Friday, December 20, 2013

Mister Big

I have seen signs of a huge deer each year for the last several years. He has haunted my dreams, occupied my mind, and teased my patience. Although I have stayed focused, he remains a ghost.
Just like any deer that is not running around during the rut, he can be patterned. This one though, he has mostly been a mystery. That is until two years ago. I started keeping a hunting log and discovered a few key facts. He only makes himself seen once per year. Yes year. Last year was the first time I was able to capture him on camera.
Prior to the grainy infrared trail camera shot I had only seen his tracks. They were deep and wide and flowing. Yes, just like the fountain in the popular children’s hymn. What I mean by flowing is they would appear out of nowhere, run the course for a bit, and then they would vanish. Even in areas where I should be able continually follow a track; they were just not there anymore.
So the date was marked. I sprinkled some corn, topped with a little oatmeal and glitter for bait. Yes glitter. I can’t quite explain it but a couple of years ago I found out the oatmeal and glitter was very successful in tempting this beast of deer. It seems my daughter had left some glitter near my Black Magic and the two were mixed together. The next day 50 pounds of corn, 5 pounds of oatmeal, and the glitter were gone except for a few patches here and there along the tracks of where the deer had walked.
Not knowing exactly what time he would come by I was in the stand early. Just in case he was nocturnal, my early consisted of 3:30 am. The cold would have been unforgiving if not for the fleece and wool camo suit that I was given last Christmas. I waited, and occasionally napped. Nothing. I had convinced my wife I needed to stay in the stand for the entirety and she conceded after much debate and my promise of a special Christmas gift for her.
Breakfast consisted of Jack Link Tender Bites. Lunch was the same. In between I had a couple of packs of Toastchee nabs. My Mountain Dews in my backpack remained cold and refreshing. The morning passed to noon and noon passed to afternoon. Other than a herd of elephants, well, make that a squirrel (you hunters know what I mean), the day was uneventful. I remained determined.
The sun was setting behind the trees and a brisk breeze complicated the cold. My shooting time was over. I still wanted to get a gaze of my nemesis and considering my cell phone had long lost all battery power I decided to continue sitting. If you want to know what the cell phone battery had to do with my decision it meant my wife could not call and ask where I was. I had an excuse.
Much later than I should have been in the stand I noticed the deer I was after coming in from the left. And seven others in a herd as well. Our eyes met. He seemed to wink at me. I walked up to him and grabbed him by the antlers. And stared. And appreciated this magnificent creature. He shook his head a couple of times and the group galloped forward and a chubby fellow tossed a package to me. He said I would need it later as he and the deer took flight. It was a present with my wife’s name on it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bad Weather, Good Hunting

Bad weather is usually not an outdoorsman’s friend. Extreme cold, high winds and heavy precipitation either in the form of rain, sleet or snow just makes for a miserable experience with little chance of success to boot.
This very reason is why I grew up disliking, no the proper word is actually hating, duck season. For whatever reason, it was the only time ducks would actually fly during shooting light. My dad would drag me out to the swamps or impoundments well before the break of dawn where we would throw out plastic decoys in frigid waters and hope for something to fly by.
Now I was a fairly decent shot regarding dove hunting, but ducks were a different story. Ducks provided a very small window of opportunity to get a shot off. With dove, I could watch them fly in for several minutes, point the muzzle and swing the shotgun through the bird while pulling the trigger and watch the bird fold up and fall. Ducks, especially in the swamps, required an instantaneous ‘snap’ style shot. And with inexperience combined with the pure speed of the waterfowl’s flight, I often ended up empty handed.
Dad on the other hand, well he had no problem. One of the best wingshooters I have ever seen, he could put a bird down with ease. After many, many years of watching how he shoots, I figured out how he was successful. He always kept a watchful eye out for the skies. He also knew his limits. Birds over the treetops were a no shot situation. If a bird snuck in on him and he did not get a chance to get the barrel up in position cleanly, he would hold off the shot as well. When he did shoot, he always followed through the shot and he never shot more than twice unless he had downed one bird and was trying to get a second and missed a shot. That was rare though. Not the part about downing one bird and going for a second but the missed shot part. He figured if he had to shoot a third time the bird was probably too far away.
As I became an adult I began to appreciate duck season more. While I am still not fond of the cold, I did have clothes that could keep me warm for longer periods of time. I still stretch my shots at times but my misses are fewer and further between now. I understand what to listen for and what to look for in the sky. I understand where the birds will come in to a decoy set. These tidbits are less knowledge and more wisdom. I learned from hunting, not from listening to others. It is not that I was not listening to more experienced hunters. It is just I did not understand fully.
I see that with others also. I have seen decoy sets laid out all wrong. Not because the hunter did not try to set them up correctly. In fact, they were likely trying to do exactly what they read in a book or magazine. But when they finally get it, when the light finally turns on, the success beams from hunter. Limits are taken and with fewer shells spent. The excitement from the new found wisdom carries over into future hunts.
And that bad weather is no longer a bad day.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nice Day for Fishing

