Archive for the ‘Zippo Outdoors’ Category

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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**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.

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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

My wife bought me a gift certificate to Hog Wild USA for Christmas.  Last week, I called and spoke to Tommy at Hog Wild, and we reserved a day next week for my hog hunt.

Because the rifle is new, I took my Mossberg Patriot .308 out to Advanced Bullets in Villa Rica last Saturday morning to make certain it was dialed in.

No worries, it’s shooting fine.

Another Sunday, another hike!  I told the wife and Little Bear that I was hitting the White trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park this morning, even though it was a bit chilly out.   The wife had to work today, and Little Bear had a friend visiting, so I was going to solo the hike.

Great! Five miles of solitude and nature, all to myself!

Or so I thought.

See, the Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society had a 30 mile trail race on the White Trail this morning.

30.

Miles. 

So, while I was doing my peaceful, solo, 5 mile hike… I kept getting lapped.  Which was hilarious, because it went from “Good morning!” or “Howdy!”  to “Good morning again!” and “That’s three laps!”  I know several of them lapped me four times.  That’s TWENTY MILES to my five.

My ‘Map My Walk’ fitness app said I walked 5.15 miles for 3,600 calories.  Even if they just WALKED that far instead of, you know, RUNNING it, that would put them at 20,000 plus calories for the event.

I made the decision as soon as I saw the sign at the trailhead that said ‘GUTS: Wrong Way’ to hike against the ‘flow’ of traffic, this let me see them coming and get out of the way, because I take up a lot of trail.

Still, it was a good hike. Not as much of an elevation change as the Yellow trail, but lots of rough terrain.

Here are a few of the photos, including one of the New Manchester Manufacturing ruins, the rest are in THIS ALBUM on the 323 Archery FaceBook page.

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(Yes, I actually typed ‘Day One: 2015’ and had to fix it…)

I don’t really make ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’  I just don’t – I’m in the latter half of my 40’s now, and probably spent 1980-2000 making resolutions that were broken (or, in my early 20’s, forgotten) very quickly.  Regardless, I had said in 2015 that I was going to get out in the woods and waters more, and generally get back to being an outdoorsman.  That didn’t happen at all, in fact, the reverse happened. Between work, foul weather, and other issues, I only managed three archery shoots and a week of bear hunting in Maine that had been planned for a year.

So, while NOT claiming it’s a New Year’s Resolution, I will make up for this lack of nature experiences in 2016.

I sent a text to Danny this morning to see what he was doing, without really having a plan.  I told him I didn’t care if we went squirrel hunting, shooting, hiking,  as long as it was outside.  We quickly decided to go sight in my new Mossberg Patriot .308, and we decided to do so up at Johns Mountain WMA, which has a public rifle range.  The weather report showed a low chance of rain, with temperatures from a low of 40 to a high of 57.

Yeah, they were being very optimistic on that high end, let me tell you, because it was cold in Atlanta, let alone an hour and a half north of Atlanta.

We drove up to the range, my first time there, and found it to be packed full, with people waiting for room at one of the four actual sit-down benches.  After about thirty minutes of people shooting, finally somebody called the range cold and folks started putting new targets out.  With no idea how long it was going to take to get a bench, and no actual range master running the show, we opted to just drive some of the forestry roads and take a look at the area, then drive home.  We did get out and walk about a few times to look at some trails, but we didn’t go far. We hadn’t brought the right clothing for a hike.

Still, I managed to get some photos, the best of which are below: some moss, a cool looking downed cedar, and a tree that looks like it eats small children who were bad for the holidays…

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Well, I didn’t forget anything – I wish I’d taken more of a few things, but between baggage fees and weight limits, I did what I had to and everything worked out.

I landed at Bangor airport Saturday the 5th of September, and my hunting buddy Kerry was already in town and checked into the hotel. He lives in northern Ohio, so Bangor is about a twelve hour drive from his house, making it a road trip.  Bangor is twenty hours for me, however next time I think I will drive, if nothing else to eliminate the baggage issues. (Pay to park at the airport, take one truck in from there.)  We had a bite to eat in the Ramada’s Aviator’s restaurant, then hit the sack. Bear camp check in is after 1pm on Sunday,so we planned to leave between 7am and 8am for the five hour drive to camp.

Greenville_MaineWe ran route 15 up to Greenville, stopping at Indian Hill Trading Post, which is a fantastic store with everything from Woolrich clothing to hunting supplies and groceries. It’s also one of the last places on our route to get gasoline before North Maine Woods, so we always fill up there on the way in, and on the way back out. If I had the time and money, I’d fly my wife up to the area just to show her this shop, and Greenville itself, the area is absolutely beautiful.

After the Greenville stop, we drive through Kukajo, Maine, and finally leave the paved road behind.  The next stop is Caribou Checkpoint, one of the entry check points for North Maine Woods, where you have to pay the usage fee, check in and at the end of the trip, check out.  From here until you get to wherever you are going, Baker Lake, PB Guide Service, or any of the other camps, it’s logging roads, and there are copious signs pointing out that logging trucks have the right of way.Caribou_Checkpoint

We arrived at the camp around 2pm on the 6th, checked in with Val (Paul’s wife), and got our cabin assignment, then tossed our stuff in the room and relaxed.  In short order, Paul let us know that Scott would be our guide this year, and we had a quick chat with him about bear hunting.  This is our second trip, so I’m used to the questions now: how far are you comfortable shooting, how good are you at sitting still, have you hunted bear before, etc.  Scott liked our answers, so we let him know we’d be fine with helping him bait in the morning.

