Archive for the ‘Camping’ Category

We used to go on more hikes and more adventures with our canine friends, but over time, work and illness limited what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Last year we went to Joe Kurz WMA one time in the off season with the dogs, and just walking around the loop at Lodge road from the gate wore most of them out. It was a hot day, and even with a trip down to the river, the dogs were plain tired when we got back to the truck.

Fast forward a little over a year, and Brody is gone.  While discussing where to take the dogs on a day off last week, I pointed out that we had never hiked Red Top Mountain state park, because ten years ago when we first went there, my wife didn’t feel well and we only walked for about fifteen minutes before deciding to drive home again.

So we got our supplies together and packed up the truck. Cinders, Missy, Zelda and especially Gretchen were going nuts because RIDE IN THE CAR! HIKE! YAAAAAH! I always carry a LOT of water on these hikes, along with other gear.  What I should have taken was a wheelbarrow, because three miles into a five mile plus hike, Zelda was done.RTM_Zelda

Zelda lost the genetic lottery on just about every level.  She has severe allergies to most proteins, and is moderately allergic to rest of the proteins on the blood test.  She has seasonal allergies. She has the ‘slope back’ inbred German Shepherd shuffle, she’s near sighted (she walked into a tree on the hike, face first. She didn’t even hesitate, just ‘trudge, trudge, BOOP, whaaaa?’)   When she stands still, her back legs are touching each other, and her back feet are splayed out at a 45 degree angle. We may have to get her tested for Degenerative Myelopathy, because she’s seven now, and getting worse in her clumsiness.  We have a chain of rugs all over the house because she has a panic attack if she has to cross open hardwood floors.   At this point, she’s on antibiotics because she decided to stick her nose in one of the cats’ faces one too many times (WHAP!) and it got infected, and because of her chronic skin infection, she’s on steroids for the skin issues as well, and Apoquel, which is twice a day for her allergies.

This is a dog that gets stuck on the couch, because if we call her name from the dining room, we’re on the other side of the couch, and she can’t figure out how to get down unless we come over to the front of it. I’m not joking.

We decided on the Homestead trail, a 5.8 mile loop that has a decent amount of lake shore views, and honestly, it’s one of the nicest, easiest trails that I’ve been on in a long time. It’s wide, fairly rock-free, (some areas have loose stones, but that looks like erosion, not like some of the trails I’ve been on, where it looks like volunteers intentionally rake rocks on the trails because they never actually use them.  I’m looking at you, Pine Mountain.) and whoever graded the trail to begin with made the elevation changes very manageable.  There are benches spaced throughout the trail, and it’s very well marked.

So there we are, with Cinders, our twelve year old German Shorthaired Jerkdog (he’s a jerk. You’d have to know him to know how big of a jerk he is, but we love him.) had been PULLING me all day, because despite having done this dozens and dozens of times, being on a leash, to him, means ‘Pull, pull hard, never stop pulling…’  So, in the front of the hike, I’ve got the oldest and youngest dogs, Cinders and Missy, with Cinders pulling for all he’s worth, and at the back of the hike is Lisa with Gretchen and Zelda, and Zelda would prefer to be carried. All eighty plus pounds of her. There is no couch. There is no TV, she doesn’t want to be here, at all.

When we got to the loop intersection of Homestead, my wife said ‘I don’t know if the Pointed Dog can make this hike,’ because Zelda was already looking tired.  We discussed it for a bit, and finally decided to go ahead, but take it slow. Halfway through the loop, almost exactly, we realized we’d made a mistake.  She would walk for ten to fifteen yards, trip over her own back feet, and lay down. The wife would  help her stand again, and the process would repeat.  We had forgotten her boots as well, because the dog will not or cannot pick her feet up, so she was starting to get sore spots from dragging her back paws when she walked.  I noticed on the walking app that we were, by this point, parallel to one of the roads, and suggested that we walk to the edge of the road, where the wife could wait with the dogs and my pack, and I would speed-walk back to the truck and come get them.  And that was the final plan.

The splits on the walking app look hilarious. 53 minute miles,  until the last 1.3 miles, which I did by myself in under twenty minutes.

For three days after the hike, I was very worried about Zelda. She wouldn’t even stand up without help. I had to carry her up and down the stairs to out to the yard, and once out there, she would just stand in the grass and look at me.  But my wife reported that when she got home, the dog was stiff, but up and moving and doing her business outside with minimal help. (I worked twelve hour midnight turn the three days after the hike) It occurred to me that Zelda wouldn’t get up and move because she thought I was going to make her walk ‘forevers’ again.