The day ended as it began; a sandy freshwater beach and a kayak resting half way between the water and earth. What was sandwiched between is where the story lies.
Still wanting to test the Old Town Predator kayak further and with another decent weekend weather-wise I decided to fish some waters I have never been to before. I started cyber-scouting during the middle of the week in search of a lake or river that had kayak or small craft access a long with promising fishing areas within a somewhat easy paddling distance.
One other feature I looked for was fishing tips for the cooler weather and water that late fall and early winter inevitably brings. At one point I was considering several holding lakes in the state for power plants that had warm water discharges. The idea seems very reasonable and when one ‘Facebook friend’ announced he was heading to Belews it nearly pushed me to follow. If it wasn’t for the fact I had been there before and I really wanted to test new water I probably would have.
I settled on one discharge lake that is known for the large bass that are prevalent throughout. But as I continued to read up on the techniques I realized I would be targeting fish that could be in pre-spawn, spawn, or even post-spawn phases. I wanted something more predictable.
As I filtered through the bodies of water I finally found one that hit my fancy. I found several articles and blog posts on not only winter fishing in the lake, but even some regarding winter fishing from kayaks and canoes. It is hard to get much more of a match. It also provided the potential for daylight catfishing and a species I had never caught before, the white catfish.
I drove the hour and a half to the lake and found my turn off with ease. As I progressed to the ramp I noticed several of the other boating accesses gated closed. Had I just traveled all this way to get to a ramp that would be closed as well? I cursed myself for the potential lack of insight.
Luckily, the ramp I was searching for was open. There were not many vehicles parked in the large ramp access. In fact there were more vehicles with kayak and canoe racks than there were boat trailers.

It only took a few minutes to unload and hit the water. I paddles around the point and headed to a bridge that I was targeting. There was already one power boat fishing the supports. As soon as I was near enough one of the anglers sprung backwards with a quick jerk of the rod. The first fish had been landed. I did not want to crowd them so I paddled to another spot about a half mile away. After an hour or so and no action whatsoever I paddled back towards the bridge. As I neared I also noticed two other kayakers fishing the structure as well.
All three boats welcomed me to join, with the power boat even remarking they were leaving a few fish for me. After snagging the bottom and cutting my line early on I pulled the cut line as tight as possible so as not to leave it when it gave a little. I continued to tug until it broke free and then noticed it start running to the side. Just a few seconds later and I was hand lining a rather large bluegill.
We fished and chatted for several hours. Fish were caught and released. And in between the beginning and the end, new friends were made.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Non-Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season when the stores will be packed and the streets will be filled with hopeful shoppers in search of that perfect gift. With the release of the new video game consoles that are guaranteed to lock your kids (and some adults) into near comatose states as they stare at the screens while only taking breaks for school and maybe sleep, here are a few alternative ideas of bonding ideas rather than purchased possessions.

Anyone who has ever been in scouts will likely remember when all the packs come together at some camp located near a lake. One of the highlights of the weekend is always the canoe races. Canoes can be rented for cheap and provide for joyful and interesting times. The venerable Old Town canoe has floated many a youngster over the years. A long paddle on the water is sure to brighten any kid’s outlook, and for good measure give the canoe a rock side-to-side a couple of times.

Another event that is sure to please involves some raw chicken. I know, your face is probably squinting with your nose all crinkled up as you read that sentence. But if you put a little bit on a hook and toss it in the water your kid will be amazed by what comes for it. For even more fun, go at night and set up a bonfire. When the rod tip gets hit with a hard thump and the strange creature with the flat mouth and tentacles stretching from its face is surfaced, there is no doubt that both you and your kid will examine the catfish with a sense of wonderment.

While the fire is burning, we shouldn’t let it go waste. A staple of any good trip that includes a fire includes chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows. I know somehow when those three ingredients are combined over an open flame  the woods fairy sprinkles some type of pixie dust overtop and it becomes a necessary food group. Heck, even if the fish do not immediately bite the s’mores will be fine in passing the time until they do.

Near many of the lakes, rivers and streams you can find a good field. After the farmers have cultivated the land and turned the soil another magical thing happens. In fact, it has almost become a lost art. At some point and time in a child’s life they all wish to visit the past. Not the past as in yesterday or even last year, but of times long, long ago. Amateur archaeologists is what we used to call ourselves. We would dream of digging and finding the next great monstrous dinosaur. Of course we never found one, but we did find other artifacts of equal intrigue, at least for a kid. There were many days we spent arrowhead hunting. Sometimes we would find finely chiseled rock that left no doubt to its purpose. Other times, we were just wishful and accepted that the small triangular shaped granite with a sharp side may be one. Either way it ended up in our small tote bag or pocket as an addition to the collection.

