Tuesday, December 22, 2009


No big story today…

I just want to thank everyone who has been visiting the Up North Journal, Beyond the Wild and our blogs. Thank you for spending your time with us and enjoying our discoveries and adventures.

Here’s wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Be safe this holiday and enjoy time together with those you love.

To my Talk Hunting family, I’ve set the dinner table with places for every one even if it’s only in my heart and mind. (I think the tables so crowded I’ll be sitting at the kids table!)


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009: Part 4

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009
Part 4:

Well, once again we’re all up at 5:15, heat up some beef bacon on toast and some orange juice, finish getting ready and out the door we go! The morning was quite and chilly with a light wind. Shortly after day break (around 7:30 or so) CamoGirl was glassing the fields and spotted a nice looking doe at the edge of the tree line. She stood there for quite a while, often looking back behind her. I though for sure she was watching a buck heading her way… Get ready CamoGirl! While we were watching her, a few comments were made about not getting a doe license for this area…hint, hint, hint. That hint was quickly changed to “boy am I glad you didn’t get a doe license for me” when the doe turned back to the wood line and gathered her little one with her… and another nice doe with a second little one. We watched them casually travel across the field about 40 yards in front of us and safely reach the next set of woods. I even got them on video tape.
Around 10 am, Ned and Mitch got down from their treestands and took them down (Their orange vests went on their backs for the hike out carrying stands). We met up and headed to the house, time to load the trucks.

It’s always a bit sad when we have to leave but we’re already planning on the next time we come up after the snow is down and it’s time to scout some more.

So for now, it’s Deer Camp 0, Deer 10. It’s kinda weird to spend so much time hunting and not doing the hunting my self but I would not trade it for the world. I had the time of my life enjoying some bow hunting and the opening of Michigan’s gun season with my daughter. A lot of laughs and a small amount of frustration but that’s why it’s called “hunting”. Look it up in the dictionary, I’m sure it’s defined as “…spending time in the outdoors, enjoying friends and family, learning and being a part of our American Heritage…”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009 : Part 3

Part 3:

Once again we got up and ready around 5:15 in the morning. We added some new Mike’s Magic but no deer were in the neighborhood this time. We did see some more Partridges again, been seeing a lot of them lately. A few squirrels and that was it. It’s all good though, a beautiful morning in the woods watching the sun come up with my daughter, can’t beat that. Oh, I did remember the crossbow cocking string this time…. 10 am we headed back to the house.

Since we were not going back out that night we had a few “chores” to do…. Jack’s mailbox has been the victim over the years of the local snowplow. A neighbor, a retired engineer, had designed a new mailbox post and precut most of the wood to help out. After Ned and Mitch had the post set (they started before we got back from hunting) we drove down to the neighbors place to take a look at his design and just chat a bit. After committing to memory his design we drove back to Jacks… guess what, the design did not match the precut wood we had…engineers, always trying to improve. No problem. Thirty minutes later, a new mailbox with space for a paper box on the cross posts. Jack made sure to put his 2 cents in…from the folding chair he brought out and sat in, on the edge of the road… this ain’t the city folks! Heck, a couple trucks drove by and didn’t even blink at Jack in his chair. LOL Lunch Time! Football Time! (hate roughing it! LOL). After a nice dinner of grilled chicken and pie, and a couple stories or two… it’s off to bed. Opening day is only hours away!

Opening Morning!

Well, we’re all up and moving practically before the alarm clock goes off! Coffee for Ned and orange juice for the rest of us, some toast and fresh beef bacon (if you’ve never had beef bacon you’re missing out! , but slice it very thin!) We all take care of getting ourselves ready and dressed, grab our guns (unloaded of course) and head out. It’s a nice crisp and cool morning, one perfect for some deer to be moving around. Not too many clouds in the sky which helped get the temperatures down more.
Anyways, we get to our popup blind and while CamoGirl is getting our chairs set and our gear inside, I walk about 20 yards in front and apply a liberal amount of Mikes Magic to some small trees and a scent wick. Then, it’s into the blind and zip up the door. Before we open the windows we get settled. I get the camera set up on the monopod and we load up the guns… well, we load up CamoGirl’s Marlin 30-30 since I’m only carrying my 454 as a “support” just in case and it’s already loaded (I have a CCW). Then we turn off the flashlights and open the windows just enough… I love being outside and experiencing the world waking up. I am so lucky that I get to share that with my daughter!

It’s now around 8:20, the sun is just coming over the trees and light is streaming in through the window next to me. CamoGirl, for some reason is getting something out and has handed me the 30-30. As I’m scanning the windows I first notice a patch of white that wasn’t there a minute ago. Then I realize that patch of white is the throat of a real nice buck about 35/40 yards directly in front of the blind… watching us! It takes a couple intense whispers before CamoGirl realizes what I’m saying and then it’s an intense moment or two as we get the gun back into her hands and I’m trying to get the camera (the cold camera) going! By this time, I think the bright light coming in from my side has allowed the buck to see us (probably me) moving too much and he decides to trot off…just before CamoGirl can get the crosshairs on him! She was excited and depressed at the same time! He was definitely a shooter. I didn’t stop to count the points but his rack was at least to his ears wide with a nice long main beam. I also didn’t get the camera on him in time… Needless to say, we were ready for some more deer now! But Murphy’s rule was in effect…one chance and one chance only it seemed. It was interesting to note that normally when daylight breaks we hear literally dozens and dozens to hundreds of shots. This day, by lunch I think we’d only counted less than 60. An unusually quiet opening day.

Do you see him?.....
........Nope, still not there.... but he was! Guess you'll just have to "imagine" him in the picture! LOL

After a nice lunch and a quick nap (ok, a little football watching too….) the whole gang headed out for the afternoon hunt. CamoGirl and I were ready this time! So we settled in to wait for that big buck to wander back in (thanks to Mike’s Magic!)…and waited…and waited…and waited…till the sun went down. Not a thing. Ned and Mitch saw a big coyote but didn’t take a shot as it meandered past there stand. Mitch thought it was a doe at first and buy the time they realized what it was it was too late to get ready and take the shot. Oh well, we’ve got lots of stories to tell about opening day, dinner is hot and the company couldn’t be better!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009: Part 2

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009
Part 2:

Friday Morning;
Morning came early at 5:15 but I don’t think I actually slept very much anyways…too excited! I don’t think CamoGirl slept either. After a quick breakfast we geared up and headed out. It was clear, quiet and cold. Even the Partridge we spooked settled down quickly again. I always give my daughters the choice of how long they want to hunt. It would be a mistake to have them get too cold or have to sit longer than they really want to and I want them to enjoy the experience. So, when CamoGirl said that she was cold and wanted to go in at 9 am, I said fine but reminded her that I took my 9 pointer around 9 … she still wanted to go in. No problem.

I packed up the camera and we lowered her bow. Next, I had control of her safety strap while she got herself off the stand and onto the ladder. Since the strap is not quite long enough to secure to the tree above me, I needed to bend over my stand while she was getting to the ladder. Just about this time I hear a “crunch, crunch, crunch” in the leaves behind me… Here comes a young doe right in to our stand. Great, CamoGirl is on the ladder, her bow is on a rope hanging just above the ground and I’m bent over my stand guiding her safety strap. All I need to do is drop my drawers to moon the doe and we’re all set! LOL. Did I mention that the doe walked right up at 10 yards from the stand…and stood there nibbling leaves…for 20 minutes! My back is starting to hurt, CamoGirl is literally hugging the tree and I’m trying not to laugh cause this has just got to be too funny! (thank goodness the camera was packed away!). Eventually the doe meanders away and CamoGirl looks at me and asks if we could stay…”just a little longer….” Back into he stand, pull the bow back up and reset the camera. Just in time. Here comes a nice little 4 pointer straight at me. Unfortunately, he is coming at me, just a little to my left…which makes him just too far to the left for CamoGirl. He walks within 15 yards of me and continues around the our tree. We’re hoping he’ll continue around and present a right side shot. I’ve been filming him but since he is around the tree now I move the camera and try to re-position for a better angle. Busted! I think he heard me move and he bounds off…right back past me! CamoGirl gives me the “look”…sorry… I must not have made him too nervous because he didn’t spook the next deer to approach! A nice big mature doe was walking towards us threading her way through the trees. Unfortunately, she never moved to the trail to present a shot and shortly moved back out of range and back into the deeper woods. So much for getting out of the stand at 9am! Wow, what a morning.

