Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dixie Deer Classic 2013

Each year around this time I endure an annual pilgrimage that takes me to all corners of the Earth.  I encounter some of the most unique, revered, and feared beasts.  One particular animal stands out amongst all others though.
If a deer hunter, and I mean a hardcore, thinks about hunting 25 hours per day 8 days a week, big buck down dreaming deer hunter were to die and go to Heaven, this place would still surpass anything he could envision.  Whitetails by the hundreds surround you.  The chatter in the air consists of voices telling story after story of deer taken by bow, crossbow, rifle, muzzleloader, and dogs.
There are also the sounds of the ones that got away.  The big one that stepped out just after dark or left just before daylight.  The monster that stared right into the eyes of the hunter as if to dare him to take the shot and consume the hunter with excitement, anxiety, and sheer madness to the point of either not taking the shot or fumbling altogether.  The one that does not induce buck fever, but rather buck plague!
Yes, the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh is one of the premiere hunting exhibitions not only in the Southeast, but the whole country.  Too big for just one roof, the DDC as it is commonly called fills up a good portion of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds for a three day extravaganza.
World class guides and outfitters stand at the ready to convince you the next trip of a lifetime is within reach.  Break-out sessions offering instruction covering everything from quality game and land management to how to call turkeys in close are there to enhance your hunting experiences.  Well known and well regarded outdoorsman personalities are there to offer encouragement and share their wisdom as well.
Last year I interviewed Steven Rinella, who is one of the featured guests this year.  Rinella offered me an advance copy of his book Meateater before its national release.  A great book that told the story of what hunting means to him.  While he has done some things wrong in the past, his story mirrors most peoples.  He understands the benefits of proper game management through the events in his life.  He recently partnered with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and has become an advocate for proper management to maintain ongoing, sustainable land and wildlife resources.
Another guest will be Tom Miranda.  Miranda is the first person to successfully take all 29 big game species in North America with archery equipment on film.  In the annuls of history, Miranda will be mentioned with other great outdoorsmen of North America that include Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Teddy Roosevelt, Art Young, Fred Bear, and Chuck Adams.  Think about it.  Not only did he hunt each species, but he harvested the animal.  He closed the distance enough to take it successfully with a bow.  And he did it while being filmed.  One other thing, they were all trophy sized animals as well.
Looking at both Rinella’s and Miranda’s youth, it seems they could have been brothers.  Both grew up and spent time in the upper Michigan area.  Both fueled their passion for nature through trapping.  They both tried to make a career out of what has become a lost art in today’s world.  Trapping was their entry.  Hunting became their legacy.
Our world now encourages youth to stay inside and use computers for both play, study, and work.  They grew up learning to be self reliant.  Middle schoolers now receive iPads and are taught how to use a calculator, word processor, and spreadsheet.  When I was in school we were taught how to do arithmetic, calculus, and physics with pencil, paper, and often, a very big eraser.
The world has changed.  If we do not build the excitement in both youth and new hunters, the very things we enjoyed growing up and the things that Rinella now fights for will become a distant memory only to be studied in text books.
Shows such as the Dixie Deer Classic and later this summer the Southern Trophy Hunter show in Greensboro can help ignite the fire.  Take someone who has never hunted, whether youth or adult, and look at their eyes as they enter.  You will see the same awe and twinkle that Miranda had as he stalked another record book beast.
The Dixie Deer Classic runs March 1-3 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Project Boat

Acronyms are words consisting of the letters of several words or phrases.  Some of the more notable are scuba (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) and golf (gentlemen only, ladies forbidden).  While I learned that was what golf meant, I later found out golf was actually a variation of a Dutch word meaning stick, but the one mentioned above actually came into play in either the 18th or 19th centuries.
Another acronym word I find interesting is boat.   Boat derives its letters from ‘bring on another thousand’.
So you can picture my wife’s dismay when I acquired a boat recently.  Add to it this would be a ‘project’ boat.  This means, according to her, something that never gets finished.  I don’t know if she is far off either.  Just the planning of how to modify this project boat has consumed both time and dreams.
Yet another challenge with this project boat is I want it to do everything!  It needs to work for fishing in lakes, rivers and coastal waters (not the ocean and deep sea, but the calmer marine waters), hunting, and bowfishing.
And I want to have cameras so I can video.
See how this whole ‘project’ works out?  The more you think about it, the more you want, hence the never ending work and bottomless wallet.
Unlike some projects that men take up though, I do have a time limit.  It has to be ready for the rock fish run in late March.  Cold windy weather, rain and snow are huge obstacles.  Work is too.  So in the time constraints of designing and actually doing the work, I have to plan what I can do on good days as well as on bad days.
Now this project boat was in pretty decent shape when I got it.  That is a valid argument to the question “why change things”.  But in changing things, the boat transforms from a boat that I got recently to ‘my boat’.  I get to leave my mark.
Bare hull, a little elbow grease, and it begins to transform.  I figure I have about three good weeks to make it happen, and one weekend is all but impossible to get anything done.  Figuring out how to make it happen, then doing the work is very similar to any other activity.  It is very much like scouting for the perfect piece of land for deer, turkey or bear.  Instead of putting up a stand or building a blind though, I am putting together a floating vessel.
There is something both primal and intellectual in this modification.  First, the tightening of the knuckles and flexing of the muscles as pieces are put into place brings out the most basic of my instincts.  Then the progression continues as the thought process transforms into the mold of great thinkers such as Franklin, Edison, Ford or even Einstein.    Dabbling in everything from physics, to electricity, to engineering, the juices flow freely and a wry smile stretches across my face.  Borrowing a line from the old television show The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.
Even with this physical and mental work, it brings solitude.  This build relieves stress from the everyday world in ways a pill from the pharmacist never can.  It is natural.  It provides a focus, a means, and a goal.
It brings about peace.  And an acronym for PEACE is ‘positive energy activates constant elevation’.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Old Stories