There are numerous other activities that can be spent, but the key is to spend those moments together. As each seems like a product of time in our hurried lives, they are but a just a moment in our overall life. However, they can be a moment remembered and cherished forever.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Tim Bowers was like many of us. He enjoyed hunting, particularly bowhunting, and headed out to his farm of soybeans and corn. He climbed a tree that provided an overlook in hopes that Mr. Big would make his way into shooting distance.  Then the unthinkable happened. Tim planted his foot on a dead branch about 16 feet up the tree and he heard it snap. As Tim met the ground below he heard another snap.
The family believes Tim lay there for over five hours before he was found. Three vertebrae were crushed leaving Tim with no movement from his neck down. His sister, a nurse, recognized the severity immediately and knew the prognosis was grim.
Tim was only 32 years old. He just married the love of his life in August after a three year courtship. They were expecting their first child in April.
Tim survived the fall but would be paralyzed for life. Family and doctors provided information to Tim regarding the options of his future. Tim asked for them to remove the ventilator that he would have to rely upon for the remainder of his life if he chose so, so he could speak. He then asked to keep it out. He essentially told the doctors to pull the plug so his family would not have to endure the pain of his new state of life.
Let that sink in a little.
Last year North Carolina had three fatalities from hunting incidents. Two of those fatalities were results of tree stand falls.
An overview shows North Carolina’s numbers decreasing in both actual numbers of fatalities as well as percentage. The previous two years resulted in 12 deaths combined. The number of licensed hunters, 528,636 was the largest number since 1994-95. However the three deaths tied the lowest number since non-firearm fatalities were recorded.
Even with the lower numbers, in most cases these types of fatalities can be prevented.
Most falls occur during the climb up or down a stand. With the colder weather coming in, frost on the steps for the stands creates a slick surface especially for the rubber soled boots hunters tend to wear. Gear being tangled amongst tree limbs and brush is another issue that causes falls.
But it does not have to be a true tree stand either. One of the two fatalities in North Carolina last year from a fall was on the typical tripod stand that is popular in the open fields.
All could have been prevented with a proper safety harness.
While browsing through Facebook posts last weekend I noticed a friend who was on a deer hunt up north. His post read “Harnessed in and ready to play…in Central Ohio.” Throughout his preparation he remembered the one thing that could determine his fate. While his firearm would be necessary to take a deer, his harness was necessary for him to ensure his safety. Smart move Scott.
For Tim, he was told he may gain a very small movement in his neck to turn his head one way or another, and after surgery to his spine he may eventually be able to sit upright. He would not ever be able to hold his baby in his arms or give hugs. Tim will never see his newborn child.
Tim’s family went to the farm and found the tree Tim fell from. The cut it down to a stump and fashioned a cross out of the remainder as a memorial to the son, husband, and would-have-been father Tim was to become.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Quest for Tranquility

During the night the cold air set in. The Eureka Apex tent was set up before dusk in under 5 minutes and angled so the cover would deflect the wind away from the door openings on either side. The 10 degree sleeping bag was cozy enough to strip down to the minimal undergarments and remain completely comfortable. The cold air did not bite at my lungs, rather it was more refreshing the way a winterfresh Lifesaver is.
A couple of hours before sunrise a light pitter-patter began to tap on the tent cover. Then it increased in intensity. A full unforgiving rain had set in. I checked my boots that were positioned underneath the cover’s wind break and they remained dry. I thought to myself as I rolled over in the sleeping bag that the one sure way to count on rain is to camp out in a tent.
Morning started late due to the rain but the long day before demanded a little extra sleep anyway. By mid-morning the rain had dissipated and I was ready for the expedition ahead. I double checked the items in my Alps Outdoorz Pursuit backpack to make sure I had what I needed and I remove what I didn’t. As happens most of the time, I did not remove anything. The gorge had deer and bear, both of which were in season, and the river had trout, therefore the bow and the fly rod was coming along. I had a full water bladder and with the low temperatures overnight it was as if it were straight from a fountain. I carried extra batteries, a light, food and a single propane burner.
The hike down the mountainside was a couple of miles. I felt the hike down would be no problem even with the 50 pounds strapped to my back. I also knew the hike up would be much harder so I wanted to time the way down and allow for that time and a half for the hike back out. I was already warned not to get caught there once the sun set. “If you are still there when darkness comes, you better be prepared to stay overnight,” were the words of wisdom.
The hike down was beautiful to say the least. When there wasn’t scenic overlooks in which I could view the area, the underbrush and tree canopy provided a tunnel of peace. At times the path consisted of a small ledge with loose rocks where the nearest thing to get a handhold was the top of a tree from the slope below. Not a small tree mind you, but one of aged timber stretching for the heavens.