Time to do a little shooting;

We always make sure our guns are sighted in once we’re up north. Also, since CamoGirl asked, I was going to let her us my Marlin 30-30 this time and she needed some practice with it. We loaded the guns into the Bronco and headed down to the local gravel pit were everyone spends a little time doing the same thing we were planning. When we arrived, there were about 5 cars there already but some were packing up and we were able to pull up to a nice spot were I could use the Bronco as a gun bench. To start with, I put a small pumpkin out at 25 yards (we brought a few 6” to 8” pumpkins to shoot at) and got out the 30-30 for CamoGirl to shoot. I’d been trying to locate some managed recoil loads but they have been impossible to find. So, I started her out with some 150 grain loads. I showed her the loading and the way the Marlin safed. Then I set her at 25 yards and get her positioned good, told her to shoot at the top of the little pumpkin and let it fly… She looked at me once, looked through the scope and BLAM! The pumpkin was flat on top! Oooookay, let’s move the pumpkin out to 100 yards and let her get some practice in. Same routine, safety, load, form, ready… told her to aim at the top again…. BLAM! Another flat headed pumpkin! This girl can shoot! I let her run a few more rounds though the gun… on target every time! I told her WOW!, take a break and let dad get some shooting in! Since I brought up my Tikka T3 in 300WSM to carry as a backup incase I needed to “assist” her shot (I didn’t want her to have to track a long running deer or have one go too far….) I needed to check it too. Since she had left me the bottom half of the pumpkin at 100 yards…. Gee, the 300WSM sure does make pumpkins vaporize nice…. There was one piece left so I just had to make sure it was more “biodegradable”…. Hehehe. Ok. Back into the case for that gun. I also brought up my 454 Raging Bull. I had just put a new Leupold scope on it and I needed to sight it in because I would be using it for the season back at home. I started with a pumpkin at 25 yards…out of the box that scope was on and the pumpkin teleported to who know’s were! So I set up on a paint can someone set out at 100 yards… within a few shots I had the scope adjusted for the longer range shots. I ran through 20 rounds just cause I love shooting that gun, it’s my favorite to shoot! The other guys shooting looked a bit nervous though….. Next, a couple rounds through CamoGirls 20 ga autoloader just to get a pattern on the new slugs (in case she changes her mind on the 30-30). I can’t shoot that gun in form because the youth stock is too short and I keep punching myself in the nose with my trigger hand. Geez, she’s bugging me to let her shoot some more through the 30-30 again! Finally, I have to call it quits only because we’re about to run out of ammo for it! (and I even loaded a few 170 grainers and she didn’t notice). She did shoot my Ruger LCP .380 but didn’t like it. I warned her that the recoil is nasty because the gun is so small. She’d probably like shooting my 454 better….couldn’t quite convince her to try it though. Time to head back to the “camp”, what a blast! (sorry, pun intended!) One note: Just as we were packing up, and you wouldn’t know if we were starting or stopping at that point… a truck drove up and pulled around my Bronco and parked sideways right in front of our shooting, 10 yards away! What an Idiot! Since I was already getting set to leave I let it drop but talk about stupid! I should have continued on with my 454 a bit….bet he would have moved his truck….

Bow time!
After we got back, had lunch and a little rest we geared up again and headed out. This time CamoGirl took out the crossbow for a try. It’d give her a little more range (honestly they don’t have a whole lot more range) and she wouldn’t have to worry about the cold. We freshened up the drag line with some more Mike’s Magic and headed into the stand. Once we got there I realized I had forgotten the crossbow cocking string, which I had mad a point not to forget… Now, if you’ve ever cocked a crossbow, a compound crossbow, by hand…I’m impressed. They have 175lbs of draw and you have to get the string into the safety lock and balanced correctly… I took one look, decided I was not going to mess up her hunt by going back for the cocking string and got that string cocked so easily I felt like I could have done it with two fingers… and got it balanced! (thank goodness!). We got settled in our stands, CamoGirl with her crossbow and me on the camera…and waited. A few squirrels and a couple of Partridges made appearances. It got late enough that I put the camera away…just as a little doe came in under our tree. Too small to shoot but it was fun watching her for a few minutes. Time to go in and this time I remembered the flashlights! We got in just as Ned and his son Mitch, arrived. Perfect timing to help them unload and get ready for dinner. I wanted to show them the video footage of the big buck and the 4 pointer but realized I forgot the RCA cords to hook it to the tv. After dinner and a few stories it was off to bed. We decided that CamoGirl and I would hunt the morning in the Trail of Terror and then let things be until opening morning on Sunday

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009

Deer Camp with CamoGirl 2009
Part 1:

Well, after that exciting first duck hunt with Chico and Mike I had to put my deer cap back on (but I did hang that nice leg band from the rear view mirror) and get everything loaded and ready to go north. This was going to be a big hunt for CamoGirl (my daughter) and me, she is really looking forward to doing some serious hunting. I’ve got so much stuff to load that I had to pull the back seat out of the Bronco just to make room… Not only will we be gun hunting but we’ll be doing some archery hunting the first couple days (including getting out with a crossbow). Since plans fell through with getting up last month to set up, we need to get up as early as possible to get a couple stands placed and the pop up blind set up so the woods will settle down and get used to them. So, in go the climbing sticks, the hang on stand, two pop up blinds, two bow cases, a cross bow, two gun cases (4 guns), ammo bag, gear bag, back packs, heater, fuel, water, food, cloths, boots…..etc, etc…good thing it’s only CamoGirl and me in the truck! The Bronco is packed and parked in the garage ready to go! Now, we just need to try and get some sleep….right.

Thursday Morning;

I got CamoGirl up at 7:30…she sure got up faster than on a school day… We were already packed up except for the cold food so we got on the road fairly quickly. We were on the way North! It’s about 180 miles to Jacks place and I only had to reset the cruise twice the whole way. Jack’s place is the year round home of my buddy Ned’s mom and dad….Sandy and Jack (see, I Know Jack! Lol). I’ve been going to Jack’s place for about 16 years now with Ned. It’s more of a tradition than it is a deer convention. It’s one of those places you go to get away from the office and the noise to spend a few days with friends. In those 16 years I’ve only harvested two deer… a 9 ½ year old doe (DNR aged) and our camp record 9 point. The last few years Ned and I have started bringing our kids up as they showed interest in the trip and interest in the hunt. This is the place were stories are made and tales are created!

Anyways, we get to Jack’s just before noon. Jack is waiting for us but Sandy is in town shopping. So, it’s a quick hug for Jack and we’re off into the woods to set up the Trail of Terror. The Trail of Terror has been the all time producer of the camp. It’s the personal location of Ned and he has taken many nice does and a nice selection of small bucks from this spot. It’s also the spot were I harvested my camp record 9 point! … the first time he let me hunt it… since he had to hunt on the private land when his son first hunted before he was old enough to legally hunt public land. (His son hunted it the next year and got a nice little 3 pointer for his first northern deer) So, CamoGirl and I carry out two hang on stands and get the Trail of Terror set up. We use two stands since this is were we can sit with the kids in the same tree. It’s a split trunk, we put a ladder on one side and stagger the two stands on the primary trunk, one offset and just above the other. We’re setting this spot up first since Ned has given his blessings to CamoGirl to hunt it the first couple days with her bow… we want the stand up and settled as quickly as possible. 40 minutes later we’re back at the truck to pick up the next stand.

Our next stand to put up is called the Leaning Tree. This is a spot I set up a number of years ago on the edge of the woods over looking a small open field… in a leaning tree… I just have to add blocks to the bottom of the hang on stand to level it out. This is a great spot and I experienced one of those…”just one more step” opporunities a few years ago. Nice big buck heading for the field but stopped up behind a branch that was in the way of the bow shot…. One more step was all I needed, but he winded me and was gone. I also saw a couple of bears from this stand a couple years ago. I’m not planning on using this stand but it’s were we can put Ned’s nephew if he decides to come up this year. Done and back to the truck again.

