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Author Topic: Mike Mitten  (Read 4288 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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Mike Mitten
« on: January 23, 2007, 07:00:00 PM »
Real Name: Mike Mitten
TG handle: Herdbull
Age: 47
Height: 6’ 1 inch
Weight: 220
Home State: Illinois
TradGang member number: 4488

(TG)- Tell us about yourself.

(Mike) - I have five children and one grandson. I live with my wife Paula and two teenage boys left at home. I have bowhunted for most of my life and have raised and trained treeing walker coonhounds for over 27 years.

(TG)- What do you do for a living?

(Mike) - I have worked for the same pharmaceutical company for over 22 years. The majority of the time was spent helping discover new anti-infective agents, but currently I work with a discovery team of cancer researchers looking for improved therapeutic advantages.  

(TG)- How long have you been bow hunting with traditional gear?

(Mike) - I started out in the seventies with a 35# Bear Tigercat that my Dad gave me for Christmas. My first deer hunts were with a 63# Bear Grizzly. I shoot instinctively, and like many of my friends used bare bow compounds and shot in the South Eastern (Wisconsin) Instinctive League for about ten years. In August of 1988 I bought a new 75# Jim Brackenbury takedown recurve, and ten days later was standing over a barren ground caribou I killed with it. I have gone back to hunting with recurves ever since.

(TG)- Any heroes? Any role models?  

(Mike) - Jesus is my only hero. My father has been a good role model for life’s lessons along with by football coach Keith Ryan and my first boss Bert Myra. In the world of archery I admire the Wensel brothers and appreciated stories I was told about Paul Schafer. I feel very connected to Bart Schleyer. I have talked to him on the phone and met him once in Alaska. My last recollection of Bart was having a two-hour conversation with him at Foster’s Taxidermy in Wasilla, Alaska. Bart was not upset by my interrupting his task of fleshing and scraping a grizzly bear hide (ironic).:>) We talked of past moose hunts and solo trips we each have had into the wilderness. Bart was just starting to guide grizzly hunters and we talked a little about the potential to hunt together. He also talked of his field work in understanding large predators including brown bear and tigers. He also talked of bow building (which I know little about) and use of ram horns.

(TG)- What got you started bowhunting?

(Mike) - Well, like a lot of kids living close to urban sprawl, we were not allowed guns, but the close range bow and arrow became our weapon to take squirles, rabbits, and birds. An adult neighbor, Marvin Stried, had an excelsior bale back-stop that he and his brother Loren used to shoot at with their “hunting bows”. My brothers and I were allowed to shoot at the bales whenever we wanted. We did not have many arrows, but knew if we raked up the old leaves behind the backstop we would have a good chance of finding some. Ha!

(TG)- Who first helped you get involved in traditional bow hunting?

(Mike) - Well, like I said earlier we had our weak little play bows but can still remember opening up the dozen cedar arrows and new Tigercat bow for Christmas in 1971. My dad used to bowhunt with an old Herters recurve. It had a compass imbedded into the riser. I think it drew 62#. He also had a Bear Grizzly.

(TG)- Do you remember the first animal you took with a traditional bow? Tell us about it!

(Mike) - I shot a lot of small game with my first recurves and hunted deer in Wisconsin with the Bear Grizzly...had a few shots but never took a deer. I shot many animals with the instinctive shot compounds, but I guess the first real recollection of a major traditional kill was the stalk I made on the bedded caribou. It was lying in the alders along a small pond in the Lake Clark area of Alaska. I quietly snuck up to the bedded animal and made the 15-yard shot. I suppose this hunt would be considered my true transition since I killed the caribou with the 75# Brackenbury recurve and a mature moose with an 85# Oneida compound bow that had 20% let off. I always had traditional values and shot instinctively and shortly after this hunt I got back with traditional equipment as well. I guess I would say that this transition back to trad gear also occurred with a few of my close friends along about this time as well. I remember giving my friend John Schnider’s wife Debbie all of the particulars (weight, bow length, style) so she could order a new Brackenbury to surprise him with at Christmas. It was a great surprise. Of course it did not take so long between ordering and delivery back then. I remember Jim B. was very accommodating meeting the Christmas Day dead-line! :>)

(TG)- Do you have any favorite memories or kills that stand out? Tell us about it!

(Mike) - I guess that the 3-week hunt I described a little above would stand up there. But the memory of my first bull elk will stay with me. I was hunting alone in the San Juan Wilderness area of southern Colorado. I had a two-week hunt planned and was seeing lots of bulls but having trouble getting close. I noticed on the map an area with steep walls and a tight pinch point restricting travel to the valley from below. I took my camp and packed down into “The Hole”. After having a few close encounters with bulls I finally got one to respond to my calling. I side hilled into some thick alder brush along a slight drainage. The bull was bugling and I was closing in. Finally we both worked our way to the point of a finger ridge. We were about ten yards apart. The only thing separating us was a huge boulder the size of a small garage or shed. The bull was screaming and chuckling. When he would rub on a tree on his side of the rock the limb would bounce up and down over my head. I new he was working his way out to the tip of the point. I got there first. As his head cleared the boulder he let out the worlds best full bugle and chuckling sequence. He then took three steps out and slightly down hill clearing a small spruce tree. He turned towards me and his eyes kind of lit up, but at 9 feet I was already at full draw. The arrow hit square and I found him about 75 yards down hill. It was a cool, rejoicefull, spiritual, fulfilling and yet scary feeling to sit next to the bull. The sun was setting; I was 3 miles down hill from my camp and knew full well the task at hand. There was no place I would rather be.