And there, after the hour trek, was a sight of unbridled beauty. The mighty Linville flowed around, over and beneath stonework carved by the hand of God. It played music as it weaved its way that Mozart and Beethoven would only hope to mirror. Upriver lay a large pool with varying depths. I gazed at the glistening surface and adjusted my sight to catch a peak of what was below.
Trout camouflage well with rocky bottom rivers, as well as flounder do on a sandy ocean floor. But I caught the movement and verified that it in fact a trout. I prepared the fly rod. This was my journey’s quest. I presented the fly into the pool and watched as the trout fluttered about beneath. Every once and awhile I would see one dart up on the attack and reap the reward of a well-placed lure. Mostly though, this was a trip to cleanse the soul rather than reel in a fish. It worked.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brown Mountain Lights Revisited

When I was in my younger days, the youth boys went on a camping trip with the church. We had an obstacle course that ran through the woods. We built fires and roasted marshmallows. One evening we all sat around the fire pit and one of the youth counselors shared a story with us. He told us about the history of the land we were on and how the Indians once inhabited the area. He told us where we could look for arrow heads the next morning and each and every one of us was locked into his words.
He then told us how on one side of the creek that we could see from where we were sitting, a young Indian bride lost her life prematurely one evening. Afterwards, the widowed Indian warrior swore that anyone he caught on the shores after dark he would exact his revenge on them. Each night he would paddle his canoe up and down the banks in his pursuit.
As if on cue, one of us saw a shimmering light through the swamp bathed cypress trees. Then we heard the slap of the water as the ‘Indian warrior’ paddled toward us. Of course, it was a counselor from the girl’s side of the creek paddling as this whole ghost story was staged. However as a pre-teen, it was as real as it gets and we all slept with one eye open in the tents that evening.
Resting to the east of the Linville Gorge is a non-descript mountain with a relatively flat peak. So vanilla in its stature, Brown Mountain would hardly be recognized except for one very unique feature. Between October and early spring a splattering of lights appear on a regular basis. The Brown Mountain Lights have spawned much investigation into the mystery including television shows and numbers of blog posts and videos.
The causes have many theories but none have become definitive. One legend is of a mighty battle between the Cherokees and Catawba Indians that turned particularly bloody. After the battle, the widows went in search of their massacred husbands by fire light.
Songwriter Scotty Wiseman released a bluegrass hit sang by stars such as the Kingston Trio and Roy Orbison that told of an old slave who was in search of his departed master.
The United States Geological Society investigated the lights on several occasions. In October of 1913, the USGS sent D.B. Sterrett to find out what the lights were and why they appeared. After a few days, Sterrett determined the lights were the result of the locomotive traversing tracks on the other side of the mountain. However, in 1916 there was a great flood that washed the tracks away, yet the lights continued to appear. So in 1922 the USGS once again investigated the lights. This investigation generated a conclusion that the lights were automobile lights, stationary lights, or brushfires.
Is this an image of the famous BML?
While I have seen the lights myself, I disagree with the conclusions that have been taken. One evening one of the wishful watchers noticed a flickering down toward the valley. “There they are,” he voiced in exhilaration.
But it was not. I had a high powered spotting scope and could make out the individual logs on the fire as well as a blue tinted light that would appear and disappear. The blue light was the screen from a cell phone that would be visible when unobstructed from the camper’s head.
However, the lights, the true Brown Mountain Lights, I cannot explain. Could it be the ones that are explained are not truly the Brown Mountain Lights? And are the unexplained a mourning apparition in search of a lost love?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Destination - Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

North Carolina once ran an advertising campaign promoting in-state tourism informing residents to discover “the State you’re in.” Unfortunately, many times we overlook what is our own backyard in search of greater adventures. Ask ten people from New York City have they ever been to the Statue of Liberty and you would be amazed at how many never have simply because it is there and they can go anytime.
I have been to Linville Gorge many times. I have seen the falls and observed the beauty of the area from many of the overlooks that surround it. However, I had never been down to the river to view the gorge from below. Considering archery deer season is in as well as bear season, I thought this would be an ideal time to experience it. Now, those of you who have been there know it is all but impossible to hunt in this way in the ‘Grand Canyon of the East,’ but this hunt was more for the adventure of it then it was to bag a game animal.
The history of the place is phenomenal. The Cherokee and the Catawba Indians supposedly battled in this region back in the 1200’s. The Cherokee were also responsible for the naming of the gorge indirectly. During an expedition in the mid 1700’s, explorer William Linville and his son were captured by the Cherokee and scalped. General Griffith Rutherford also used the ridge as a rendezvous point named Cathey’s Fort in their battle with the Cherokee in 1776.