The last task is to put up a pop up blind for CamoGirl and me to hunt out of for gun hunting. It’s a quick walk and within minutes the blind is set up and we’ve brushed it in. Time to get out of the woods.

This year we decide not to hunt our other two spots… Cone Head and the Hill of Horror… I’ll save those stories for another day.

Sandy’s back so we get in the next round of hugs, get the Bronco unloaded and grab some lunch before we gear up for some bow hunting.

First Night Bow Hunt;

After lunch and a rest, CamoGirl and I got ready for our bow hunt. Even though I had brought my bow (and guns) this was CamoGirls hunt so my bow never left it’s case. We got dressed, grabbed our gear and headed out. When we got to the edge of the woods and the beginning of the trail to the Trail of Terror, I got out a scent wick and some string and gave it a good soaking of Mike’s Magic. We quietly walked to the stand while I created a drag line with the scent wick and got up into the tree. With the stands set one above the other, I got into mine first and then had CamoGirl climb the ladder and hand me her safety strap before she stepped towards her stand. Once she was in and all secured I set up the Gorilla camera arm and got my camera ready for some action!

It was a beautiful afternoon, no wind and just cool enough to have the deer moving. Every 30 minutes or so, CamoGirl would check the area and then draw her bow to make sure she was not getting cold muscles. Unfortunately, after a few hours her arms got cold enough that she was going to need a rush of adrenaline to get that string back…just as the doctor ordred, we heard leaves being stomped into the ground. It was just getting dark enough that I was concerned that the camera would not be able to see anything and here he came… right down the drag line with his nose buried in the Mike’s Magic! This bruiser was doing his best to stop the leaves out of his way! We could hear him sniffing and snuffling as we watched him follow our trail right towards us! It was just dark enough that you could make out his rack but not count it easily…but I didn’t need to, this guy had a huge body with a thick neck and there was no mistaking that he was looking for a girl friend. He stopped about 25 yards out and eventually walked broadside across the trail heading away. Now I know that CamoGirl really, really wanted a shot at this big boy but she know’s her range with her set up at 35lbs is 20 yards. She could take the shot but it wouldn’t have the penetration she wants. So she just watched that buck walking away. A few grunt calls got him to stop but not walk back… he eventually bounded a few strides away so I tried the doe bleat. He turned right around and headed strait back! Unfortunately, by the time he got back in range I had to shut the camera off and CamoGirl had to turn off her lighted pins….it was just too dark. Now we were stuck! That monster was now within 15 yards of our stand and sniffing away…not showing any desire to leave now! We ended up spending another 30 minutes in the stand past shooting light waiting for him to leave without spooking! I can honestly say, you don’t need to have a bow in your hands to get buck fever! I think I was shaking more than CamoGirl!

We finally got down from the stands and I realized that I had forgot one thing… a flashlight! Oops. It’s not that dark and we’re not that far from the house so we start walking back. I don’t remember that many little trees in the field but I’m sure we found them all, the hard way. CamoGirl did make a comment about being glad she was not a boy with all those waist high thick tree/bushes we ended up walking “over” … gee thanks. Remember me, walking behind you….thanks for the warning.

Well, the first night has been a success as far as I care. We made it north, got our stands set up and had a very exciting first night of bow hunting…and my daughter is really excited about the whole thing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foggy Ducks!

Ok, It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m ready for work to let out so I can finish packing for the grand trip north for deer season with my daughter! Just then, I get a call from Mike, from Chico, from Mike and then again from Chico…. Some how I have now thrown packing to the wind because I’m going DUCK HUNTING! Wahoo! ….I have to be at your house at WHAT TIME?!? …and I thought the ducks were the Quackers! OK, ok, I’ll be fair… I’ve been after Chico and Mike all season about getting me out duck hunting. I’ve been slowly gathering the necessary gear and had everything except waders, shells and a Duck Blind camo coat. Also, after talking with Chico, Mike, Mack and George Lynch (!!!) Sunday, I was really aching to get out and whack some quacks! So duck hunting is on and deer packing is on the back burner. Chico has some waders for me and Mike has a coat! They said something about a boat and sitting in water… sitting??? Must have heard wrong, they said boat too….

I get home and tell the wife the “good” news. The look she gives me when I tell her I need to get up at 2 am is censored (go figure). We have parent teachers conferences tonight and voice lessons after wards. Then I get to load up my gear, have dinner and grab a couple hours sleep. I guess I’m just a little bit excited since I don’t fall asleep until about 11:30 and I wake up at 1:15…wide awake. That’s ok with me, I need to stop on the way to Mikes and get gas and then swing by Meijer’s for a box of shells. (I also grab some long johns since I couldn’t find mine…) Now, at Meijer’s they have 3 ½” steel shot in #2 and BB size…hmmm… Chico said #2, Mike said BB… BB is on the top of the stack so that’s how I decided. I have since learned that for ducks, I’ve just load up like driving a tank at a tracker pulling contest… just a little on the heavy side. …and Man, are those shells big! (should be fun!). Off to Mikes!

Ok, since I got up earlier than planned, Meijer’s had everything I needed and no lines (2 am is a good time to shop!), I get to Mikes at 2:40. He did say we had to leave no later than 3:20…so I’m good. Instead of banging on the door I decide I’d better just sit a few minutes and look at the stars (and put on my new long johns). Around 3:00 I decide I should turn on my headlights just in case Mike looks out the window. He did, and gave me a funny look too when I said I was there, awake and ready to GO! It did take him a few more minutes to get his coffee and put his pants on. We loaded my truck and were on the road by 3:20, just as planned! (Mike stilled looked a little sleepy though) The drive up to Chico’s took about 40 minutes, or so… fog is starting to set in pretty good. We park in front of his house and dump all the gear by his truck while Mike knocks on the door. A quick load and we’re ready to go…. Except that Chico can’t find his license…! Yikes! I’m thinking to myself that this guy duck hunts like mad and he lost his license…o k. (just kidding Chico!). Eventually it’s found in his duck bag and we climb in and start driving. Chico puts in his lucky sound track of country hits and tells us he’s worried because we don’t have time to stop and get his lucky coffee… We’re going to the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Federal Waterfowl area and have to check in at the St. Charles office for our hunting spot draw by 5 am. We get there in time and Chico gets the second choice for our blind area. Now, we can stop and get Chico his lucky coffee. (every thing we can do to increase our luck, I’m all for it!).

We pull into the boat launch area and I’m starting to get a better understanding on the waders part… we’re going to be taking the boat to our location and then “sitting” in the corn rows of a flooded corn field. Might be wet. Should have said, might be deep! We load the boat, get it started and head down the drainage canal to our spot. Did I mention that it’s foggy and the gas line has a vapor leak…? Did I mention that it’s a 14’ boat with three large men in it…? And I’m in the front, watching the water running awfully close to the top of the boat… I’m thinking “light” thoughts…

Even though it’s just under 30 degrees out, it’s crisp and cold, foggy and I don’t have a clue what we’re doing… I am having the time of my life! And the ducks and geese are making tons of noise already!!!!

Anyways, we finally make it to our area. We pull the boat over the canal edge and walk it to the corn rows. Chico picks a spot and starts setting out the decoys while Mike starts to set up his camera and I help (what little I do) were I can. Now I understand what they were talking about sitting in the water, in the corn. The water is just to the tops of our knees. Chico had told me the day before to take a couple of 2x4’s and make a seat. 30” with a short piece “T’d for the seat part….hmmmm sounds a little iffy… I decide to make my own since Chico was a little vague on the height vs. water part. In 30 minutes I have a steel tube with a detachable support arm and a 12” adjustable seat, swivel seat. Turns out to be a good design. I “plant” my seat in the second row of corn, between Chico and Mike and adjust the seat to put me just above the water (after it settles in the dirt). Chico walks the boat back a ways and into the corn, covered it up and once he’s in his seat we load the guns. Mike’s got the camera ready, Chico is asking for minute by minute calls for shooting time and I’m sitting in 30 degree weather, in a field of corn/water, listening to a zillion ducks and geese, holding my new Remington 887 and happy as could be! And I haven’t even shot anything yet!

