Friday, October 31, 2014

Change of Location

The weeks since archery season have been frustrating. Everything was promising early as the deer were plentiful and consistent to the area. There are a couple of monsters that roam the fields and they would occasionally show themselves on the trail camera during daylight.

Opening day brought a dead morning. The afternoon fared better as several does and their young came out well before sunset. Unfortunately none of them turned towards my stand and they grazed just out of range.

A small buck made his way towards the stand, and presented a great shot opportunity. I held the 70 pound draw of the bow for nearly a minute with the pin set squarely in the ole bread basket while fighting internally about whether to take the shot on the young six pointer. Eventually I decided to let him walk and said a little prayer that he may survive another year.

Since then, not nearly as much excitement. I never spotted another deer during shooting hours. Only twice have I had the startling thrill of hearing a doe blow while leaving the stand after dark. Forty pounds of corn may disappear overnight from a Wednesday evening to a Thursday morning, while it may lay completely untouched from a Thursday evening until a Sunday evening save for a large cardinal family pecking individual kernels as daylight would evaporate. Even the trail cameras were in confusion, with the only photos showing rain or a windblown field.

It was time to move.

Roughly 30 miles from where I hunt the early season is the next on the list. Sweet potatoes were recently harvested leaving behind chunks of natural deer bait. My first drive into the field yielded exactly what I was looking for. Tracks and hoof prints blanketed the soft white sands of the path leading in. In some areas the ground was so torn from the trampling of the deer you would think it was a detour of the Running of the Bulls.

And then I spotted a deer hunter’s heaven.

No, I hadn’t run across Mr. Big just yet. But I did see what Mr. Big wants, at least at this point of the season.

Acorns. Acorns everywhere. The magic fairy dust of a deer’s taste buds.

The white oaks were very kind. The underbrush, consisting of my least favorite plants was so damaged from the frequent travel of the deer to the acorn buffet that I easily was able to get to a perfectly straight and tall tree without fear of briars or poison ivy.

I pieced together twenty feet of climbing sticks and leaned it on the tree. First securing the lowest strap, I worked my way up one section at the time until the top strap held the elevator to hunting paradise squarely on the tree.

The lock-on stand was placed next. Three feet lower than the top of the climbing sticks allowed me easy access without threat of falling to certain injury or death. Just a couple of feet from my backside on the climb was a second tree. There, I screwed in a couple of hooks which would serve to hold the bow and my small carry bag.

The only thing left was to place another camera and hunt it.

Of course, I did.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ebola and CWD

The recent news of the Ebola virus being diagnosed in the United States raised many concerns. As well it should. The disease is on one of its largest killing sprees in western Africa.
It made its way into the U.S. after we were told a couple of weeks prior that it was highly unlikely the virus could spread here. The Center for Disease Control assured everyone that we were completely prepared to prevent it from coming over as well as control it with the citizens we brought back for medical treatment.
In the aftermath, we have found out the CDC was completely caught off guard when it was diagnosed in Texas. The medical personnel there were not prepared to handle anyone who may have exhibited the symptoms of Ebola. The Hazmat teams were not at the ready for cleanup and containment. In other words, we blew it. It could have easily have been worse, and hopefully it will not get worse as the next week or so plays out with those the patient was in contact with.
The deer equivalent to such a devastating disease is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is not detectable in live animals and has long incubation periods. It is also always fatal. Several states have been affected with CWD in their various deer herds. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia have all been hit with CWD. Once CWD has been found in a herd, it has never been eradicated.
Fortunately, North Carolina has an extensive plan to prevent an outbreak if it is ever spotted here. Recently, the state tested 3,800 wild deer that were either taken by hunters or road kill, in which none were discovered to be infected. This is another case in which the estimated 260,000 deer hunters assist in the conservation of our wildlife.
However, if, at some point CWD is discovered in the state, the CWD Response Plan will be implemented. First, the states will set up a surveillance area within a 10 mile radius of the infected deer.
To prevent attracting more deer from coming into the surveillance area, all baiting and feeding will be banned. The state will also set up mandatory check stations for deer harvested by hunters to check for potential spread of the disease by testing for CWD in the harvested deer.
Hunting seasons and times may be expanded in order to collect more samples for testing, as well as reduce the herd in the infected area.
All deer and deer parts, including the meat, antlers, skulls, and fur, within the surveillance area cannot be transported out without special treatment and labeling.
And of course, wildlife enforcement patrols will increase within the surveillance area to ensure compliance with the requirements.
Our plan is solid and seems to be well thought out. However, it does not take a lot of change to cause something like this to falter.
Let’s go back to the Ebola patient for a moment. Our only prevention of the spread from his home country to the U.S. was a questionnaire on whether he had been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with the disease. It was discovered he had been in contact with a pregnant woman who was suffering from the symptoms and later died. He answered he had not.
North Carolina is considering legislation to allow the opening of more captive deer farms. Remember, CWD cannot be detected from live animals. By opening these deer farms it increases the risk of bringing CWD from another state into our own without us ever knowing about it. Even a captive herd can have interaction with a wild herd. The only thing separating the two in most instances is a high fence.
We may need to look at the lessons given to us by our own species in order to protect other species who cannot protect themselves.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Simplicity is a Lost Trait