The gorge offers dozens of trails ranging from easy to moderate to difficult. Of course, this time of year the trees are cooperating nicely with its painted canvas of yellows, oranges, rust, and browns with a little green mixed as well. Most trails range in the one mile to mile and a half range. If taking a trail to the bottom of the gorge, it is recommended to leave about two hours before sunset. The gorge gets dark quickly and I was told by one of the attendants that if you get caught in the gorge in the dark you might as well be prepared to stay until daylight breaks.
While the ridge of the gorge offers incredible views the bottom brings you a completely different perspective. From the top, you just do not get an appreciation of how vast the valley is. The Linville River cascades the entire length with waterfall after pool after waterfall. Look closely in the crystal water and you may spot a hatchery supported trout. The rock formations guarding the river provide picturesque views that deserve to be seen in venues such as the Louvre in Paris. If great nature photographer Ansel Adams would have visited North Carolina, I am sure he would have captured the same essence and feeling from subjects such as Babel Tower and the Chimneys as he did from his many photos of the Half Dome from the Yosemite National Park.
If you wish to ‘get caught’ in the gorge after dark, you can. There are a limited number of overnight passes available at no charge for those who wish to camp in the gorge. On a clear night with a location allowing a view of the sky through the thick timber, you will be able to witness a starscape that only our earliest settlers and before were able to admire.

The Linville Gorge is definitely a destination to discover here in the state you’re in.

Friday, October 18, 2013

One of the Most Dangerous Animals

It was just after daybreak. I had watched her for about 30 minutes in the dark as she worked her way across the field.  She was both beautiful and dangerous. In fact, if you think about it, most things in nature share those two attributes.
Mount Everest is one example. The largest mountain in the world has enticed many a climber with her glorious beauty. She is also a killer. Nearly everyone that has ventured to the summit has come back with either parts of their bodies missing and damaged through frostbite or falls or parts of their soul grieving for the bodies they spot on the way to or from the peak. It is too dangerous to return the fallen, so the climbers that did not make lay scattered throughout the mountain. Having made authors such as Jon Krakauer and Anatoli Boukreev famous with their stories of Everest’s ferocity, it still isn’t close to causing the death, destruction, and disease of the beast that was in front of me.
Niagara with all her history and splendidness is also a devout widow-maker. She has power that few things or places on this world could ever compare to. Many times you can visit something that is regarded as larger than life and then once you get there you realize “wow, it’s not nearly as impressive as I thought it was.” Not Niagara Falls. It actually is beyond what you can imagine. The force of the water slapping the rocks below, the spray that results towering higher than any building it is very impressive. From miles away the sound and spray can be seen. Many daredevils have ventured down the river on their way to the drop. Only a few have survived. Yet it still does not contend with what stood just yards away from me.
Yes, this was the moment. Her kind was scarce just a few decades ago. Through both management and mismanagement she began to flourish however. In fact she is so common throughout the state that North Carolina has allowed unlimited harvest. She destroys landscapes. She decimates food crops. And during the months of October through December she especially burdensome to travelers. She fears not the would-be driver and often will head for direct impact. She also shares parasites, mites, and ticks with both people and pets.
This would be my chance to turn the tables. It had now been nearly an hour after I first saw her. I was not sure I would get an opportunity. She walked from left to right out of the swamp, occasionally pulling up soybeans as she strolled through the field. Patiently I waited. For some reason she turned. I remained still and steadfast sitting on the lock-on stand. She made another turn offering my movement to grab my bow without her noticing. She then turned back toward me once again. I could tell she was completely unaware of my presence. Her ears twitching away from me and back toward the swamp gave away her lack of insight. A little closer, that is all I needed.
Then she walked towards the stand and was only a few yards away. No clear shot for her vitals, I knew I still had one shot available. Nearly directly under me I set the sights. With one steady pull the string and arrow locked in place on the Pearson Stealth II. My right index finger slowly moved up and over the release trigger. Instinctively, the pin glided to the intended point of impact and the trigger was grazed.
The spine shot laid down the doe immediately. Thirty seconds later and another deer would be done.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Moose Hunt

True adventures consist of a main storyline and a bunch of little things that make it memorable. For instance I will always remember my bison hunt back in 2006. Not only did I take one of the great beasts with a bow but peppered throughout the trip were small tidbits of things that built upon the whole feel of the hunt. Dad and I stopped at every Bass Pro and Cabela’s store on the way to North Dakota. Whoever decided on where to build these two stores did a fantastic job as they were spaced perfectly for rest stops rather than pulling off the side of an interstate to one of the many run by the different states. We also visited the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND, walked the grounds of one of General Custer’s battles, and hiked and climbed to the top of an old Indian burial ground. Again, the little things enhanced the experience.

David Tomlin drew a moose permit for the second time for a hunt in New Brunswick, Canada. In 2008, David was successful in downing a monster 14 point bull moose with a 51 inch spread and weighing over 1000 pounds. It was a great hunt and trip, but David wanted to spice things up even more for this second hunt. David decided to bring along his son Eli who is eight years old.
The first thing that stuck in Eli’s mind was the passage from the United States to Canada and back again. You can imagine a kid’s awe of the processes that are going on while traveling from one country to another.
As far as the area where the hunt would take place, New Brunswick specialized in agriculture production. While they harvest many different crops, potatoes do particularly well there. Eli noticed the extensive amounts of labor and machinery used during the harvesting of the potatoes.