It’s shooting time. We see a few ducks and geese flying up from the sanctuary but nothing coming our way. Around 7:20 Chico calls duck, take’m! there is a solo duck flying in from Chico’s side across in front of us. Chico shoots, misses, I shoot (not even sure if I had the gun all the way up I’m so excited!), miss, Mike shoots, misses, I shoot again and watch the duck just fold right up and drop! I got my first duck!!!! WAHOO! Mike goes and retrieves the duck out of the corn row, so we can’t see him until he gets back. He asks, “now, who actually shot this duck?”.. I said, I pretty sure it was me…. A little hesitantly because I’m not sure if I did something wrong or not…. And Mike holds up the duck…It’s got a BAND! My first duck and it’s banded!! WOW!!!! A beautiful Mallard drake with a band! ( and I did not even feel those 3 ½ inch loads!) I tuck his head under his wing and set him right next to me in the water. Cool, Cool, Cool! I can hardly believe my luck! Maybe after I’ve put in a lot more hours of waterfowl hunting I’ll really understand how lucky I am to have dropped a banded bird! Chico’s lucky coffee and CD really work!!!

After that, we’re not really getting any birds flying our way. A couple come cruising in but we can’t connect. 8 am rolls around and I mean Rolls…the fog rolls in and we can hardly see the decoys! Chico spots a hen mallard fly in and she lands just out side of the decoys. He calls a few times and she gradually comes a little closer. Mike is the only one who can see her at this point and he tries to put the smack on her but she’s too hard to line up on and she takes off… in front of Chico and me. I can’t hit her, Chico can’t hit her and she swings around Chico. He still can’t connect and I try one more time. Unfortunately, I’m still a little to close to Chico’s zone and he gets a little “powdered” by my last shot… Chico, can you hear me? Chico? Chico, I’ll use hand signals…? (I think Chico wanted to use a “hand” signal to me….) Sorry buddy, at least I was not the first one to get you… “sounds” like you’re everyone’s favorite powder point! I do feel bad about not opening my zone more and deafening Chico that way.

That hen was the last bird we saw until about 10 am the fog was so thick. You could hear birds flying by, low, but you could not see anything! Speaking of hearing birds, when a whole flock takes off the water….WOW what a sound it makes!

Once the fog moved out, we did find out were the hunters in the area we wanted were…. Twice we watched ducks on “approach” to our decoys, only to watch them fold up over the corn in front of us as they flew over that group of hunters. Oh well, that’s how it works.

We decide to call it a morning and gather up all the decoys, case the guns and load up the boat. We push it back to the canal and get in only to find that we really have a gas line problem. Chico figures out he can keep us moving if he keeps the speed down to prevent the vacuum from choking the line. Back to the truck with my banded mallard and we load up and head back to the DNR station to drop of the hunt card.

I think Chico has a thing for bands… he kept trying to get the one off my duck for some reason…!

Mike, Chico, I can not possibly thank you guys enough for getting me out on my first waterfowl hunt. It was new, exciting and I actually got extremely lucky with my first bird being banded! Thank you!

Chico buddy, thank you for getting everything together and getting us out! You can shoot the next one with a band! Anytime you need someone to hold down the line, give me a call!

Oh yea, the Remington 887 performed flawlessly!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I've been Lynched!

Well, this weekend sure was an interesting one. First, instead of getting out and doing any bow hunting I was down in Dundee at the local Cabelas working for Mossy Oak at the Deer Classic show. Kind of a tough weekend to be working, the weekend before Michigan’s Whitetail gun opener. Business was a little slow and it certainly seemed like there was almost a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men in the store. Business looked a little brisker on Sunday, the day I got Lynched…

Now, if anyone has been listening to the podcasts you know that Mike has been working on a project for George Lynch, you know, Lynch Mob Calls. George was stopping in to meet up with Mike and Chico on Sunday and I happened to luck out by having lunch with them when he stopped by. Our listeners (and readers) will also know that Mike and Mikey and Chico have all been trying to get me out waterfowl hunting this year. I’ve bought a new Remington 887 and even bought my waterfowl license. Besides that, I’ve been serenaded by Mikey and his variety of calls time and again… I even think he’s now called the “Bling Master” or something like that. To actually meet the man responsible for Mikey’s “vocal” obsession and a large proponent of many of the waterfowl conversations, I’ve listened to was very exciting.

To see George walking through Cabelas, you’d never know the man behind the product without realizing he’s one of those folks who just does not need to be anyone other than who he is to do what he loves doing. He looks like anyone’s country neighbor, laid back, friendly to a tee, welcoming and I’ll bet someone you could sit on the porch with over a beer or two and talk until the air ran out. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s not one of those folks who’ll talk your ear off and bore the saints out of you. George just has so much information, ideas and stories worth listening to, he’ll never have enough time to get them all out. I’d love to sit on that porch, listening and talking until the air ran out, I’d just be ticked that I’d have to pass out from lack of sleep and miss something. (I don’t think George would sleep, he seems like he’s got too much energy).

Telling myself that since I’ve never waterfowl hunted I probably will get totally lost talking with George, I sat and listened and did my best. I got lost on a few points in terminology (heck, I can barely tell a mallard from a wood duck…sitting still) and a few discussions on decoy placement had me wondering what those guy’s had been eating, but I sure started to get fired up about getting out. Hunting ducks and geese is really starting to sound like a great time to get out with friends. It sounds like it’s really a social hunt, the best type of hunting if you ask me. I used to wonder what was so much fun when you see pictures of waterfowlers in the rain and snow, freezing and wet… then I thought of what I’ll go through to be in the deer woods with a bow or gun… Time to get off my behind and go sit in the water or the fields and look up, instead of down.

So George, I just need to pick up some Duck Blind camo and I think I’m ready to go. Mike, Mikey and Chico had better watch out cause I’m probably gonna start buggin the duck snot out of them to help get me out. I might even ask Mikey to teach me a few tunes on a call or two. (Yikes and sorry to anyone in range when I try…) ...Also, my daughter has already asked me to take her Goose hunting... Guess I can make it a family outing!

Some day I hope to have the proficiency to use one of George’s calls and do it justice. He’s put his heart and soul into them and I’d be ashamed to do any less.

Thanks for shaking my hand George, hope we can do so many more times down the road. Honk, Quack and a story or two.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Building a blind for Up North

With today’s economy, building a nice permanent deer blind (or shack as we call them) can get a little pricy. But, as luck would have it, I was helping my cousin out at his building when they had 8 new roof top A/C units delivered, delivered on pallets. Now these are not A/C units you’d have by your house, these are units about 8’ long and 6’ wide…and the pallets are just as big. When I was asked to break the pallets apart for trash pickup light bulbs began to flash and I carefully disassembled them instead. Loaded them in my truck and brought them home, visions of deer shacks in my mind.

Deer shack time. I now had piles of 2x4’s, 2x6’s, 2x8’s and tons of 1x4 and 6s from 6 feet to 8 long (much to the dismay of my wife). Now that I had all the lumber, I needed to design the shack. One of the first considerations I had to plan on was how to pre-build a blind so as not to spend too much time disturbing our hunting area. Then I had to design the shape and how high it needed to be. I figured it needed to fit two hunters (daughter and me) and allow me to go to full draw on my bow, standing…so…about 7’ 6" in the front and 6’ 6” in the back.

