Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Home on the Road

The past couple of months I have spent more than my share of time on the road. However, my career has lead me in that direction. Now, being self employed, I have to land jobs and assignments, juggle paperwork and red tape, and find ways to cut expenses to not only increase profits, but also help me price my quotes at a more affordable rate in order to go back to the first part of the circle, which was land jobs.

Of course, I am not writing an outdoors column to discuss business and how it works. I only bring this up because of something I did to help cut my costs.

A friend of mine shared a post from Outdoor Life on Tips for Truckbed Camping. You see, I purchased a camper shell for my pickup. It was used, but exactly what I was looking for. Came off an identical truck as mine and has a full door on the back rather than the standard hatch. You remove your tailgate and the shell replaces it.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy tent camping. But one thing is guaranteed to happen if you pitch a tent. Rain. Doesn’t matter if you are in a desert that is in the middle of a four month drought, if you put a tent up and sleep in it, the skies will darken, the thunder will crack, the lightning will flash, and there will be a deluge of water pouring from the heavens. Based on the last week, I would imagine someone has forgotten they left their tent up in fact.

The camper shell offers something a little better. I have expanded my functionality and comfort. I have a synthetic straw mat that is folded double and covers the entire bed of the truck. This helps take away those ridges built in from the manufacturer. On one side I started with a self-inflating foam bed mat which I use when camping with a tent and sleeping bag. I also thought of something else to add to the comfort though. I added a lounge chair cushion that fits perfectly on that one side as well. I arguably sleep better in the back of my truck than in my own bed.

I have a stuffed chair placed on the other front corner. It is super comfortable as well, and I have occasionally used it outside beside the truck when stopping. Primarily though, I use it inside the camper. It is short enough to allow me to sit upright without hitting my head on the top.

I also have a rectangular basket in which I keep food, eating utensils, paper towels, and butane. In other words, the basket acts as my cupboard inside the truck. As you can guess with the butane, it is the fuel for a single burner stove that is the same size as the basket so they can be stacked.

When I do cook, and on my trips I very seldom buy food or drink on the road so it is every meal, I have to have somewhere to put my hot items. I keep a small bamboo cutting board that acts as a tray in these instances. I can either sit the board down on the inside of the bed and eat standing, or I can sit in my stuffed chair and sit the board in my lap.

I also pack two gallons of water in milk jugs which I freeze prior. This helps keep the cold things cold while in the cooler, and as the ice melts, provides me with more water for things such as brushing my teeth and cleaning my cooking stuff.

I also have room for such things as my rods and tackle, bow and arrows, and camera equipment. Of course, when I am stopped I have to keep the camper locked to keep the honest people honest. At night, I can move those items to the cab of the truck and lock the doors.

You know the saying goes, ‘home is where you make it’. Might as well make it as comfortable as possible while you are at it. Old bodies like mine tend to recover more slowly from uncomfortable situations as the years pass.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Faux Record

Let’s face it. The hunt can be intoxicating. A brief glimpse or something like you have never seen can drive you to pursue the beast with such passion and desire that it can cause madness. Then, when you are able to connect it is a brief feeling of joy as you accept the accolades welcomingly from your peers and acquaintances.

But what is left afterwards? Move on to something else? Not if you are really into the sport. So you must pursue something bigger and better in order to get the same recognition as before. Take a beautiful eight pointer? Been there, done that. Next goal is for record book. Finally, a record book buck. Now something bigger. Much bigger. You have to keep your ‘fans’ interested in your pursuits.
In the last week we have had two instances of varying degrees over just this pursuit.

The ‘Hunting Syndicate’, a cable television hunting show that is aired on the Sportsman’s Channel had nine of their members and host charged with federal crimes due to the Lacey Act from hunts as far back as 2009 in the state of Alaska.

There have been many inquiries over the years, but ‘things got real’ when search warrants and interviews were issued last summer. Several charges were issued including taking game without a permit, hunting on the same day as flying in to the area, and taking game without a guide which is a requirement for a non-resident in Alaska.

However, you do not always have to break the law for the result of the intoxication of the hunt to manifest itself.

Earlier this month, Joey Thompson, a friend and fellow Pope and Young official scorer measured a ‘green’ kill by hunter Nick Davis of Elkin, NC. By ‘green’ it means the deer’s antlers have not dried the required 60 days in order to officially be measured. But the deer taken by Nick’s bow was so big, even after the drying period, the deer would become the new North Carolina state non-typical record. Green score was some 30 inches bigger than Brent Mabry’s 176 ⅞ inch non-typical monster taken back in 2005.

After Joey announced the green score, the bandwagon had begun to play Nick’s tunes. Several media outlets picked up on the story and cited Nick’s story of how he had first spotted the beast bedded in kudzu. Then, when he had his first chance to hunt it, he decided not to because he had a cold and didn’t want to cough and spook it. Finally, on the fourth encounter with the deer, Nick was able to take him from 32 yards.

With notice comes notoriety. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission decided to interview Nick as well. What they turned up in the interview was nothing short of astonishment. Nick admitted to an elaborate hoax.

Apparently the antlers came from a farm raised deer in Pennsylvania. They were then screwed onto a small buck here in North Carolina.