David also took Eli on a side trip to Hartland, New Brunswick. There, spanning the St. John River is the Hartland Bridge. Constructed between 1898 and 1901, the Hartland Bridge is the world’s longest covered bridge. Running nearly 1300 feet across the river the first person to cross the bridge was a Dr. Estey who was responding to an emergency on the other side.
Another of the small things was the generator powered cabin that David and Eli stayed in. David noted that in today’s world there are often deadlines, time tables, and places to go. There, the only thing that dictated time spent were the two to them. During the evening they would sit on the porch and play cards. Father and son.

Of course, the highlight and main goal of the trip was the moose hunt. New Brunswick only has a three day season. Dale Clark, the guide for the trip, is an expert ‘moose-talker’. Using a horn made out of birch that resembles an extremely large funnel, one could understand where the term ‘bull horn’ comes from. Dale worked the call and the three of them spotted seven moose the first morning in just an hour and a half of calling. Afterwards, they hiked to a couple of beaver ponds and up a hill where they saw a big bodied bull. Eli and David crouched down and moved in closer. Estimating the distance at 300 yards, David waited for the moose to turn broadside before squeezing the trigger on the Savage 7mm mag. The shot was true and the bull dropped. The rack was smaller than one they saw in the morning but the body was much bigger. And Eli witnessed and was part of a great adventure of things both small and large.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Success from Failure

I received an email from one of the readers of this column telling me about an upcoming hunting trip. He successfully drew a moose tag in New Brunswick, Canada. Only 100 non-residents are drawn each year and this is the second time he was drawn for a tag. He told me of both his excitement of going and taking his son as well, but he was also nervous.
I wished him well and as of the day this column runs they will have returned with a story of a great adventure together.
One thing I know he is aware of is the possibility of an unsuccessful hunt. There are a number of obstacles that can prevent the reward of a great trophy to match an epic adventure.
Mark Huelsing, for instance, has dreamed of elk hunting and for the last couple of years has been buried in research, practice, and physical training in an effort to pursue that dream. This year he knew he would be attempting to the elk hunt in Colorado, but he also had an added bonus of being drawn in the Kentucky Elk lottery too. For the last 10 days I have watched him tweet and post on Facebook beautiful photos of himself in the white capped Rockies overlooking vast valleys of green. A post would appear with disappointment as torrential rains and strong winds would hinder the hunt for several days. All the training, all the study and even the money and time dedicated to the trip resulted in his return home with just a story and some landscape photographs. He has remained upbeat knowing he still has a chance to accomplish his goal with the Kentucky hunt still to come.
You can read more from Mark at Sole Adventure
My grandfather, who had taken over 100 record book big game animals in North America and Africa, came home from trips that lasted several weeks with grand stories. However the one that was painted the most vividly is one in which he did not return with his desired trophy. He as hunting one of the big cats of Africa and was going with a guide he was not familiar with. Back in the 70’s and 80’s there were few people or companies to arrange trips such as this and Papa used one that was at the top during the time, Jack Atcheson. The particular guide that Atcheson had associated with was new for him as well.
As the professional hunter (what guides are called in Africa) and my grandfather moved through the brush, the PH motioned for my grandfather to pause. “Do you hear that?” he said. Just then my grandfather saw the great cat walk into an opening ahead of them and stop.
Knowing the nature of cats something seemed awry in this whole scenario. My grandfather let down his rifle and proceeded to walk straight to the cat. It bounded off. But Papa noticed something. He saw two men on top of a cage nestled back in the brush. The guide was using captured animals and releasing them to guarantee the hunt. Papa never did get the cat he was looking for, but he never used that guide again either.
Success is not a guarantee when hunting.
However, even with the lack of success, a lot can be learned from failure. Mark will be taking his new found experience and applying it toward his hunt in Kentucky. Papa used his lack of success to find out more about the guides he would be hunting with when using agencies to book hunts. And whether or not the reader found success in his moose hunt, I am sure he and his son will learn a lot about each other.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Video: Archery Spine Shot on a Deer

Video of a deer hunt this weekend in which the result was a spine shot with the bow. The deer expired in 30 seconds after impact (edited on video to prevent graphic nature).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Early Success

Early success in hunting has a few different meanings. One way early success can be explained is a successful early part of the season in which the game pursued was taken in the beginning stages of the hunt. For instance, one who tags out on opening day has had early success.
Another way early success can be achieved is if the hunter is successful at an early age. A hunt in which a youth is able to take a nice buck while hunting with his dad fits this scenario.
Then there is one more. This is when both meanings overlap.
Here is a review on the Hawke Optics XB30 Crossbow Scope

