feed it when you hunt. This may seem obvious, but some hunters try to economize by using up old ammo for sightIng-in purposes, then buy new and different loads for hunting.
Most deer hunters who get their buck in the first hour of the first day of the season aren’t just lucky. They take time in the early fall to locate a runway or crossing that deer are using, and that’s where dawn finds them waiting on opening day.
Your binoculars give you a shaky picture because your pumping heart is sending little shock waves through your body. You can steady the image quite a bit, however, by holding the binoculars with both forefingers pressed against your forehead.
Dry-pluck game birds as soon as possible after they have been shot. The feathers let go easier then, and the skin of most upland birds—pheasant, grouse, quail, woodcock—tends to tear more readily after the bird has been allowed to cool and stiffen.
Use oil sparingly when you clean your rifle or shotgun. Lubricant left on moving parts can gum up the action, especially in cold weather. Also, excess oil may seep into the stock or foreend and cause rotting. Just a very thin film is enough.
Dip your nose into your hunting boots and inhale deeply. The pungent odor of dried foot sweat and swampwater will probably make you dizzy. To sweeten the boots, dust the insides with powdered Borax, a box of which you probably already have in the laundry room.
May and June are two of the best months for hunting crows. They are scattered new, and the young birds can be fooled by even a novice caller. So next time you go trout fishing take your gun and crow call along. If the trout won’t bite, the crows probably will.
Bird-hunting partners can locate each another quickly in thick brush if both wear blaze-orange caps or vests. The flash of color may prevent one hunter from shooting if a bird flushes toward the other. An orange collar will help locate the dog, too.
A small, compact binocular that can be carried in a pocket will be used more than a larger, more powerful one that is often left at home. For most purposes, a medium (6 or 7) power binocular with 35 mm objective lens is a good choice.
The term “gauge” refers to the size of a round lend ball that fits the bore of a shotgun. Example: a ball weighing 1/12 pound fits a 12-gauge bore; a ball 1/20 pound, a 20 bore. Exception: a .410, which is a caliber, is 410-inch bore diameter
Don’t be surprised if occasionally you bag a goose that is tough to carve and chew. Geese have a longer life span than any other game bird, so there’s more chance of shooting an old one. Geese have been known to live for several decades.
Many otherwise good cooks believe that venison should be cooked until it’s brown all the way through. Not true. Overcooking dries and toughens wild meat and destroys its natural flavor. Cook deer meat like beef: brown outside, red or pink inside.
Here’s how 11-year-old Brad Ludwig of San Antonio, Texas, makes a fox caller from two 6-inch plastic rulers: Stretch a small rubberband lengthwise over one ruler and bind flat sides of rulers together with bands over both ends. Blow like a harmonica.