(TG)- Can you tell us a bit about your preferred hunting combo?

(Mike) - I have three 64 inch Brackenbury bows 60#, 75# and 78# as well as a 65# Wes Wallace. For the last few years I have been using the Wes Wallace on whitetail, mule deer, black bear, and moose. My arrows are 32 inches long 2219 Easton XX75 classic fletched with four five-inch right wing feathers. I have always shot feathers. I currently prefer Wensel Woodsman heads for every thing I hunt.

(TG)- What is the one piece of advice you would give a new hunter to aid him on his hunting ventures?

(Mike) - Well, I would tell him or her that to me hunting is not a sport; it’s a way of life! You will only get out of this way of life what you put into it, and the feelings of accomplishment and achievement cannot be bought. Sure, you can buy trophies, but feelings of self-satisfaction and self-reliance can’t be bought. Put your heart into it, shoot with both eyes open, and have fun!

It was described recently to me by a friend about an operation that would teach young hunters to shoot, track animals, woodsmanship skills, wildlife habits, hunter safety, and many other noble things to get them started as hunters. Then at the end of the week long class they were put into a tree stand in an enclosure filled with many deer. They could then shoot one when the time was right. Boy oh boy! This program sounded good right up until the organizers robbed the youth of their hunt. Don’t let someone else rob you of YOUR hunt.

Oh, I guess I would tell them to watch a movie called Primal Dreams. Ha! :>)

(TG)- What is your favorite animal to hunt?
(Mike) - Because of where I live I have an extreme passion for whitetail deer. I love to look for sheds, video summer deer, video film while hunting, take a mature buck from time to time, butcher, eat and even taxidermy mount the head. I’m totally connected. But, if I could only hunt, say for two weeks, I would have to go elk hunting. Because of the nature of elk, where they live, and how vocal they are during the rut I would have to put them on top of the list.

(TG)- Do you have or prefer a certain method of hunting?

(Mike) - I love calling and spot and stalk for elk and moose. I prefer a tree stand for whitetails. Although I have killed bucks while on the ground, I just feel at home in the trees. I love the visibility and I like to film when I hunt, so being in a portable tree stand is by far my preferred method.

(TG)- Does any of your family hunt or fish?

(Mike) - Yep, all my kids have fished or hunted with me and like many families have varying degrees of commitment to it. My youngest son will be hunting with me a little this fall if he keeps his grades up. Ha! My middle boys hunt whitetails and we have been going on our annual deer hunt over the Thanksgiving weekend together.
My dad and my three brothers have also been known to hunt a little. Ha!

(TG)- Do you have any bowhunting goals or plans for the immediate future?

(Mike) - Hunting never stops for whitetails. As I write this (February) I know I should be out looking for sheds. Ha! I am planning to go caribou hunting this September in Alaska with friend, or go on a moose hunt with well known bowyers, or a solo hunt for moose in Alaska.  I am not sure yet, but Alaska is definitely calling!!! :>)

(TG)- Do you make any of your own gear?

(Mike) - I buy the shafting and fletch most of my arrows. I play around with leather and make armguards, knife sheaths, and quivers. I have brain tanned a few hides.

(TG)- Where is the one place you would really just love to hunt?

(Mike) - I love Alaska. I would love to hunt Dall sheep some day.

(TG)- Do you primarily hunt private or public ground?

(Mike) - For whitetails, I primarily hunt on land that myself and my brother, David, own. For nearly everything else it is public ground and wilderness areas to get away from motorized vehicles.

(TG)- Do you prefer evening, mid day or morning hunts?

(Mike) - I usually hunt all day. I have done very well sitting in a tree stand from dawn to dusk. Depending on the species, I like mornings. Should I get lucky, it gives me the rest of the day to pack meat. Ha!

(TG)- What is your favorite type of camo?

(Mike) - Free! Just kidding. I get what ever is on sale. There is a Bass Pro Shop and a Gander Mountain close to home and I watch for sales. I also get hand-me-down stuff from Gene and Barry from time to time. Ha! I sometimes just hunt in green coveralls or my fringed elk shirt. I like King of the Mountain wool but have been using some fleece stuff lately...mossy oak I think.

(TG)- Do you normally use anything like scent covers or attractants, camo, or calls?

(Mike) - I just play the wind. I sometime use mock scrapes. I use calls for deer, turkey, elk, and moose. I do less rattling for bucks during the pre-rut and rut, but over the years I find myself doing more horn rattling in late December and January.

(TG)- Do you do any small game hunting?