So, on to the next plan, getting her into better shape, one short walk at a time, until we can go back to hiking more often.

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I’ve been obsessing over Steven Rinella’s Meat Eater series on NetFlix for a few months.  I don’t care for most of the hunting TV shows that are currently in production: the pacing, music, Overly Out There Product Placement, and to me, the fact that if you watch and listen closely, a lot of the shows are on private hunting properties that the average hunter could only afford to visit after winning the lottery.

Meat Eater is almost exactly the opposite.  I’ve only watched seasons five and six, those being the two on NetFlix, and I can’t purchase the series on DVD, because it’s not offered on DVD.  (Note to self – check the cost of adding a DVR to pick up other episodes from broadcasts.)  In the two seasons I’ve watched, I don’t think he ever says the word ‘Vortex,’ which is the spotting scope, binocular, and rifle scope brand he uses, but he doesn’t need to. Between the Vortex hats and seeing the equipment, you know that it’s his preferred (or sponsored) brand. The same with all of the products in the show, really.  Now I know on broadcasts, the channel adds ‘This segment of Meat Eater is brought to you by…’ but that’s not in the actual episode.  The music is RIGHT, the production value is excellent, and he brings a different kind of feel to the hunting and fishing he does, because he really is in it for the MEAT.  There are episodes where he is after an exceptional specimen, like the mule deer hunt with Callahan in central Idaho, but even then, he’s after the meat, and that’s what gets taken care of first.

One of the episodes is a pronghorn hunt on BLM land, ‘Lobster of the Prairie: Wyoming Antelope,’  and that made me start looking into hunting pronghorn on public land.

The first thing I noticed, repeated on a dozen forums and published articles on Pronghorn hunting, is to beware of ‘guided’ hunts, because they are typically going to be a lot of money for somebody to drive you around until you spot antelope.  Which you can do yourself, without adding $1,800 of cost to the experience.  But I just started researching this in the last few days, and as usual, from the outside it looks like it will take longer to decipher the regulations than it will to get to Wyoming, and that’s a 28 hour drive for me. (Atlanta to Casper, Wyoming)

We’ll see what happens – just starting to work a budget up for the trip, if I’m driving it, would start with roughly $800 in gasoline at today’s prices.  Around $350 for the license (including doe tags), plus food costs, and lodging.  My original thought was ‘camp, plenty of campgrounds near Casper’ but the wife wants to go, and I made the mistake of pointing out that several of the forums I read noted that there is a great public and private land area just half an hour outside of Casper, and that the person I was reading had stayed in a hotel, so add however many days in a hotel to the bill and it’s probably inching closer to $3,000.  Add boarding the dogs and having the cats looked after for the ten days, and now we’re getting closer to $4,000…. you get the idea.

So I’ll START looking into it now, we’ll see if I manage it before I retire.  (Which is years away yet.)

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One of my father’s pronghorn mounts from 40+ years ago.

That’s ‘5’ as in ‘5 years now, and counting.’  I’m not done this year, but at this point, I’ve started thinking about turkey hunting more in terms of ‘how far am I going to hike with my Remington 1100 today?’

I hit Paulding Forest both days last weekend, Saturday I hunted north of highway 278, Sunday I headed south of the highway.  I didn’t hear a bird on Saturday, but I did find a couple of sets of tracks and dust wallows.  I also  practiced with my handheld GPS: I’ve had the unit for years (it’s a Garmin eTrex about eight years old,) but never really used it or studied how to use it properly, so shame on me for not learning how to use a good piece of gear.  I also took my Remington 1100, a pair of VERY CHEAP decoys, a slate-style call and water.

Saturday, I followed the WMA ranger road for roughly a mile, calling softly every few minutes to see if I could get a gobble, with no luck.  At the end of that particular road, I hiked out to a point where I could sit and call into the bottom.

Nothing.

After an hour and a half, I used the GPS to navigate back to the truck using the most direct route.  I had started my fitness app on the phone when I left the truck, and paused it every time I stopped, at the end of going up and down all of those hollows, my fitness app told me I burned 2,190 calories.  My legs told me they wanted a divorce. (If you don’t know me personally, I look like the result of Sasquatch going on an all pizza diet for a decade. Yes, I can probably curl an economy car, but anyone who can sprint would easily get away if I was chasing them. 🙂 )

So, I consulted with my Paulding Forest WMA expert, and he said ‘you look tired.’ *insert drumroll here* – Just kidding, he said to scout SOUTH of 278 because the hunting pressure is much lighter on that side of the highway.   So Sunday, that’s where I hunted.