     One of the things I cherish is an old Bible my grandfather gave to me.  It is one of those small New Testament Bibles like you were given in grade school back in the 70’s.  On the inside cover it has written in my grandfather’s handwriting, ‘see page 313.’  When you go there, there is a portion of the scripture highlighted and in the margin it again has instructions to ‘see page 318.’  As you turn from section to section, if you read each in order, it tells a story.
     That is what is so interesting about this old Bible.  It tells a story within a story as comprehended by my grandfather.
     New gadgets are neat to play with and learn how to use, but they do not tell a story like older things.
     I was given an old Ithaca double barrel shotgun when I was learning how to shoot before my tenth birthday.  It was one my grandfather and dad had used.  Back then, quail were as common as any other game bird in North Carolina.  The barrel was sawed off to the point of legality in order to open the choke all the way.  The choke is what patterns the spray of the shot as it leaves the muzzle, and by sawing it off this short it was the equivalent of throwing paint from a 5 gallon bucket as compared to dotting the wall with a small paintbrush.  By making the pattern as big as possible allowed a quick snap type of shot on the quail without having to take the time to point and shoot in a methodical way.
     See, there is a story.  The shotgun tells me of a time long gone and how they hunted.  I could go buy a new top of the line shotgun and while it would shoot just fine, it doesn’t have that connection.
     Back in 2006 my father and I went on our first big game hunt together.  We drove up to North Dakota in pursuit of the mighty bison.  My goal was to take one with the bow.  It would be the first big game animal I took with archery equipment.  One of my customers at work was an elderly man and was looking as much to my hunt as I was.  When I got back and told him about it, he told me he would be back that afternoon because he had something to share with me.
     Later that day, he came in and we talked for probably 30 minutes, but it seemed like several hours.  He told me of how he loved elk hunting and how he had hunted Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana several times when he was younger.  He then told me how his greatest trip was when he hunted elk with a Bear Grizzly recurve.  After hearing his adventure, I could tell the reminiscence had touched him deeply.  He then said he needed to run to the car for a second.  When he came back in, he showed me the old Fred Bear masterpiece.  It was in fairly good condition with only the beaver felt on the shelf peeling off.
     He then handed it over to me.  “It’s yours.  I only have daughters and they don’t hunt.  And I’m obviously too old to even pull it back now.  It needs to be used once more.”
     There was the connection.  The story had presented itself.  That old traditional recurve bow was a symbol for days of adventure, happiness and passion.
     I love archery and bowhunting as much as anything, but I am also the first to admit I am absolutely awful shooting traditional equipment.  But I owed it to that gentleman, to the story of that bow, to hunt with it at least once.
     I did not go to the Rockies in pursuit of elk, but I did hunt with it.  I took an opossum from about 10 yards.  I had to shoot twice as a matter of fact.  And afterwards, I put the bow up.  I had added another chapter to the story.  It was the only game I had ever taken with a recurve.  To this day it still is.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What I Learned Shooting Competition

I have chased critters all over this country.  I have been to the Dakotas in pursuit of the mighty American bison, rode horseback over 20 miles each day for 10 days in the high desert mountains of Arizona chasing mountain lion, and endured the swamps of Southern Georgia stalking the American alligator.  Even with these experiences, I never thought I would be targeting hyenas, wolves, ibex, and cheetahs, all on the same trip, in Northern Florida.

On the first day I was guided to a funneled game trail that lead into a small clearing.  It did not take long and I encountered the first animal in my pursuit.  There, about 30 yards away and behind a few trees was a warthog of all things.  I could tell it did not realize I was near and even though there were several trees blocking the bulk of the out-of-place creature, the vitals were clearly unobstructed.  I quietly drew back my Ben Pearson Stealth II bow armed with a 385 grain Gold Tip arrow.  The wind was blowing left to right at about 10 mph even in the woods, but I was confident I could make the shot.


The release was clean and the arrow was on target.  There was no blood trail to follow, but I didn’t need one.  The African mudder stayed right where I shot him.

Such is the way of a 3-d target competition shooter.