On opening day of deer archery season Brayden Morris went out on a hunt with his dad Kevin. The weather was nice with cooler temperatures and a new moon. Kevin had set up a box blind stand overlooking a pine thicket and knew deer frequented the area. Sure enough, around 7:00am deer begin entering the opening in the thicket. It did not take long for nearly one dozen deer to fill the area. Brayden, only seven years old, was not new to hunting. He had hunted deer since he was four. His experience allowed him to remain patient and wait for the big buck that was sure to follow the others out.
And there he was. The largest deer Brayden would have an opportunity for. It did not wait. No, it headed straight in. The other deer cleared the way knowing this buck was in charge. Brayden had other plans though. Brayden set the sights of the Striker 380 crossbow upon the buck’s shoulder. He gently moved his fore finger to the trigger and lightly squeezed. Brayden hit his mark. There lay the biggest buck of Brayden’s early hunting career. A beautiful eight pointer measuring near 118 inches and weighing 150 pounds. Early success.
One week later, Brayden and his dad set up in the same stand once again. And just like before, the thicket filled with whitetail shortly after sun up.
And there he was. A larger buck than before. Again, a dominate buck made his way through the thicket to the ambush area. Unlike the one before, Brayden just could not get a clear shot. Three times over the next 20 minutes Brayden would set up for the shot only to have the wrong angle or another deer in the way. But Brayden’s experience, patience, and nerves of steel allowed him to wait for the right time.
My story on Brayden for the North Carolina Sportsman
The right time would come. Brayden once again set the sights of his crossbow upon the shoulder of the buck. Breathe. Exhale. Squeeze. Kevin and Brayden tracked the blood trail and came upon the downed creature. This one’s antlers were still covered in velvet. A mainframe nine with a kicker that rough measured 124 inches and weighed the same as the first, Brayden had just filled both of his antlered buck tags in the first week of the season. Each deer set Brayden’s personal best.
Brayden had achieved the full meaning of early success.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Technology and Hunting

The applications mentioned in the story are all from my Android based phone, so screen shots may vary for iPhone.

Technology has taken over our lives. Did you know even your most basic of automobiles can have over thirty different computers running everything from the engine to windows to tire pressures? Hunting is no exception. Just a few months ago a rifle and scope was developed in which you ‘marked’ the target and then you could squeeze the trigger at any time afterwards. The firearm will not fire until the marked target is within the sights and a direct hit will result. I see this as a great military advantage but one of the people being interviewed during the testing remarked he was going to use it to keep the coyote population down to protect his livestock.
With the advent of the smart phone, many outdoorsmen are taking advantage of the applications available. Apps range from mapping programs to weather programs and even programs such as the Pocket Ranger apps by Parks by Nature in which hunting and fishing seasons, locations, and regulations can be found at the push of a button.
While researching and browsing some of the apps, many of which I have on my own phone, I found there are apps that can assist with just about every phase of the hunt.
Scoutlook Weather
GPS Hunt
First, when planning a hunting trip for the next weekend it is imperative to know the coming weather. While there are many weather related apps, one I found that is highly reliable is from Weather Underground. With forecasts as much as a week in advance including hour by hour and sunset and sunrise times, you’ll know if it is the right time to go or not.
Just before the hunt you can use Scoutlook Weather. This app shows the map of the area and if you have already marked your stand or blind locations it shows a scent cone for wind carried scent.  This is essential for getting in the best location so as not to spook the game.
After a successful shot hunters go through what is often called ‘the second hunt’ in which the game has to be tracked. An app like GPS Hunt works great as it allows you to mark blood trails in case you have a long trail or are in heavy cover.
Of course, everyone has to have their bragging rights once the game is located. Cameras on cell phones now rival the digital cameras professional photographers used just a decade ago. And camera apps on the same cell phones can turn anyone into a photograph editor expert. Programs such as Instagram and Sketchguru not only enhance the photos but can turn them into works of art.


Once you have the photos there is nothing like the instant gratification of pats on the back from hunting buddies and family. The aforementioned Instagram, and social sights such as Facebook and Twitter allow this with ease.
Deer Dummy
After all the poses are completed you still have to do something with the animal. For new hunters or those that have always gone straight to a processor that will clean the game for you there is Deer Dummy. This application gives the user a step by step instruction on field dressing your prized deer and getting it ready for processing. Deer Dummy also has a companion DVD and chart to assist in process.
Lastly, after the meat is in the freezer, you still have one more step; Enjoying true organic food. My wife has a habit of pulling up recipes on sights such as Pinterest and saving them for future use. The right recipe can make anything a gourmet meal. Heck, even the kids may try it as long as they don’t know what it is.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hunter's Remorse and Reward