With the pallet boards being 6’ long I figured they were already cut for me! So the blind is 6 x 6. I built the platform/floor out of the 2x6 and 2x8’s framed out in two 3’ x 6’ sections that would get bolted together once in the woods. I used the remaining 2x6’s for the flooring. This would be one heavy but very solid blind. I built it so that once the two sections were bolted together down the center, a center floor board would be finished in and two 2x8 frame boards would be bolted to the sides to complete the structural re-enforcement. Hey, I’m a big guy and I don’t want to fall through the middle….especially with my daughter there (she’d probably be ok and would just laugh at me…)

I built each wall in two parts, the primary (bottom) being 6 wide and about 3 tall, and the upper which size would depend on which wall it was on. With the frame being made of 2x4’s I used all the 1x6 and 4’s to make the exterior sheeting. To help prevent rain and snow from coming in, I ran all the boards across my table saw and put 45 degree angles on all the edges. I built the primary sheeting with the boards running horizontally and the 45 degree cuts let them lock up perfectly. I built 3 primary sections and temporarily attached them to the base. I then built each upper wall section, leaving the window areas open until we set the blind and decided the best shooting lanes. I ran the 1x4’s horizontally above the windows to provide a good drip edge for rain. With the 3 uppers built and attached to the primaries, I built a frame for the back that would include the door. The door would only be just wide enough to allow me to get through without making noise. The “back wall/door” section is the largest piece since it needed to have the door frame. I once again attached the 1” stock vertically for the lower portion and left the rest open until we set the stand. A couple of 2x4’s notched for roof support and a couple sheets of ply on top that would be covered in roofing paper and shingles later… and it’s done!. The daughter and I use some spray paint to make dark breakup lines on the blind and she paints the inside a bit in red " A Team" ... Up north it's pretty much me and my buddy against the kids and his dad. We're the B Team and they're the A Team. I think we're ahead in points but the A Team seems to have their own point system ... age, gender, age ...who knows. We're still ahead.

I mark all the boards for location and within 15 minutes the blind is in about 12 pieces and ready to haul up north. It’s late Sunday night so I clean up and head to bed.

The wife is happy all that lumber will soon be out of her driveway too…

The first thing next morning I get a call from my hunting buddy… He threw out his back Sunday.

Today, I’m ordering a Smart Air blind from Gorilla Blinds (http://www.gorillablinds.com/). It’s tall enough for me to shoot my bow out of.

I'm holding off on lots of pictures for now. We're still going to haul the blind north, just not set it up until after the season is over. We've got a new 30 acres that is being timbered over the winter and it will open up new shooting lanes so we might change were we're going to place the blind anyways. When we set it up, I'll take pictures of all the pieces and the finished blind and post them... like I was going to do this week.

Still, the blind only cost me some time and a box of bolts/screws. I can't complain...one mans trash is another mans treasure!

Monday, October 26, 2009

My First Buck with a Bow.

Finally I got to go hunting! Wahoo! Saturday was out because I had a house full of CamoGirls friends sleeping over for her “friend” birthday party. Yes, I know, it was an excellent excuse to LEAVE the house… but it was also raining like Noah was building another Ark. So, Sunday morning, light rain, cool, no kids in the house (besides my own)… I loaded up the Bronco and off I went. Even overcast and misting it was a beautiful morning to be in the woods, with 10,000 chipmunks and a couple squirrels. But I am not complaining. When I came down from my stand I saw a couple kids up on the ridge behind me playing… oh well. I went home got some lunch, napped (needed after the other night). I headed back out around 3:15 and the sun had finally decided to peek out once and awhile.

Around 5:30 I watched a nice buck walk past at about 60 yards. He seemed to be on a mission. He came out of the same trail I walk to my stand but he didn’t turn towards me, he just kept going up the ridge towards the private property behind me. In case you haven’t read my other blogs, I hunt public land just a few miles from my house. Needless to say, my adrenaline was up a bit and I was really watching for movement now. About 70% of the leaves are down so I can see from one swamp to the other, it’s just a matter of looking in the right direction at the right time.

Not too long after the buck disappeared I heard some noise behind me that could have been a bow shot. Then nothing for a few minutes. Then, CRASH. I turn around and see the buck cruising down the ridge right towards me! I stand and get ready but he’s hit a flat spot on the ridge behind some brush were I saw those kids and disappeared. …waiting….waiting… I hear some thrashing and finally see the head and shoulders of the buck peeking out. Something doesn’t look right though. He dips down and back up a few times… then he comes a little farther out and I can see that he is thrashing on his front legs while his hind quarters is still down. Well, a few thoughts race through my mind at this point. I’ve been watching him for a few minutes through my Leupold range finder (first time I got to use it…very clear!) and I have not seen a wound. So, could it be the kids were setting leg traps? Did he get caught up in some barbed wire from an old fence line (lots of those in the woods)? Or is he wounded in his hind quarters and unable to move? I watched him run down the hill so the wound theory is iffy because I’ve been waiting to see if he expired and while he’s struggling, he’s definitely not going to be laying down for the long sleep any time soon. I wait another 10 minutes to see if a hunter makes an appearance…no such luck. By now, it’s been about 20 minutes and I’ve got to make a decision.

My hunt is not and never will be worth sitting there watching an animal struggle like that.

I leave my gear in the tree and quietly climb down. He’s about 60 yards away, up hill but there is no way I can sneak up on him all the way. I creep slowly up the hill using trees and brush as much as I can to try and avoid upsetting him further. I make it to about 5 yards away before he will be able to finally see me. I have decided that if I get close enough to see he’s been wounded, I’ll finish the job. But, if he’s caught in a trap or fence I will call for assistance and see if we can cover his head and get him freed… not something to try by myself with an animal carrying all those sharp points on his head!

I’m standing behind a large tree so to mitigate his stress and struggles. I go to full draw in case he’s wounded and step out. He’s on his front legs and immediately throws himself in the opposite direction when he sees me. That’s when I see the arrow wound directly over his spine on his hind quarters. He spins back immediately and I gently squeeze the release, sending 400 grains of carbon and steel that drops him instantly. Within seconds the woods are quite again. My first buck with a bow, a shot for the soul not the sustenance. I stand staring, knowing that I have achieved something that gives me no sense of accomplishment in the great hunt, but rather a sense of peace.

I hear a shout from above.. “did you get him?” The hunter had been tracking his wounded deer and finally caught up. I felt a sense of gladness that the hunter knew his shot was bad and was doing what he could to find the buck if he was down. An ethical hunter. He made his way down the hill and I introduced my self and shook his hand on such a nice buck he harvested. He offered me the kill but I simply told him I was just helping out to recover his deer, his shot, his deer. A beautiful 7 point 3 year old that I would guess ran to about 175 lbs.

We chatted a few minutes and by being there I got to meet the property owner from the ridge above. He tells me that he’s been watching five bucks running around were I’m hunting and this one is the smallest of the group…the smallest… hmmm. He tells me about his shot. The buck was at 18 yards when he released but turned, thus the bad hit. The broad head snapped off the end of the aluminum shaft. Pete (the hunter) is using a bow that looks about 25 years old. An old laminated wood, small circular wheel compound with aluminum arrows. If there is one example of a good reason to move up to more modern equipment, then this shot could justify it. From the details and looking at the wound it is easy to see that the buck jumped the string. You can also see that the kinetic energy was just a bit too low to push his broad head through the spine all the way and stop the deer at his stand. From our best guess, it looks like the buck slipped running down the ridge and that slip cause the final damage to his spine that prevented him from continuing on. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an old bow but it is an example of problems that can be fixed if not avoided with newer equipment. BTW; I guess I can say that this is the first deer shot from my new PSE Omen. Even given the circumstances, I can say I’m impressed. Well, Pete and I exchange thanks again and I offered to help drag it up the ridge but he had an ATV. So I walked back to my stand to sit out the remainder of the evening… you never know. Besides, the deer in this area are used to people and noise. Pete quickly hooked up and as a final courtesy, he dragged the buck off without dressing it out first, just to make sure I had as much time in a quite woods as possible. Thanks Pete.

The woods remained quite the rest of the evening. Once it got dark I climbed down and headed in… only to hear several crashes in the swamp as deer spooked from my movement. They’ll be there next time.

Now, anyone that knows me should realize that there was some opportunity here once I got home….. so… I walked in the door carrying my bow. CamoGirl said I looked tired and was all sweaty. I said it was a long tough walk out tonight…. CG: did you get something???? I showed her the quiver and as her eyes saw the arrow completely painted in red…. You Did You Did!!! I said yup, a nice 7 pointer. She asked if she had been there could she have shot it? … I thought for a minute and said… Yup. Then I showed her the picture… she looked at it…looked at me… who is that? Pete, I said, the guy who shot it first! I quickly related the story. Then I told her to text mom… (she was taking my eldest back to CMU). I think the phone had barely finished sending the text when it rang! …Who is that? (in the picture). Story time again!