After finding a WMA marker (which is somewhat difficult in places), near a small power line, I decided to pop out of the truck and walk into the woods for a bit.

I would like to point out, both days I entered the woods after dawn – I like to get into the woods an hour BEFORE dawn, but when I don’t know a location, I don’t like taking the risk of an injury, or screwing up somebody else’s hunt, or even ending up on the wrong side of a property line.  Being safe, courteous, and legal is more important to me than what time I get in the woods.

So the power line was a small one, single pole, maybe three actual cables, it doesn’t show up on the WMA maps I printed, and it wasn’t what we think of as a power line cut here in Georgia, which are usually large enough to park an aircraft carrier inside of without touching the trees on either side.  I started walking down the hill, and immediately found wildlife.

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Just after taking the photograph, I heard a gobble, and my heart started thumping.  Working quickly and quietly, I moved to a bend in the cut and set up my hen and jake decoys, then found a patch of thorn bushes to sit behind where I could see and shoot if I had the opportunity.

I hit my slate call with a few clucks, and three gobblers responded.  Three.  One across the road behind the strip of woods behind me, one down the hollow that was a fair distance away, and one that sounded remarkably close.  I waited forever (three or four minutes) and hit the call again, more aggressively this time, and again, three gobblers responded immediately.  I should point out that my skill at using a turkey call is minimal.  As in ‘I can get it to make noises that sound turkey-like.’  For all I know, what the gobblers were hearing is ‘Bug water tree rock! Fat leaf dirt dirt!’ instead of ‘Hey big boys!’

Based on an hour and a half of calling, and an hour and fifteen minutes of gobblers responding, I’m pretty sure I confused all three of the birds to no end.  Yes, I’m sure these weren’t other hunters, the chances of three other hunters ONLY using gobble calls, in those three directions, are very slight.

An hour after the gobblers stopped responding, I decided to pick up the decoys and wander down the hollow to see if I could either tease a gobble after moving a few hundred yards, or locate some tracks or other game sign for information.  I did find some interesting spots in the little creek bottom, but no sign of turkey or other critters.

But there’s always next week.

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Last Sunday, a few of us met a fantastic outdoorsman named Jason for a bit of squirrel hunting over trained dogs. (Treeing Feists, I believe, though I never asked Jason specifically what breed the dogs happened to be.)  I’ve never actually hunted squirrels with dogs before, though I’ve been in the woods with a .22 LR rimfire, my GSP Cinders and said the words ‘find me a squirrel,’ I’m pretty sure most of what Cinders did was mark every fifth tree for two hours and burn off energy. It was still fun.

We hunted for about three hours. This is nearly the end of the season and it was quite warm on Sunday, we were all in tee shirts and jeans, so the squirrels were pretty much determined to stay in their dens, but we did see three and manage to bag two of them.

The dogs were amazing, watching the two of them dash from tree to tree, using their noses to determine if a squirrel had been on the tree recently, and if so, how recently.  If the dogs thought the scent was hot, they would bark, letting us know there may be a squirrel above.

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The older dog, Spoon (the white one) was getting mad at us because most of the trees had hollows that the squirrels were NOT coming out of. Jason would call ‘In a hole!’ and the dogs would move to a new tree. By the time we had been hunting for an hour, when she heard that, she would look at us like “Y’all aren’t very good at this! There is a SQUIRREL up there!”

When we finally killed the first one, I thought she would do backflips.

The second squirrel we spotted bolted straight into a hole in the tree, so there was no chance of getting that one.  The third squirrel, when it hit the ground, was immediately snatched up by D.J., the younger of the two dogs.  He immediately showed Jason the squirrel, then dashed to each one of us in turn, as if to say “See?! THIS is what one looks like!”

It was a great time, lots of fun, good exercise for us and the dogs, and overall better than being cooped up in a house.

I took  a few photos of what Jason and Clay called ‘wild lemon,’ and I have to say, I need to grow this stuff around the house as defense against everything. The thorns were 1-3″ long.