I had a successful opening day of bow season. After changing stands a couple of times during the day I set up in the stand I had determined would be the best one for the evening hunt. The stand was a lock-on stand placed roughly 25 feet up the tree and only accessible by the climbing sticks attached to the trunk. The first limbs were just a few feet above my head allowing for a place to hang my bow and quiver along with the small pack I use when hunting from a stand.
Right at sunset, between five minutes prior to five minutes after I spotted the first deer I had seen all day. She exited the tree line of the swamp within a few feet of where I thought she would. She entered the natural clover opening and turned to her left. I noticed a slight limp in her stride. I had my bow in hand but did not risk notice of any movement until I could determine exactly where she was headed. She had a steady walk, somewhere between “I know exactly where I am going” to “I wonder where everybody is.” Since she was going from my left to right and I knew she would go by my stand I waited to draw when the tree I was in was between the two of us. Her pace was quick enough I did not have to hold the 70 pound pull of the Ben Pearson Stealth II but a few seconds before she was in a clear line of sight. I previously marked yardages with the rangefinder and decided if she did not slow down I would take the shot at the 20 yard mark while she moved.
As the thought was processed through my mind she hung a quick right, still passing by the stand. I made a small grunt and she paused, her front left foot still dangling in the air as she didn’t finish her step. I dropped the 10 yard pin from the Spot Hogg sight onto her middle right shoulder. Thwack.
Thirty minutes later I climbed down the stand and started the tracking. My two nephews helped in the process and it was not long before we found her some 50 yards in the swamp.
To say hunters have no heart or soul is a major misunderstanding. Upon finding her we noticed her left side was devoid of hair on about 25 percent of her body. While one nephew wondered if she may have had something like mange or some other disease, I recognized she had likely been hit by a car within the last couple of months. What she had was road rash. Her limp was also a result of the collision.
One thinks of the hard life she must have had. She was old enough where she had given birth before but there were no signs of fawns with her at this point. She was likely a 2 or 3 year old doe. And here I was the one that had ended her life.

I also understand as a hunter that in ending her life I have given her purpose. If she would not have survived the car collision she would have been left for flies and maggots and vultures. Instead she now provides food for a greater good. Instead of perishing from disease, starvation, or coyote attack because of her lack of mobility, she was laid down quickly and ethically.
Yes, we hunters do understand the cycle of life and death and predator and prey.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Deer Season is Here!

The time is here. Ever since January hunters have anticipated this day. Whether it followed a successful season in which the freezer was filled and the rewards of the chess game against the buck of a lifetime are now hanging from the wall or if the season ended in disappointment as the prey out gamed the predator and all that was gained was a few glimpses and encounters that ended with the buck walking away, the feelings are the same.
The spring and summer were spent planting food plots and preparing stand locations. Trail cameras were hung and moved and checked to find out who made it and who did not. Occasionally one is recognized from the year before. There is a sense of almost fatherly pride as the small fork horn from last season is now endowed with the body of a Kentucky Derby racehorse with a main frame eight in velvet towering above. Yes, there it is, a small kicker off the right G2 to make it that much more unique.
Your sweat, blood and tears (usually the tears are a result of the blood) have been poured into all the preparation needed to invite these habitual trespassers onto the land.
When not in the field, equipment was cleaned and tended. Countless hours of practice were spent in order to perfect the killing shot. Visualization of the deer’s approach and the location of the vitals were used to make the shot and calm the nerves. The sights were adjusted, and adjusted, and adjusted. Perfection became calling. Nothing else mattered.
And here it is. All of this time, all of this preparation for just the opportunity to make the shot. Perhaps the camera’s results showed the deer coming to the food plot at 4:00 am. That is fine. You are a hunter. You will get there early and wait. There is nothing wrong with a short nap from 20 feet in a tree. The sun’s cresting of the treetops makes a scenic alarm clock. The cool morning air soothes the lungs that have endured months of hard work, humid hot summer air. Your body not only welcomes the change from being indoors, it encompasses the outdoors.
As you wake you hear the crunching of corn kernels. A slight musk mixed with the scent of wet vegetation reminds you that you are in Heaven. You are conscious of your movements. Just as a chameleon blends in with its environment and only moves it eyes, you do the same. One wrong move will mean the end to these months of preparation. All the correct moves will mean months of true organic food.
You observe the way the prey are protecting themselves. One eats, one looks. They alternate. Every few seconds or so you spot the ears turning away from you toward the field. The one eating lifts his head and scans around. They do not realize you are there.
Your breath begins to quicken as you prepare to make your move. The left hand slowly edges toward the weapon. “Got to control myself,” you think. You breathe in deeply through your nose. You exhale slowly and quietly through pierced but open lips. Much better.
Your hand grips the handle. White knuckles. No, relax. Your right hand slowly draws back. You don’t even notice the 70 pounds at this point. It is purely off instinct and muscle memory. The grip hand is no longer holding, it is just there to keep the bow in place. The sight pin is focused through the small peep hole in the string. It settles just behind the shoulder of the deer.
This is your story. Get out there and finish it.