Asides from the fun at their expense, there was one question, asked by both CamoGirl and mom… Was I glad CamoGirl was not there to see that. I thought for few seconds and said no. It’s part of hunting, it’s part of what we sometimes have to deal with and something that CamoGirl might have to experience first hand some day. I told them both that it was a good lesson in Ethics, and a learning experience on the differences in deer physiology and our own. Mother nature has different rules for her animals and what they feel. The buck was obviously stressed but showed no indication that he was in any major pain. You will know if a deer is in pain, it is something that you will not forget. I was a positive meeting of two hunters who until that day did not know each other. If that buck had not been claimed by the hunter, I would have tagged it myself even if that is not the way I would ever want to harvest a deer, it would be the right thing to do.

My first buck with a bow: Pete and his 7 pointer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My weekend deer.

Well, if you’ve been following my blogs and my posts on the Talkhunting.com forum, you know I’ve been struggling to get out for a hunt yet for this year since the youth hunt I took my daughter on. …well, this weekend was no different. I guess it’s all a matter of opportunity because my wife said we have an “opportunity” to get a weekend alone since grandma is heading back to Alabama next weekend and she can watch the critters and my daughter this weekend, if we want….It’s been raining all week and the weather is supposed to be cold and clear on Saturday. I’d been thinking that would be perfect for getting the deer moving for my first hunt…anticipation…chopped at the knees.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a weekend with my wife is a wonderful idea, it’s just tough when you’ve been itching to get into the woods for some hunting and the season is here and you’ve still seen no “opportunity” to get out there. I get to read all the other pro staffers blogs on how much fun they’re having getting out hunting the geese and ducks and the adventures in the first week of bow season…. I need my doctor to call in a prescription for hunters itch ointment. Forget the cortizone, get me some huntizone!

Well, if I couldn’t get out hunting I at least got to enjoy an absolutely excellent weekend with my wife. We headed up north for the fall colors along the west Michigan coast line. It was cold, it snowed and the wind was ferocious…basically, it was incredible. The colors are about half way out and the only downfall was that lack of full sun to enjoy them more.

We stopped just north of Frankfort at the Betsie Point Lighthouse (http://www.pointbetsie.org/ ) and walked the beach a bit.

I took a few pictures.

The one I missed was of my wife bent over looking for Petoskey stones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petoskey_stone ) and completely missing the large wave coming in…. I didn’t know what to do, keep laughing or grab her before she did a nose dive into the lake…. In a life saving decision (mine!) I grabbed a hold of her jacket before she had to start swimming…. That would have made an excellent picture to remember! At least she had another pair of shoes in the car and the heater took care of the cold feet fairly quickly.

(This petoskey seeker was a little bit more aware, he stayed a little higher on the beach and didn't turn his back on the Lady of the Lake!)

On the way south from the lighthouse, wouldn’t you know it, I got to see what I was missing…

My Weekend Deer.

I’m still not sure if that is just salting the wound, just punishment for my out burst from the lighthouse “incident” or a message that good things are waiting for me in the wonderful woods of Michigan.

So, whether you’re out in the woods hunting, sitting in a duck blind calling in a green or two or just enjoying the colors of Michigan’s fall, it’s all good. Get out side and live!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Opening Weekend of Bow Season...but not for Me.

Well, the first weekend of Michigan’s bow season arrived to find me unable to get out and hunt. Now before anyone get’s worried, no injuries are involved unless you count the one to my patience.

As luck would have it, the power steering on my Expedition, ok, my wife’s Expedition, decided it was time to blow a line and scream about it. Now, my dilemma is this, I can fix it myself for less then a $100 or save time and get into the woods by paying the shop over $500 for the new lines and pump installation…. My next thought is …gee, what could I buy for $400….a new gun, new camo…. Hmmmm. I explained this to the wife and “my” decision was to fix it myself since she could go shopping with $400 extra… My next thought was…the way my luck is going I’ll get into the job and something will go wrong…down vehicle until it’s fixed. OK, my solution is to get my Bronco running, which has been down since it’s power steering box decided that steering was too much work… I’ll fix my Bronco and then we’ll have a vehicle to drive while I’m working on the Expedition… besides, I’d rather drive my Bronco any day! So I get the right tools to pull the steering box and pitman arm and get to work, and work, and work, and work…. How come a part with 15 years of service just don’t want to come off! I hate having to take a torch to a vehicle but there’s no helping it…time to burn off a little grease! And burn, and burn, and burn…talk about stubborn! After about an hour of heating I finally get things separated (with the exceptional help of my step dad!) . I get the new steering box installed and find that the steering shaft bolt is toast and the pitman arm nut is toast. You would think two little parts would be easy to find…. Right. After a day of running around hunting down a nut and bolt …INSTEAD OF DEER!... I get the beast put back together and turn the key….tic, tic, tic…. Guess I left a light on or something…. Jumper cables and turn the key….I love a V8!

While it rained all weekend and I would have hunted anyways, some times you just have to buck up and get your chores done…. Now, I have to get the Expedition fixed or my hunting privileges might be revoked! But at least my Deerhtn machine is ready to prowl!
Here's a picture from last year with my daughter and the "old" UNJ logo!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sight problems... again.

Well, as many of you know, my daughter recently had some issues with her sight on her compound bow. Getting to a competition and opening the case to find it broken…and dad had to make it work.

Round Two: This weekend was the Youth Deer Season here in Michigan. My daughter decided that she wanted to hunt with a crossbow for this two day only season. Great, I picked up a crossbow for her to use and she jump right in on practicing. Practice, practice, practice she did… While practicing, I found out the hard way that the foot stirrup was in upside down and the locking screws were only holding it in by pressure. Not enough pressure to prevent the crossbow from slamming me in the gut when I was cocking the string (lucky me my gut was there to stop it on it’s way to my jaw!). I then started a system of checking all the screws and bolts regularly. We had some issues with the scope not staying locked in as well. So we checked it each time we shot. 20 yards was dialed in and since her stand was set up in a 20 maximum zone, she was ready to go!

The first day of Youth Season left us with seeing zero deer and a zillion squirrels but we did hear a few deer and kick one up on the way out. The second day found us in the stand again when my daughter whispered…..”Dad, there’s something wrong with my scope…” She handed it up and to my dismay the locking nut on the rear ring was gone! The ring was also loose on the scope!

Well, I had to pull a MacGyver and I used the lanyard from my range finder to get the scope tied down until I could get it replaced. Luckily, the scope ring was a fixed side and a clamp side, so I was able to tie it with enough pressure to one side to lock up the fixed side and get the scope correctly aligned.

We finished up her hunt without see anything but a hoard of chipmunks taking over where the squirrels left off….

When we got home I found that all the scope screws were loose and the whole thing was basically being held in place by my jury rigged tie down! Yikes! I had checked all the screws before we went out! Well, I had an extra set of Millet rings so I swapped the whole thing out for them (I just need to paint them black to match up) and they lock up a lot better than the original ones.

One important lesson that I learned with crossbows… they have a completely different shock/vibration oscillation than guns and compound bows… treat them accordingly. You need to add a little dab of loctite to all the connecting bolts and screws!

I certainly don’t want to see disappointment on her face…..

Monday, September 21, 2009

Setting up the Tree Stands.

Well, I’ve been putting off setting up my treestands because I’m not supposed to be putting that kind of strain on my foot (which is another story…). I decided that the weather on Sunday was nice enough that I could take my time and get my stands set up and not over due it. Right. I put on my rubber knee boots, made sure I had my Rocky Scent IQ shirt on and a good coating of scent killing spray, including a pair of light gloves. I then packed up the truck with the Gorilla ladder stand that my daughter will be using, my hang on stand, the climbing sticks, cable locks (it’s on public land), my video camera and some water and headed over to my hunting location. I unloaded everything at the trail head and got set to go. I’ve got the 3 sections of the ladder stand tied together with my hang on stand and chains, cables and ropes holding it all together. I positioned a couple shoulder straps to carry it all… My climbing sticks are bundled together with one of the straps set up to carry them in a sling. I’ve probably got about 100 lbs strapped together on my back so I plan on taking a couple breaks on the hike in. It’s about half a mile in, up and down hills and through a bit of swamp to boot. I’ve also decided to video my setup so I’m carrying my video camera and a mono pod. What I didn’t realize was that to video my walking to and from the camera, I would need to walk and set it up, go back and then return…repeat… carrying everything…So, I just added quite a bit of walking to my work. There is one other vehicle at the trail head so I’ll be paying close attention on the walk in to make sure I don’t walk into some body else’s hunt. Then again, it is a hiking, riding trail so it just might be a mountain biker or walker.