Monday, we helped Scott out in the morning, and along the way, got to see the stands we would be hunting out of. I’m a large person (XXXL-Tall), so Scott put me in a two-person ladder stand out at the very end of a maple sugar camp road, with about a 79 yard shot to the barrel.  Kerry would be in a fir thicket, with only a 19 yard shot, but a LOT of bear sign.  My bait had a trail timer on it the day before, and that showed that the bear had hit the bait at 5:10pm.  Bear_bait_1

One quick word about weather.  In 2010 when we hunted in Maine, it rained the first day of the hunt, and it was a bit chilly. I had my Gore-Tex  jacket with me, so I was fine, but Kerry does not like to be cold, so this year, he packed a lot of warm hunting clothing.

Me? I went minimal. I had a long-sleeve Under Armour camouflage tee shirt, a pair of Cabela’s camo pants, a light jacket, and a heavy jacket, along with my uninsulated Gore-Tex jacket.   The weather was supposed to be high 50’s at night, mid 70’s to low 80’s during the day, with a chance of rain all week, from 20% on Monday, to 60% with thunderstorms on Thursday.

As usual, the weather report was completely wrong about the rain.

I got in the stand around 3:50pm on Monday.  The temperature was in the mid 70’s, with gusty winds, but mostly the winds were from the bait to my stand.  By 4:30pm, it was raining. By 5pm, it was raining hard, with thunderstorms all around me. I hadn’t brought my Gore-Tex jacket to the stand (lowest chance of rain for the week, go figure) but it wasn’t cold (to me) so I was fine.  The rain slowed down around 5:45pm,and stopped shortly after that.

Just after 6pm, I see a bear poke it’s head out of the thicket behind my bait.  I’ve always been told to use the 55 gallon drum as a good way to judge the size of a bear. If the bear can just walk into the barrel, it’s small. If it looks like it barely fits in the barrel, it’s a decent size bear.   This bear was looking DOWN at the barrel, making it a definite big bear to me.

The red arrow is where the barrel is

The red arrow is where the barrel is located

The bear was very cautious, looking (I thought) at me, then at the bait, then at me again.  It snatched a mouthful of bait, and vanished into the trees again.  I very carefully, and very slowly, brought my rifle up to the shooting rail and waited.  A moment or two later, the bear moved out of cover and resumed his pattern of eat, look, eat.

The bear was quartering towards me, which is not ideal, but it moved the barrel over and most likely wouldn’t turn anymore, so I lined my cross hairs up with the front point of his shoulder and fired.

Just like my last bear, the bear jumped a bit, as though surprised at the sound, and vanished into the thicket. Our instructions from the guides have always been ‘stay in the stand,’ so that’s what I did.

And then the rain picked up again, and over half an hour, it started to pour, making me very nervous that the rain would wash away the blood trail.

Scott pulled his truck to the end of the road at about 7pm, by this time it had rained so hard that at times, I couldn’t see the bait.  He asked if I was ready to go, and I told him that I’d taken a shot, so we walked to the bait and looked for sign.  We found a good amount of blood on a birch tree about fifteen feet from the bait. (I should point out that the guides aren’t in the habit of just walking up to you and asking if you want to get out of the stand with twenty minutes of shooting time left, but he was very concerned, since the thunderstorms and rain had been fairly heavy.)

At this point, the only decision we could make was ‘pick up the other hunters, then come back,’ so we proceeded to go get Kerry, Gary, and Grover.  Once again, the storms increased to the point where the logging roads started to feel like they were covered in grease. At one point, we had to dodge a juvenile moose, which was a very interesting moment, since neither our truck, nor the moose, had any traction.

Once we recovered the rest of the hunters, it was back to the stand.  Two hunters stayed with the truck, Kerry, Scott and myself walked to the birch tree we had marked earlier.  Scott, who has been guiding bear hunts for twenty years, told us to stay at the birch and let him track for the time being.

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This isn’t the patch of woods I’m writing about – but it’s the closest photo I have to it.

So, we’re in a patch of woods so thick, you have to take a step, part the fir trees with your hands, take another step, and it’s just getting thicker and swampier as we move deeper into the woods. It’s also 9pm, raining steadily, and pitch black outside.  Scott was out of sight in under fifteen yards, and called back to us to move our lights so he could see us.

Then Scott says “Niko, you’re going to be disappointed.”  I thought he’d found some sign that the bear had gotten away, or lost the trail entirely.  Then he says “This bear has a head the size of a pickle barrel.”

He had found my bear.  I wish it hadn’t been raining, or that I’d bought a waterproof camera,because the bear looked like it had been posed on its side. It was a big boar, and when we got it back to camp, it weighed 320 pounds before field dressing it.

After being field dressed - by way of comparison, I am 6'4

After being field dressed – by way of comparison, I am 6’4″ tall, 355 pounds. All of my other clothes were still soaked and covered in mud.

I had a great time at PB Guide Service – anyone looking for black bear in Maine should look Paul up and plan a hunt. Now I have to wait to get the skull back from the taxidermist, then another sixty days of drying time to get the skull measured.

For the rest of the photos of my trip, visit the album on my 323 Archery FaceBook page.