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Well, Saturday the 14th I decided that after thirty years, it was time to go squirrel hunting again.  I’ve supposedly been out squirrel hunting twice in the last few years, but both times were simply deer scouting trips, with the thought that if a squirrel was stupid enough to still scamper around with my giant frame wandering through the woods, I’d take a shot.

I drove out to Paulding Forest WMA in the morning, and the radio station (97.1 ‘The River’) was just perfect. Too perfect, I missed stopping at the WMA kiosk for a map and double check of the rules, and if I needed to sign in or not.   I turned around at the county line and drove back the six or seven miles, then headed towards decent squirrel woods. I must need to get up earlier on Saturdays, because every spot to pull over and park near decent big timber had a truck already there, so I drove on to Supper Club Road, where I know I can park at the gate and walk in. (This is where Danny and I killed a timber rattler a few years ago.  Needless to say, I kept my eyes WIDE open walking into the woods.)

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Closeup of the rattlesnake’s head

As soon as I parked, my wife sent me a text asking if I wanted to go on a hike today. Well, yeah, it’s going to be 70′ in January, of course I want to hike.   So I told her I’d poke around Paulding for about an hour and head back.  I wandered into the WMA for about half a mile, until I could find a decent log to sit on with a good view of a hillside, and sat down to see if any squirrels decided to come out and play.  After half an hour or so, I hadn’t even seen or heard a bird, so I wandered back to the truck and cruised the forty miles or so back to the house to pick the wife up and head to Arabia Mountain. (Half an hour isn’t very long to sit in a squirrel wood, but the wife was waiting, so off I went.)The trail head (at least the one we parked at) is roughly forty miles in the other direction, East of the house, and with typical Atlanta traffic, it took about an hour to get there.

And it was packed.  No shock, really, the good weather had a lot of people headed to their version of nature.   I say ‘their version of nature’ because my idea of a nature hike doesn’t have eight foot wide paved hiking walkways, but to each their own.  We walked the mile long trail across the top of the old granite quarry, then headed further down the paved trail towards Panola Mountain, but it wasn’t long before the pavement started bothering us, and we turned around, for a total of roughly four miles, but we did enjoy the granite part of the hike.  My wife took one photo of me standing near what had to be the quarry office, but I’ll spare you the ‘shaved sasquatch’ image.

After that, since we were already east of Atlanta, I decided to head toward Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, because I’ve wanted to go there for a long time, and why not now?  We had a good time on the drive (another 40 miles, that seems to have been the magical distance to everything Saturday) and when we arrived, we were surprised at how nice both the museum and the facilities looked.  I had never questioned the name “Charlie Elliott,” figuring it was either a DNR donor or politician, I was surprised to learn that he was a naturalist and that the museum had rebuilt his study as one of the displays.  I would very much love to have a den like the study Charlie Elliott created for himself.

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So, in one day, I walked Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area a bit, Davidson-Arabia Mountain trails, and managed to squeeze in a walk through the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center museum.   That’s what I call a good day.

**Update** And 2016 claims Carrie Fisher as well.

So.. my 2016 goal was to get back to being an outdoorsman, and the only way to chalk that up as a win is to compare 2016 to 2015 and 2014, in which case I succeeded.  I still didn’t get out nearly as much as I wanted to or expected to, not once did I go fishing, so far no small game hunting (though if I hadn’t fallen ill over the holiday week, I would have spent yesterday squirrel hunting with Gretchen and Cinders.  I wouldn’t have actually expected to get any squirrels, or if I did get them, manage to get them INTACT, since Gretchen thinks ‘all squirrels are mine,’ but it would have been fun.)

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Gretchen and Cinders when they were young.  Cinders played with toys, Gretchen would tackle him.

I did get a nice hog in January, and managed to see a nice number of deer this November,  including a stunning buck, the deer just happened to be where I can’t hunt them.   I managed three or four hikes, but that was my goal per month, not for the whole year.

We lost my father-in-law, unexpectedly young (early 60’s), which was devastating to the family: Dennis was so cool, whenever the wife and I would dream out loud about taking a vacation across Canada by train, or going to Yellowstone, Ireland, wherever, we were always including how much Dennis would enjoy it.

The world lost a vast number of celebrities of various types this year, and since George Michael passed away Christmas Day, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed for the next few days to get out of 2016 with what the world has now.