After what feels like way too much exercise, I make it to the swamp portion of my hike in. I’ll have to make this in several trips because I won’t be able to carry the ladder stand on my back and I will have to only carry one thing at a time to make sure I don’t end up head first in the mud. It proves an excellent idea to wear the rubber knee boots, as the mud and water was just about up to the tops. It’s always fun trying to carry a 100 lbs worth of ladder stand while having to pull your feet out of each step and not fall over… but, I made it. The last part of my hike is through a trail that is narrow and tight. So, I’ll have to carry the ladder stand and the climbing sticks in each hand an maneuver them around trees and shrubs for about 150 yards. After talking with John Eberhart last weekend, I can see I’m going to have to look into the Tree saddle for next years swamp hunt. I can’t believe that when my girls first started going out with me I actually got a double tree ladder through all this stuff! Whew!

I’ve finally made it. There are a few more trees down but this year I’ve lucked out and they did not change any of the funnel paths, they might even help. I quietly set up my daughter’s ladder stand, keeping in mind her early crossbow hunt. I do not trim any new branches this year as the shooting lanes are all fairly clear. I then set up my hang on. I scouted the area to make sure that my placement is optimal since last year (I do this each time as the best sign happens after last season on deer movement). All the sign confirms my post season scouting so I hang the stand only about 30 yards from my daughters location and in clear sight, about 16 feet up and 120 degrees from her left. This should also give me an excellent opportunity to catch her hunts on video.

Once I’m done I make sure everything I brought in is picked up and nothing with my scent is left behind. Then, I have one more thing to do, I spray a cover scent over everything I’ve touched, including any brush or trees I may have bumped on the way in. This time, I’m using a young buck spray from Buck Bombs. I did a product test for them a couple years ago and was impressed at the delivery method of the scent. I did verify with a company representative that since the scent was package as it was in a pressurized can that it would have a shelf life of several years. Yup, I could tell it was still good…

Well, the heavy work is done and we just have to be patient for a short while more and my girls and I will be looking to fill the freezer with some wonderful venison! Plus, you never know, I’ve seen coyotes, turkeys and foxes from the same spot….

And I might even post some video of this adventure...as soon as I look at it first! LOL

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cobra, a nice Snake...

As many of you know, back when we had the Talk Hunting Anniversary Northern Campout, when CamoGirl was getting ready to shoot her competition she found that her sight was broken. She pulled her bow out of her case and it was minus the sight! Upon inspection, we found that the lower jaw on the main arm was broken off! A little (a lot) electrical tape and a little luck…and CamoGirl’s skill with her bow… and she was on target and actually won! I usually carry a spare sight in my bow kit (identical to her sight) but another shooter had recently run into problems and I had given him my sight then promptly forgot I was short a backup…

Well, her bow sight was a Cobra Archery Bantam. Since she now needed a new sight and I was working at Bass Pro for Mossy Oak the next weekend, I picked her up a new Cobra Sniper sight which she really liked. I liked the all metal arms and the small details (like vertical/horizontal adjustment marks) in an very affordable sight. However, while I was setting up the new sight and adjusting the first pin, the fiber optic broke at the glue point of the pin. At this point I’m thinking a black cloud is following me around with getting a sight working for her. I figured, no problem right now, she’s not going to be hunting past 30 yards and she can do just fine with 2 pins. I’ll order a new pin later. I get the other two pins set and start to tune the sight to her previous specs for a starting point when I notice the vertical adjustment clamp is not tight and doesn’t seem to want to tighten…hmmmm. I pulled the sight apart and found that the nut is only being held on by the locking ring built into it. The bolt threads are not contacting the matching threads in the nut. ….The cloud is getting darker… Easy fix, I grab a new nut out of my tool box and a new bolt and we’re good. I hope.

The cloud has left the area! The sight is working great and the Sniper design gets more light to the pins with longer fibers and CamoGirl is stacking arrows in no time!

Now, it’s time to get a hold of Cobra Archery and find out if there is a warrantee (wish) on the Bantam sight and if I can buy a new pin for the Sniper sight. I gave them a call and spoke to Marie Higgins in their warrantee customer service department. When I explained what the problem was to Marie she immediately told me that she would get a new support arm out to me and a new pin. She even talked to a service manager while I was on the phone about the problem with the bolt/nut and found that they had one other complaint of the same problem. They would include a new bolt/nut if I wanted (I declined). She even threw in a new hat for CamoGirl. I called Marie just before the holiday break so imagine my surprise to find a package from Cobra Archery at my door when we got back from up north. A new arm, a new pin and a very nice waxed canvas Cobra Hat! That is the type of service we all hope for.

So, thanks to Cobra Archery and Marie, CamoGirl is back out practicing for deer season. I could only wish all service calls ended so well.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Talking to the Kids...

Last year, working for Mossy Oak, I did a seminar at Cabelas for their Fall Classic show. I spoke about getting kids into the outdoors hunting and the changes that have taken place since we were that age. It’s been almost a year and I’m still getting folks asking questions and once again I’m giving a seminar on that subject. This year it will be for a local sportsman’s club gathering. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I could imagine myself talking to others about how to get their kids into hunting, I would have said you were nuts. Today, I wish I had been doing this years ago.

With the changes in our economy and the changes in attitudes on hunting and firearms in general, getting our kids involved is more important than ever and more endangered. When I was a kid, if I wanted to take grandpa’s old muzzle loader in for show-n-tell, no problem. Today, if our kids want to use a gun “shaped” prop for a play or presentation they get arrested and removed from school. The pressure is on to move our children away from our outdoors and hunting heritage and we need to understand what it takes to steer them back successfully.

Not to long ago, it was mostly the “boys” that had an interest in hunting that was approved of by their parents. It was grandpa’s gun or dad’s old bow that was our first introduction into the sport. This was great if grandpa’s gun was a .22 or a 20 gauge. At that time we bucked up and learned how to shoot to make our dad’s proud… no mater if we had to shoot that old 30-06 or try to draw back dad’s 55lb bow. We’re lucky we have the number of hunters today that we do based on those experiences. Today, we have computers and video games, texting and “networking” to contend with. We also, I’m happy to say, have a lot more young ladies interested in the sport. Grandpa’s old gun and dad’s old bow are now the wrong answer. They are great to hand down, when the time is right, but they’re more liable to push the child into those “other” entertainments than draw them in. Hard hitting rifles and shotguns, heavy draw weights on bows and the wrong equipment are quick deciding factors our children will experience to go back to those computers and video games. However, unlike when we were young, there are now products in the marked designed for children interested in the hunting and shooting sports that can grow with them and help encourage them to continue. Moms and dad’s can be happy that they will not have to buy new equipment every year.

Most gun manufactures produce firearms designed for shorter arms and lighter frames. They can be easier to use and less painful in the recoil department if parents do a little research before they spend any money. Now that there are firearms designed for children, parents need to pay attention to a few details before making any decisions. Look for those firearms designed to grow with your child. They will have changeable or adjustable stocks and fore arms of one design or another. Remember, lighter is not always better… the lighter the gun the harder it kicks. Look for firearms that have recoil reducing parts and are just light enough for your youth to handle without being awkward. Muzzle breaks and recoil pads, semi-auto versus pump (load one round at a time if you have to) and wood versus synthetic to keep the recoil absorbed. A bad recoil experience will shut down interest faster than anything else. If it hurts, why do it.

