Local man develops line of hunting novelty items, offers hunting tips
Mike Okray of Stevens Point has continued a life-long passion for the outdoors with a line of hunting-related novelty items sold on his website keepingitincamo.net.
Okray, who traveled around the world as a hunting guide with his former business Hunts West Inc., launched his line of Dapper Deer Camo that includes Dapper Deer Shirts, which are made to look like a deer hide.
“The people that hunt professionally think this is a really neat idea,” said Okray. “It’s a novelty item, we don’t want people going out in the woods hunting like this and getting shot, so we have disclaimers on them now.
“But it’s for when you’re going to the bar, you’re going up to the cabin, or you take your jacket off at a party or something like that,” he said. “It’s a nice, warm shirt to wear.”
A native of the Stevens Point area, Okray graduated from Pacelli High School and went to Lakeland College, where he formed the school’s first trapshooting team.
He took the Lakeland team to the 1973 Nationals and was invited to participate in the 1973 USA International Championships, while he also won the 1974 Wisconsin State Class AA International Clay Championship and had a tryout for the 1976 Olympic Games, before he began a career hunting professionally.
“I’ve hunted on every continent in the world and I’ve taken something on every single continent, from kangaroos in Australia, to musk ox in the Arctic Circle,” said Okray. “And I’ve hunted 46 states in the United States.”
In 1983, he started Hunts West Inc., which was based in Stevens Point, where he traveled the globe as a hunting guide and booked hunting trips for clients.
“For 18 years, I was hunting 250 days a year, year-round,” said Okray. “Because when it’s summertime up here, it’s fall and winter in South America and in Africa, so you can hunt every day of the year, if you’ve got the time and money to go.
“And I had clients from all over the world,” he said. “I can speak Spanish, so I had a lot of really good Spanish people from Mexico City and from Argentina and Buenos Aries and places like that, because I could do the paperwork in Spanish for them. And I never booked somebody on a hunt that I hadn’t been on first myself, so I could say, ‘here’s what’s going to happen, here’s the flights you take, here’s the guide’s name, this is what you can expect,’ and even really important things like, ‘here’s the clothes you should wear, here’s the kind of shots you’re going to be able to take, be prepared for 200-yard shots.’ And then they trusted me.
“I only had to advertise for the first two years in major magazines, and after that I had so many followers that they all came to me, because they told their friends, and they told their friends,” he said. “It worked out really well.”
During his travels, he set the Colorado state record for a non-typical whitetail deer that he shot in 1998, which was 38 points, weighted 311 pounds and had a Boone and Crockett score of 258 2/8 points.
“It still is the Colorado state non-typical record, it was No. 10 in the world, I don’t think it is any more, but it probably is in the Top 20 in the world,” said Okray. “A big whitetail will be 150 (pounds), so it’s twice the size, and when you see it mounted it looks mammoth.
“And we weren’t hooping and hollering when we shot it or anything, because it was just so out of context,” he said. “It was just so unbelievably large and so many antlers, you’re just kind of stunned by it.”
After 18 years he sold his business due to the amount of flying and travel, and is now the equipment manager at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), where he has worked in different capacities since 1996.
“I was flying from here to Buenos Aires, and that’s a two-day flight, and when you’re going to Australia, that’s two-and-a-half, three days, and it’s 18-hour flights,” said Okray. “And you’re losing your gun and you’re losing your bags, and your clients don’t show up on time because they got bumped, and it’s just the logistics of traveling that much.
“And I’ve got four kids, and I’d miss all of their birthdays and a lot of that stuff,” he said. “So I was ready to move on to something else. That’s a lot of traveling and a lot of things to hunt, but it was a lot of fun.”
Okray has written the books “Once Upon a Time in Camo,” and “I Dream in Camo” about his experiences, and under his local business “Keeping It In Camo,” he developed his Dapper Deer Camo line.