(Mike) - Turkey, coyotes, and coons.

(TG)- Tell us what your dream hunt would be.

(Mike) - Hiking into the mountain wilderness of Alaska or the Yukon for a solo Dall sheep hunt. Of course this would be a dream in today’s world since a non-resident cannot hunt sheep alone in either state or providence.
A realistic dream would be to hunt an area with truly large and undisturbed bull elk.

(TG)- How long have you been filming your hunts and making videos?
(Mike) - I have been filming my hunts and the adventures I’ve had for over 20 years, but it has not been until up grading to digital format that the quality of the footage has reached a point to where duplication and the end product can be readily enjoyed by others. That is not to say that my friends and family did not enjoy my footage in Hi-8, but if you want to bring it to life as we all now expect, it lacked some clarity. I have never really used a guide on hunts, but have used outfitters to get me into remote drop-camps with planes or on horseback. I have, with my brother David’s help, put together some short promotional films for several outfitters. It was these short films that allowed our work to be noticed by our friends of many years, Gene and Barry Wensel. Thus was born our collaboration.  So, filming hunts I have done for many years, while actually making a movie…. Primal Dreams is the first.

(TG)- I noticed that Primal Dreams was dedicated to Bart Schleyer and you previously stated that you admired him. Do you go on solo hunts based on his influence or inspiration?

(Mike) - Well, I have known of Bart and his friendship with Paul Schafer for years. I have watched the footage that Paul took with the canon L1 camera of Bart’s taking of the great brown bear at close range many times. They both had great composure. I first talked to Bart on the phone many years later in the home of our mutual friend, Dan Foster in Wasilla, Alaska. Bart said he knew a lot about me as well as my brothers through the Wensels, and that he had read articles that I had written. Bart was the type of guy that would not talk too much about himself, but would ask questions and listen intently about others. He wished me well on my moose-hunting trip that would begin the following day. I would not say that Bart inspired me to hunt alone, since I had been doing so for many years, but he did confirm that it is OK to do so. :>)
We tried to include some of Bart’s hunt footage in our Primal Dreams film, but when that did not work out we collectively agreed to dedicate the entire project to him. I would like to thank The Foster Family for the hunt photos of Bart that we used. I am proud of the dedication and am pleased that it turned out so well.

(TG)- Do you have any fears of hunting alone?

(Mike) - Sure. Fear will rear it ugly head from time to time. :>)  and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I have been in close proximity to grizzly bears ( less than 30 yards ), but hypothermia is my worst fear. So keeping that in mind, it has definitely slowed me down when I hunt alone. I don’t quite go as far or push as hard as I would if I had someone with me. I take a little extra time to think; and knowing that I am carrying a 1½  pound down sleeping bag in my hunting day-pack helps a lot when the weather gets bad or the sun starts to set while I’m chasing that awesome bull. There are other types of worry that I have addressed over the years; that being my wife and family at home. I now carry a satellite phone during solo trips into the wilderness. It makes it a little easier for my wife to share in my life’s passion. Ha!

(TG)- Do you prefer hunting alone?

(Mike) - As I look back over the years, I suppose I have been on 11 solo hunts for over two weeks each since 1994 in states like Alaska, New Mexico, and Colorado. I don’t know that I prefer it, but many folks will attest it is hard to get on the same page with someone financially and time wise. You also have to be on the same page and in some cases have the same luck when you have to put in for preference points or limited draw for tags and permits. I guess it just kind of happens. I have done group hunts and partner hunts as well but I let the species dictate it. Antelope, black bear, hogs etc. kind of facilitate group hunts. Hunting alone did kind of come easy for me. I have been a selective hunter for whitetails for decades and that in it self steers one to a solo or one on one exchange with your quarry. I think of my self as being very adaptive. I can hunt in a group or alone. I can sit all day in a tree or spot and stalk all day.

(TG)- How do you define a successful hunt?

(Mike) - It certainly does not have to include a kill. Some of my greatest hunts did not include kills as a matter of fact. However, a successful hunt to me is one in which at least some opportunity aroused emotions that can be converted to life long memories. It may not always be the case, but a good hunt is one in which I can say, I did all that I could to get closer to the intended prey with the time allotted. This could mean a weekend hunt with my kids or a three-week trek into the Alaskan wilderness.

(TG)- Is there any thing else you want fellow Tradgang members to know about you?

(Mike) - It is tough to get to know someone by simply reading posts on a web site. As I think back at some of my answers to the questions that you have raised; I guess I may sound a little too serious at times when in reality I think I have a good sense of humor and have a lot of fun in my life. With a bow in hand and your intended prey within thirty yards, it’s serious business. Every thing else is fun and games!  

Mike recently did a radio interview about the award winning video he was involved in called Primal here to listen --->  Mike Mitten - Primal Dreams interview ...

Click here to view the Primal Dreams trailer---> Primal Dreams trailer  

To purchase Primal Dreams scroll down below Mike's pic.


 To purchase Primal Dreams, visit either of these sponsors.....   3 Rivers Archery  or      Black Widow Bows

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