With archery manufactures, most companies have seen the need for lighter bows that have more value and useful life than the old fiberglass “kiddies” bow. Kids want a bow that looks like dads (or moms). Most of these companies now have models of bows that have draw length adjustments of 10 or 11 inches and draw weight adjustments up to 30lbs on a single set of limbs. There are even programs that allow for limb changes for vary little cost to move the bow up in weight as the child develops. This lowers the cost by keeping the child in a modern, working and proficient bow for many years, growing with them and not against them. They even have “Pink” bows to appeal to the young female crowd that is growing in interest of archery as a sport and hunting activity.

If you’re a parent that didn’t know about these products, salvation at last! If you already knew, great, but don’t forget the rest!

The Rest:
It’s not just about the gun or the bow; it’s about paying attention to what your child needs. They need to be warm and comfortable too. A proper set of clothing for the season is a must. You may need to change your hunting tactics from tree stands to ground blinds for example. While we can tough it out in the cold, kids will think your nuts and next time… back to the computer instead. For just the shooting sports, maybe a marathon 4 hour practice should be changed to 30 minutes and snack time. Maybe you should make a game out of it with small rewards for goals met, realistic goals based on the ability and age of the child. Make it Fun; you have a lot to compete against. Back to hunting; if they’re getting cold in the blind don’t push it, there is always next time. Next time take a heater. Best idea is to leave your gun or bow at home. Concentrate on your child and what they need. Show them what it means to be out in the wild and to watch game and listen to the wind. A lot of things we take for granted, they will be enthralled with… watching squirrels packing in nuts or birds looking for seeds and bugs. How the animals around you interact with the woods and the fields or how the trees grow and what types there are. Treat this as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and show them all the neat things. Make a game out of it. NEVER be critical. Learn how to communicate and build on that communication. There is always time to change and ways to make that change. Children are by definition not a hunter that can sit still for long periods of time. Prepare yourself. You need to change your Attitude more than they do. Patience. You won’t succeed unless you can be more patient than the trees you’re surrounded by. Learn to give. You are giving your time for Them.

The rewards are boundless if you succeed. Pride, Love and a better Relationship.

Some day, you will think as you’re heading out to the hunt with your child…” I’d rather be….” Then you’ll really know you’ve succeeded. Congratulations, you’ve passed on a heritage that will always be yours and gained more than you’ll ever know.

And for you dads out there…. NEVER forget mom. Whether she hunts or not, she’s as much a part of this experience as anything.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Relaoding : Fun and Saves Money!


Many years ago, I bought a handgun chambered in .454 Casull. After buying several boxes of ammunition and realizing how expensive this gun was going to be after the purchase, I decided to try reloading. As with anything else, there were several good choices I could make in reloading equipment. Being new, I looked at what was offered as a package that would cover almost all of my needs and with little extra to buy. I stayed with popular, established companies and finally decided to go with a Lee Anniversary Kit. The Lee kit contained everything I would need except for the dies themselves and the case prep equipment. I purchase the Lee 454 carbide dies including the separate crimp die (all the manuals I had been reading strongly suggested a “solid” crimp on the 454 loadings). I also purchased a case polishing kit for my used cases. A couple hundred cases from Starline, several boxes of 454 bullets from Hornady, a couple boxes of CCI Small Rifle primers (again as researched) and several pounds of Hodgdon H110 powder…I’m ready to go. Just to note, all my choices on brass, primers, bullets and powder were just that, my choices. There are many different combinations of all these ingredients available, I chose these based on my research for what I wanted to achieve from my reloads. As you can already tell, Research is the #1 step in deciding to reload. Included in my research was the information on what pressures were safe and allowable for my specific firearm, what type of velocities, trajectories and kinetic energy I wanted to achieve and what types and weights of projectiles I wanted for the type of use I would be putting my .454 through… Deer hunting.

Another bit of advice, and it’s the most important….buy a couple reloading manuals…

Even with all of my research, there were many stops and starts my first few times reloading. One advantage of using the Lee kit was that it was a single press/single stage kit. I had to change the dies out at each stage and could only work on one cartridge at a time. This is the best way for a new reloader to start. Jumping in right away with a multistage or turret press can lead to mistakes and this is one process you do not want to make mistakes in. I learned how to “feel” the status of the case as I maneuvered the press and to visually inspect each cartridge as it was “worked”. I also learned a very important rule, work in a quiet and uncluttered area and work on only one caliber at a time to prevent mixing up process and causing rounds to be built with the wrong components or volumes. Measure and re-measure often.

Current .454 prices range from $28 a box to over $80 a box… 20 rounds in a box. My reloading expense is down to about 11 cents a round or $2.20 for a box of 20. That’s a savings of at least $25 a box, which quickly paid for all the equipment.

It’s fun, it saves money and there is a satisfaction gained when you start shooting ammunition that you created.

Give it a try.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Alone in the Woods

A number of years ago, I would have said that Hunting is My time. I never really thought that my children would become involved as much as they have. See, I have two beautiful daughters, I figured they’d never want to hunt with their dad. I figured I’d grow old hunting by myself, filling that “missing” spot with my hunting buddies and their boys on occasion. I’ve found over the years that I really don’t like hunting alone. I like having someone to share stories with and spend time enjoying the secrets of the outdoors with. When you’re sitting in blind or in a tree stand, when you’re stalking or walking a fence row, there’s all sorts of wonders going on around you. Things you’ll enjoy seeing or hearing but never dwelling on long yet become a part of who you are. Things you’d enjoy pointing out to your child or your hunting buddy. I have never been in the woods or fields were something did not catch my attention with wonder. I’ve felt that those wonders were lost in the thoughts of just one…what a blessing that I was wrong.

Now, don’t misunderstand me… I would never be disappointed if my girls just liked to shoot targets. I’d even understand if they didn’t want to shoot at all. I’d never force them to do something they really don’t have an interest in. Everyone "just knows" that boys will follow their dads into hunting, trying to be just like him… but girls? I’ll be honest, I’ve thought a few times of what it would be like to have a son… Then I think of how blessed I am to have the daughters I have. I wouldn’t trade them for the world and I don’t want them to be “boys”. They just need to be themselves.

My oldest seems to just like to target shoot and I respect her for that. I think she goes hunting with me just to spend time with her dad, and I love her for that. She’s in college now and our time together is very limited, I’m trying to make those times as cherished as possible. Soon, she’ll really be on her own and time with Dad may be a fleeting thing…never caught and rarely seen… I’ll cherish those times together even more.

My youngest shows a genuine interest in hunting. I’ve tried to make sure she understands what it means to harvest an animal. I’ve had her research how to clean and skin squirrels to see how she reacts and I’ve involved her with processing the animals I’ve taken so she can experience the “other” side of hunting. Most of all, I’ve tried to teach her about Respect. Respect for the outdoors and Respect for the animals we hunt. I’ve not been disappointed, she shows a genuine maturity many would be surprised to see and many others never achieve.

I’ve learned a few things too. Patience is one. Explaining about sitting quiet and moving slowly was a tough one. About, paying attention and using your senses. Patience has been a teacher to me. I struggled at first but have since graduated and now, Patience is another tool this ol’hunter uses like a well worn knife or a comfortable pair of boots. Pride is something I’ve learned more about. I used to think that pride in my children was for doing good in school or winning a competition. Now I know that Pride is watching my girls Respect the outdoors and the animals that live there. Pride is watching my girls enjoy, really enjoy the time spent exploring the wonders they see and hear. Pride is watching them grow and learn. Pride will stay in my breast pocket were it’s easy to get to, bring out and show. I’ve learned about communication. Communicating with a child needs to change and grow just like her. Understanding how that communication works lets you bond even closer. Communicating is more than just a 2-way road, it’s a stream, a river, an ocean. It’s everything that moves between us. It can move us further away or it can bring us closer. Having a child does not teach you about communication, your child teaches you. It’s a lesson you can not afford to miss for it’s the building blocks of everything else you learn. And the foundation for communication is Love. I love my girls and I know they love me back.

Now, even if it’s just My time, I’ll never be alone in the woods.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Way Behind!

Sorry, I'm way behind in posting some blogs..... been swamped. I've got the youth bow review to write now that the season is done. We want all the readers to learn what we learned and the manufacturers to get some feedback too. I'll update you on how my deer hunting season went and what made it one of the best I've ever had. Lots of info coming soon....