Among the items available are Dapper Deer Shirts, which are made to look like a deer hide, an idea that came to him while he was watching deer travel through a marsh outside his house.
“I really had a hard time following the deer as they walked through the chest-high grass and thought to myself, ‘they are really wearing nature’s perfect camo,’” said Okray. “The shirts have gone over real well, and now we’re going to do some advertising with some national hunting magazines this year.”
His products are available at keepingitincamo.net or by calling 715-310-HUNT (4868).
In conjunction with Keeping It Camo and the Dapper Deer Camo line, Okray offered eight Camo Tips for local hunters this fall:
1. How Far Was the Deer: When bow hunting, knowing the exact distance you’ll be taking your shot at that trophy of a lifetime, is one of the most essential parts of your hunt. Range finders are great aides, but why take a chance that the deer sees you move when you put it up to your eye and more importantly, wasting time when you should be preparing for the shot itself? How many times did you take a shot, missed, and said to yourself, “Darn, I thought he was closer than that or farther than that?”
An easy and inexpensive way to eliminate your guessing of yardage is to, whether you have a permanent stand from one year to the next or if you are just setting up the stand for the first time, before you actually hunt from your stand, step off 10-, 20- and 30-yard distances from your blind in all directions. You might take a shot and mark those distances with a small, three-foot stake. I spray the tops of my stakes with a little white paint, so I can easily see them in any dim light of early morning or evening. You’ll take the guessing game of distance out of the hunting equation and hopefully make more of your shots. Now go practice and know exactly where your arrow hits all those yardages.
2. Deer Deceiver: For a number of years, I hunted in an area full of white oak trees. This was a real magnet for deer to come in and feast on these tasty treats. That was the good news. The bad news, and I know this is hard to say, but sometimes there were too many deer there at one time. No matter how busy they were all eating away, there were always a few with their head up, looking around, making it hard to get a shot off without one of them seeing you draw your bow. I got around this by making a deception device that made every deer in the area look away from me all at the same time.
I would take a fishing line and run it from my tree stand over some branches 10 to 15 feet above the ground and tie it to a tree branch 30 yards in front of my blind with some heavy branches tied to the end of the string. When I gave the string a little tug, the branches at the end of the string would make a slight rustling sound and every deer that was eating would turn and look away from my blind to see what that noise was without being startled. I always had plenty of time to get a good shot off.
3. Using Turkey/Crow Decoys: When bow hunting, a hunter needs every advantage you can get, especially when your trophy gets up and close to your tree stand or ground blind. These last few yards that finally get your target into range are really crucial to you getting a good shot off.
A number of years ago, a small group of turkeys came out in front of my ground blind and began scratching around under the white oak trees where the deer usually came out to feed in late afternoon. Within just a few minutes, two does and a young fawn came into the area completely relaxed, which was very uncharacteristic of the three I had seen almost every afternoon. My reasoning for their calmness was because the turkeys were there and the deer felt much safer having ol’ eyes watching for the slightest danger. Since then, I have always put out one or two turkey decoys when I bow hunt. Place them at 20 yards from your blind and they’ll double as a yardage marker for when you get your shot.
4. Shot Placement- What Caliber to Use: The discussion is as old as hunting itself: should I use a .30-06 or a 308 or a 243? It all comes down to what you or someone in your family was brought up with or maybe even you believing in one of a thousand articles in hunting magazines that “prove” the .30-06 is “the” perfect caliber. Actually, when all is said and done, harvesting a deer has little to do with the caliber you are using, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many choices. In essence, it all comes down to the shot placement!
For example, if you and I are walking through the woods and two deer jump out in front of us at 50 yards, and you shoot at the deer on the right using a 416 Rigby (elephant caliber gun) and I shoot at the deer on the left using a light-caliber 243, both of us shoot our deer through the heart and both drop dead in their tracks, when we get up to our deer, which one is deader? The answer is neither. Both deer are dead. As you can see from this illustration, killing the deer had everything to do with shot placement, NOT caliber. The moral of the story is to use the caliber that you feel most comfortable with and the one you feel most accurate with.