Nick had taken two bucks the previous year scoring over 150 inches. Could the pursuit of something bigger been the trigger to have pushed Nick to this point? Were the two from last year legitimate kills?

Ethics in hunting is not always encompassed in the print of the law. Sometimes it is just knowing right from wrong. The sport can present enough thrills without crossing those lines.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Opening Day

Bow season finally arrived. There was plenty of deer on the cameras, but they all were coming into the area just before sunset. After a long road trip during the week and a late night, I decided I would get up about 3:30am and assess how I felt before heading out.

The alarm went off on time and I turned over to shut it off. As I rolled back over I noticed my youngest laying between my wife and I. Again, it had been a long week in which I was gone from the family and it felt good there in the bed. Knowing the deer were not usually out in the early morning, I slept in.

I loaded up everything and headed to the stand in the early afternoon. There was fresh sign of where deer were there the night before. Per the camera shots, they should be there about 30 minutes before sunset. The weather was good with only a slight breeze and it was blowing away from where the deer should be entering. It was going to be a very good day.

For a couple of hours (yes, I get in early in case any deer were to notice me coming in) I sat there checking and double checking my yardages to various spots. The big leaf, 23 yards. The bright green lump of grass to the left, 17 yards. The trampled area just in front of me where the deer should head toward, 10 yards exactly.

I checked the football scores on the cell phone, reading the updates on my beloved Wolfpack as they struggled early and then marched to a resounding victory.I saw that the Yankees were getting swept in a crucial double header with the division leading Blue Jays. I read social media posts from other hunters in the field.

Until it was time for the deer to start showing.

The cell phone went in my pocket. The arrow was nocked. I was at the ready. Still another 15 minutes before a deer should sneak her way out below me.

“Blam. Blam. BlamBlamBlam.”

I jumped on the first blast. Gun fire. Not shotgun fire, no there was no one shooting dove. This was the distinct sound of rifles. They were not hunting. They were simply shooting. Maybe they were sighting their rifles in getting ready for a few weeks later when gun season comes in. Maybe they were just shooting for fun. It didn’t matter, immediately after that first round of shots a doe screamed from about 50 yards away from me. I knew then my hunt was over that evening.

They continued to shoot for 20 minutes or so. At the end they were firing something like an AK rifle based on how they were shooting.

Another hunter I met when I was teaching bowhunter education several years ago sent me a message later that evening wanting to know how I did. I told him what happened. He went on to say he was in his stand after watching day after day of deer coming out only to be foiled because the farmer started taking in tobacco that day while he was hunting.

Neither of us were upset at the shooters or the farmer. You see, they have a right to do those things. It is their land to manage, to play on, to live on, whatever they may want to do. Just as it was our right to hunt the lands we were hunting. We were down a little because of the possibilities of the hunt. But that is why the season is longer than just opening day. We get to enjoy our activities as long as we can. No matter what they are.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Deer Season

The time has come to take up the pursuit of big game. For me, big game may be smaller than others as I have a tendency to find the smallest of the creatures. Yes, my prize trophy whitetail may or may not have antlers, and may or may not have made a trip around the sun twice in their lifespan.

Not that it is all a bad thing though. I get the enjoyment of the hunt and pursuit of a dream. I also get food in the freezer. If I get a deer, that is.

I primarily bowhunt. Actually it is exclusively bowhunt to better define non-bird hunting activities. I do not have issues with hunting with firearms. I just enjoy hunting with the bow more.

I have been rather successful with the bow as well. I have taken a bison with the bow. I have taken an alligator with the bow. I have taken countless small game and even some birds with the bow. Two years ago I tagged six deer with the bow.

Last year was different.

After much preparation I anticipated another highly successful freezer-filling season. The cameras had card after card filled with deer photos including nearly a third of them during daylight hours. I could hardly wait.

I climbed in the stand around 3:30am as I do most of the time. This way the deer I may spook as I enter the stand will have relaxed and made their way back by time day breaks. I waited, and sat, and looked at my phone all day. I found a way to take a nap during the late morning only to get back in the stand once again that early afternoon.

Then, just minutes before darkness would creep its way to close the hunting day, a buck emerged. The velvet was already rubbed off, but it was a nice symetrical small eight pointer. I pulled back on the string and nestled the draw hand to my right cheek. I slowly dropped the pin from the bow sight down towards a clean lung shot.

But I didn’t release. He was no more than a year and half old. The bucks in that area have been known to grow to Pope and Young trophy size, and this was just another of that genetic make-up, only he was still a little too young to have trophy sized antlers.

It was day one of deer season. I had pictures of as many as 15 different deer, does and bucks, on the camera. I let him walk to grow feeling confident that I could at least take a few does later in the season, if not the next day.

It didn’t happen. I never had another shot the rest of the season. For the next couple of weeks I had a few does come out but all were well out of range for the bow. After that, I didn’t even see any deer during daylight. Disease had hit and there was a major kill-off.

I do not regret not shooting that first deer. I do hate that there were no more opportunities and the freezer is now bare. Will this season be like two and three years ago? Maybe. Will it be like last year?


It is a prime example of how life works though. You never know what will be your last opportunity, so sometimes you have to take what is given to you. It is hunting. It is life.