Nearly 1000 archers and bowhunters from around the United States gathered in a small town near Gainesville, Florida over the weekend in the Easton ASA Pro/Am.  They came from all walks of life; different disciplines of archery ranging from the traditional recurve to super fast and high tech compound bows, as well as different skill levels.  And here I was making the trip having never competed even on the local level.

Between my two rounds of 20 targets resembling beasts both familiar and unfamiliar I was able to walk the different ranges and observe other competitors.  I watched as Levi Morgan, a multiple time national and world champion from Brevard, North Carolina make a climb from 15th to first on the Open Pro class.

I spoke with Ray Hickman, who was competing his first time as a pro in the Senior Pro class.  Nothing but smiles and excitement for being in the woods and shooting a bow, yet Ray was collected enough to finish 13th overall.

I shot with people from Georgia and Florida in my group, but shot against competitors from Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Illinois.  No one ever had a bad thing to say as we were all part of the same family.   A family of people from different backgrounds and lineages, but joined by the outdoors spirit that ran in our blood.

I met Daniel Hines who also made the track from North Carolina down to Florida for the weekend.  He carried his son Nick.  Both were competing in their various classes.  Daniel was thrilled more for Nick’s sake than his own.  Nick did not disappoint either, as he entered a shoot-out for third place.   One eighth of an inch separated Nick from his chance to stand on the podium that weekend, but 700 miles bonded father and son to even greater heights.

I could easily see myself wanting to get involved in this type of competition.  However, even though my wife and youngest son accompanied me on this trip, my oldest son and daughter were back home in North Carolina.  Saturday night I read a tweet my daughter had mentioned me in,  missing my daddy #fatherdaughterdance”.  It was the first time in 8 or 9 years that we had not gone together in what had become a tradition.

I drove back home Sunday afternoon and had plenty of time to think about the weekend and how I had shot in my first competition.  I also thought about Daniel and Nick and their enjoyment together.  I thought about the 10 year old boy I met on the practice range.  We shot together all three days on the range.  Just before we left we stopped at a BBQ joint not far from the range facility and there he was with his family as they were about to leave.

I thought about my 8 hour drive and having to get up early Monday morning and head to work.  And I reminded myself about one shooter from Oklahoma who carried his young son.  They had over 11 hours to drive back home.  I joked with them one evening about whether the son was going to drive part of the way.

Then I began to think about the plans for this spring with my daughter and son; things that we will experience together.  Isn’t that what this whole competition called ‘life’ is about anyway?  The experience.
Bill Howard shot a 176 on Saturday and a 190 on Sunday in his first competition finishing 56th in his class.


Monday, February 4, 2013

How to Survive in the Woods Alone

This is a guest post from the Empress of Drac.  Her website is:

How to Survive In the Woods Alone

The wilderness may be the last thing you and your family may want to find yourselves in but in case of emergencies, the forest may offer you sanctuary and protection. This, of course, depends on how well you can use the resources you find in the wild and how much food and water you can bring with you. Learn the most important survival tips in the woods and find out what you can do on your own.
Have a source of sustenance

If possible, bring enough food that you can carry, preferably in a backpack. There is a number of emergency food options you can consider so you have enough to eat. Consider high-energy food bars, camping meals and MREs, nuts, chocolate, hard candy, dried fruits and vegetables. These items do not spoil easily, are easy to carry and will keep well provided they are kept in a resalable pack.
Bring water

Ideally, you need to drink about 2 quarts of water in order to prevent dehydration, although 1 quart will do in extreme situations. Try to carry as much clean water as you can. Otherwise, look for sources that are safe enough to drink. Obviously, the best sources of drinking water are rivers, lakes and streams. Preferably, look for fast-moving bodies of water with sandy beaches. To locate water, look for signs such as animal tracks and lush vegetation. Use your senses - often, moving bodies of waters can be heard in the forest. There are also other sources of water such as rain, snow, ice and dew. Keep in mind, though, that water from these sources may have to be purified first to make it safe to drink.
Know how to build a fire

Fire is important to keep yourself warm at night, cook your food and scare away wildlife. Bring a lighter, matches or a flint. As a solid fallback, learn how to make fire from rubbing sticks together. Also, remember that some things that can focus sunlight can burn dry matter, so try experimenting with eyeglasses, magnifying glass and yes, even ice.

 Know how to build shelter
Of course, you can always bring a collapsible tent with you but in an emergency situation where all you have are the clothes on your back, it helps if you know how to build a simple shelter. A basic shelter may be composed of branches, leaves, grass, ferns and moss. A pyramid or triangular shaped structure is a good choice in the woods because the shape helps drain the rain and moisture. Look for an elevated spot and avoid dead trees and other rotting materials. To avoid being rained on, keep the roofing thick. Once done, add a few branches on top to prevent the wind from blowing away the upper layer.

Finding Your Way in the Woods
As part of your survival skills, don't just learn how to hide out in the woods - learn how to get out of it. Know how to tell which direction you are going and how to identify your surroundings. The more you can work with your environment, the more likely you'll survive alone.