5. Tree Stands Versus Ground Blinds: Hunting from a tree stand is fairly basic for most hunters. You’ll have a better overlook of the area you are hunting and (depending on your cover-up) your game won’t smell you as readily. If you’ve never hunted out of a ground blind before, however, you may be missing out on a great opportunity to score on your game. There are a number of advantages for hunting on the ground, compared to a tree stand: if it’s raining or snowing you stay dry and comfortable; your scent is contained much better in a ground blind than in a tree; your movements are not detected as easily; and ground blinds can be placed in marshes and other open areas that do not have a suitable tree for a stand.
The best part of a ground blind is that you are hunting at eye level with your prey, which brings a lot more excitement to the hunt. And, oh yes, did I mention that if you fall asleep in the ground blind, your farthest fall will be about a foot off your seat, compared to 15 feet from a tree!
6. Camo: The face is the most important part – ever been walking through the woods to your stand early in the morning and come upon a guy sitting in a tree who wasn’t supposed to be there? It can make a guy’s heart jump a beat for sure. Now if you think you were scared by seeing a man there, you can guess what fear comes over a deer when he sees that image. The human outline is the scariest thing an animal can see in its natural environment, so this is why we all wear some kind of camo when hunting. However, all the camo in the world won’t help your deception a bit, IF your face isn’t covered.
Camo face paint is good, but the very best is a full-face, mesh pullover when possible. The reason for this is that it covers the human eyes. If you find it hard to shoot with mesh over your face, at least be sure to wear a brimmed hat to pull down over your face and try to hide your eyes. To understand how important this is, have a friend put different face covers on and look at him at 30 yards. That way you can see for yourself exactly what a deer is seeing.
7. Lighted Nocks – Do They Really Work?: No matter how you feel about lighted arrow nocks, in the end, they are just another tool in hunting ethically with a bow. Some hunters feel we should all be hunting with long bows or not using bow scopes or even releases. All those options are personal choices, as long as they are legal and ethical. If any of these help make you a better shot, then they should definitely be a consideration on your hunts.
Getting off a good shot is one thing. Ethical recovery of that animal is a whole other situation. Lighted nocks and now vanes, where legal, are the first step in aiding in the recovery of your animal. Being able to see exactly where your arrow hits is crucial, especially when you’ll most likely be just a little excited after taking the shot. If the arrow goes completely through, you’ll be able to easily find the arrow and inspect it for the color of blood on the shaft and an indication of how vital the shot may have been. If the arrow stays in the deer, you’ll be able to follow the lighted nock a lot farther in the woods as the deer itself disappears. Most lighted nocks stay lit for 12 hours or more to give you plenty of time for recovery. It’s a great ethical aid in the sport of bow hunting that hunters should definitely consider for themselves.
8. A Juicy Deception: There are tons of cover-up scents on the market today, with every one claiming to hide most of all your scent while you’re hunting. A number of these products aren’t cheap either. I’ve tried my fair share and most seem to help to some degree, but I’ve found the very best can be had for only about $1.39 and a little prep time on your part. Not only will this household product nearly eliminate all your smell, it will actually draw deer into your stand!
Go to your favorite grocery store and buy a cheap can of frozen apple juice. Each time before you go out to your stand to hunt, put the apple juice in about a half-gallon of water and boil it. Once it’s boiling, put the mixture in a thermos jug and take it with you on your hunt. Once you’re out of the truck, put the hot apple juice in two large spray bottles and spray the bottoms of your boots and pants. While walking to your stand, occassionally spray some branches and the ground. Once you get to the blind, spray all the remaining juice in and around the outside of the blind. Being “hot” apple juice makes all the difference, as the fermented smell not only covers up your smell with a “natural” scent, it will also attract those apple-loving bucks!