So, back to the outdoors: once again, I’m going to try to ramp up my outdoor activities in 2017.  I have six points saved for an alligator tag here in Georgia, so that should come to fruition this year, and I look forward to figuring out how that will work.  I finally have a camper shell on my truck, so taking the Woofs to outdoor adventures should be easily accomplished, and my daughter is 18 and driving, so that’s no longer on my plate.

The property in south Georgia is covered in turkey, so in a few short months, I should be able to, once again, be totally frustrated and skunked by the antics of the mighty Thunder Chicken.  For me, turkey hunting feels like those old comedy gags where there is a chase scene in a long hallway with doors everywhere, and people are going into and out of doors in a random sequence where they can never catch who they are chasing, but the people being chased can never seem to quite get away either.

Fishing will happen, even if I just have to go find a public lake and put a worm on a hook.

I also need to find property where I can fossil hunt – I haven’t done that since I was a kid, and it might be a way to lure the reclusive Wife out of the house.   She still thinks armadillos are these flat things on the side of highways.  I told her the fastest way to find an armadillo is to go deer hunting near hardwoods, where the leaves are good and crunchy, but she doesn’t believe me.

So, all in all, farewell 2016.  Here is to hoping 2017 is a better place for everyone, everywhere.

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We checked out a new lease about three hours south of here over the weekend: My hunting partner took a doe and sow hog over the weekend, I lost a hog to Gator Country (it managed to make it into a swap where we couldn’t follow it at 3 am, because the swamp was the edge of another property, and it was ‘crawling space only’ to move forward.  I don’t know about you, but crawling, in the dark, in a swap with alligators, doesn’t seem prudent.)

Still, great property, and lots of fun over the weekend.

 

I have to say, having never hunted hogs at night on private property before, that waiting, in the dark, (no night vision) for the motion activated lights to come on, can be a bit interesting. Especially dozing off in the blind, only to wake up as something tries to climb the stairs into the blind with you. (It was probably a raccoon smelling my snacks.)

Yeah, no. Just no.  The wife and I took a drive up to John’s Mountain yesterday, specifically past the shooting range, which was packed as usual, and drove up through that section.  The WMA road at that point hits a ‘T’ intersection that dead ends in both directions, but Danny and I drove it in January and spotted some decent deer sign at the time, so I wanted to peek around during the summer.

It rained off and on yesterday in that part of Georgia, which simply turned it into a sauna. When I did get out of the truck, it was like having five layers of steamed wool blankets dropped on my head.  Between the heat, and the dense foliage, all we managed to see was some deer at Berry College as we drove by, and my favorite tree.

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My hat is off to folks who can scout when it’s 95′ with over 60% humidity.  I can do it, but without a specific goal in mind, such as ‘I know a piece of property very well, I just need to check traffic patterns, or a trail camera, at THIS spot,’ I’m not going to randomly wander about and sweat without a reason.

Hopefully, we’ll get a few cooler days in the weeks ahead, where I can get into out into the woods without doing a Frosty impersonation.

…as a great way of getting around ‘no motor’ areas that say you must use a paddle….

 

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A friend shared this on FaceBook – from the Ely Chamber of Commerce…..

 

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Both Days
Soul Hunter’s Outdoor Ministry – no info on times or location posted

Wildcat Archery and the Ogeechee Bowmen 3rd Annual Indoor @ Wildcat Archery – Click the link to go to the post with the PDF flyer.

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Saturday
GAA State JOAD – Click the link to get the registration form

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Sunday

North Georgia Traditional Archery Club

2295 Lee Land Road, Gainesville, GA 30507

All shoots are traditional equipment only (longbow, recurve, self bow).
Shoots are non-competitive with the exception of the August shoot, which it the Club Championship Shoot.

Shoot Fees
Members – $5 each
Non-members – $10 each
Family of 4 or more – members – $15 max
Family of 4 or more – non-members – $25 max
First time shooters at our club are always free.

Lunch is always available during the “lunch hour” for a $5 per person donation to help defray the cost of food.

Buckeye’s 3D – 1250 Jersey/Social Circle Rd, Covington Ga 30014 (MAP)

GAA State Indoor – Click the link to get the registration form
Diamondback Archery – Superior Way Thomson GA 30824

Classes will be known 50 money, Open money/trophy men/women, Hunter, Youth, Cub, Traditional, Crossbow Money class . Known $25, Open $20, Adult trophy classes $15 Youth $10 Cubs $5 There will be a top5 shoot down for the Known money. Registration 9-2 drinks and food available James 706-872-4336. Olin 706-361-1675