Simplicity is a lost trait. Our world of endless technological advances continues to march forward leaving the easiest tasks in an afterthought.
Take tire monitoring systems for instance. At one time, many years ago, when you would pull up to a filling station, an attendant would come out. Then he would proceed to pump the fuel, clean the windshield, check the oil, and check the air pressures in the tires. As the filling stations began to lose the necessity of attendants, then we began to check our own.
We even changed our own oil and performed tune ups on our own vehicles.
Then something changed.  Our lives were blessed with computer systems which could be integrated into certain simple tasks. Alarm clocks were no longer a series of gears clicking endlessly towards an eventual hammer attack on two bells. Analog went digital. Our vehicles started telling us when it was time to change oil rather than us keeping up with 3000 mile intervals on our odometers.
And then the cursed tire monitor was born. It came about because of necessity actually. We forgot how to check our tire pressures. We did not know how much air was supposed to go in the tires. We did not realize the affect temperatures played on the tire pressures. And we still do not.
That little flashing (or steady on some vehicles) light that looks like a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the middle causes anxiety, stress, and outright fear when we see it now. It only comes on for two reasons. Either the tire pressure is beyond a certain threshold limit or a sensor has gone bad.
Now we have come to boat motors. This is an outdoors column after all. At one time they were as simple as you could make a mechanical contraption with an enormous amount of moving parts that held both an engine and transmission within the same body.
Don’t get me wrong, they were complicated. They had to be worked on. However, anyone with a little mechanical know-how could do at least the basics and keep the motors where they could be counted upon every weekend.
It is much different at this time. More thing-a-ma-jigs have been added so they compare in number with the bells and whistles of most commercial airliners. In doing so, it has added more stuff to break, and the ability to get it repaired nearly impossible. Trust me; a marine mechanic that can fix a boat motor is no longer worth his weight in salt. He is worth enough salt to season a year’s worth of McDonald’s fries.
I can easily count more boat motors that are not running sitting on dormant boats than boats ready to hit the water by just the turn of a key.
Even the electric motors have gone crazy in technology. At one time they were just a motor attached by wire running through a shaft to a potentiometer located in the handle. Electric current running from the battery to the potentiometer would determine how fast and in which direction the propeller would spin.
Now they have powered trim, remote controlled, gps enabled abilities that takes a third year college course to understand how to use fully.
It is a wonder the Inuit were able to stretch seal skin over a wood frame, paddle out in sub-frigid waters and harvest whales for food, tools, and other required living uses. Their only gauges were the rumbling of their bellies and bite of the Arctic air. Luckily they did not use wheels very often; those tire monitors would have driven them crazy with the cold air.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Let it Grow, or Fill the Freezer?

One of my hunting goals is to take a symmetrical eight pointer in velvet with a bow. He does not have to be Boone and Crockett big, nor Pope and Young big. He just needs to be in velvet, have 4 points on each side that are fairly even in length, and look balanced.
For those not familiar with the terms used, as a deer or other antlered beast grows their antlers, they are in velvet. Velvet is a soft covering of the antlers. Once the deer rubs the velvet off, the antlers cease to get larger.
Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young refer to the two most common and well known organizations that keep records of North American game animals. Boone and Crockett keeps up with any type of fair chase kill as well as found animals. Pope and Young restricts their records to bow kills. Entry into either of the clubs records has to meet a certain criteria based on different scoring methods and measurements as well as ethical standards of the hunt. These entries are what is considered a trophy animal.
But what is a true trophy? I would be as excited and proud of the velvet symmetrical eight as I would a Booner (slang for a Boone and Crockett entry). Would this not count as a trophy in my eyes?
Of course it would. But sometimes we get caught up in what a trophy is in others’ eyes. Has it become just an extension of our school days?
You know what I am talking about. You become close to that cute girl that sits beside you in class. You casually mention her name while playing with your friends and several of them start making remarks about some feature they don’t like about her and just like that, you throw a cold shoulder. You like her still, but there is no way you would ever let her nor anyone else know.
Jeff Foxworthy runs a comedy routine about deer hunting and trophies. He plays a scenario where a huge buck is laying in the back of one pickup truck and all the guys in the hunting club are giddy over the size and stature of such a beautiful animal. Then, they work their way to the next truck where a much smaller deer lays. “That’s good eatin’ right there,” one says.
“Yep, the young ones are good and tender,” comments another. No longer will this hunter take an animal of that size again. Not when his hunting buddies are around anyway.
Opening weekend of bow season played out in a similar way. I was hoping to drop a couple of does for the freezer. The burger and sausage is getting low from last year’s hunts. Even my wife joked with her co-workers about me needing to go out and gather us some meat.
The morning’s hunt began at 3:30am, as I have done nearly every opening season over the past decade. Within 15 minutes of entering the stand I had three deer below me within ten yards of the stand. Unfortunately, after another 15 minutes, a torrential downpour flushed all the deer deep into the woods for cover. There was no action the rest of the morning.
That afternoon I again entered the stand. I watched as a small cow horn buck exited the tree line to my far left. Behind him three does and a small fawn sneaked in as well. They all walked away from the stand further to the left.
While I watched them graze on the beans I caught movement closer to me on my left. A six pointer, still in velvet must have entered the field out of sight and worked his way through the field towards me. He continued to close the distance and came as close as five yards from my tree.
He was a little spooked and darted away before stopping to look back once again. I pictured him making a turn and doubling back, which he did. At 17 yards I came to full draw and settled the 20 yard pin where the heart would be.
And I moved the string from the anchor position and waited for him to leave. My thoughts of shooting a buck that was too small overcame my intent of putting meat in the freezer.
I wasn’t on a guided trophy hunt. There were no size restrictions. The land is not managed for trophy deer. Yet I let a good four to five months of food walk because of the size of the antlers.
There is no right or wrong as to what happened. Only a question we all must ask ourselves at times. Why?