Archive for the ‘Hunting Camp’ Category

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.

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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.)

It was very cold in the treestand this morning.  I’m from northern Ohio, and while people from places even further north can sneer about the cold there, I know about ‘being cold in a treestand,’ so when I say it was very cold this morning, believe it.

I sat in the stand, and over two hours, quietly added more and more Hot-Hands to my active collection. One in each boot, one in each thigh pocket, one in each hip pocket, and one in each jacket pocket.

Regardless, I have a reputation to maintain as something of a Sasquatch, so I’ll just say ‘it was very cold,’ and move on. 🙂

I saw a hog around 8:30 a.m., running back and forth along a fence line downhill of me, and the round little porker kept running the same trail, along the fence, then up the hill next to me, then back down the hill, then along the fence again, for almost an hour.

Finally, a larger boar came down the hill, and the first hog hauled ashes out of there for parts without a mean old boar to argue with.  I glassed the boar, and while I’ve never shot a feral hog before, I thought I’d let it pass and wait for something bigger.  The boar followed the sow down the hill, across the fence from left to right, but this time they both kept moving instead of turning around to come back.

There was a father and son team a few hundred yards further down the trail from me, and having spoken to them in camp the night before, I knew they had never hunted big game , so I was happy to hear a shot from that direction.   Then I heard two more shots, and thought that would mean that they were finishing off the boar, but to my surprise, the boar came back along the fence with a wound on its neck, just above where the guide said to shoot a boar for a certain, quick kill.

I don’t like wounded animals, and this one wasn’t going down with a flesh wound, so I shot it in the proper spot and that was that.

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The hunt was with Hog Wild USA, near Macon, Georgia.

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.

Well, things worked out very well for my Maine bear hunt – but I have some other issues that just will not be easily solved at this point, and thinking through the issues has brought me to the logical conclusion of ‘skip the 2015 deer season.’

The first issue, as always, is budget.  The bear hunt was paid for in advance, so that shouldn’t have been an issue, but I really never considered that I would get a bear that has a (small) chance of making Boone & Crockett, so that adds the cost of a trip to Ohio (where my taxidermist lives – I would have used a local one, but the logistics of my bear hunt worked out the same as last time: I flew, my hunting buddy drove, so it was more economical and practical for him to drive the hide and meat back to Ohio. I absolutely love the last bear I had mounted, and trust the taxidermist to do this one justice as well.), and the cost of getting a mount.

I gave up a hunting lease in Rome, GA, earlier this year – It was a nice piece of property just under 300 acres, but it was about a three hour round trip, and I just do not have the spare time or patience to get up at 3am, drive to the property, hike in to a stand, spend the day, hike out, and drive another hour and a half. If I had a good place to camp up there, I could have made weekends of it, but one of the best places to hunt is about the only place to set up a tent, so that was a non-starter.

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One of the smaller bucks at the Butler property

I used to hunt an 875 acre parcel near Butler, GA, but the owner (a friend’s uncle) has created a feud with the rest of his family, and an offshoot of that was kicking everybody off of the property, so that’s out.

Which leaves public land.

I’ve written before about Georgia’s complex wildlife management area regulations – for any individual piece of property, they aren’t too bad, but every piece of property has a different set. Add that to the fact that the last three or four times I tried to hunt Paulding Forest WMA or Sheffield WMA, there was a vehicle parked every single place I wanted to park. (We spent three HOURS last year during turkey season just trying to find someplace to park. Not fun.)

So, my budget is thin as well as my patience, and I hate hunting on a ‘lets rush over here (where we’ve never been) and just walk in the woods!’ basis. To me, that’s not hunting. That’s hiking while carrying hunting gear.

I can hike all year long.

So, I’ll relax this season, regroup, work my finances a bit, and start planning for 2016.  Because planning a season is half the fun.

As a side note, I had originally told my wife ‘unless I get drawn for Joe Kurz WMA’s quota hunt, I was skipping this year.’ Well, I didn’t get drawn, which is OK, that adds another point to my growing tally. If something comes up that’s too good to pass up, like an invitation to some really nice property, I may change my mind, but at this point, I’m battening down the budgetary hatches for Christmas.

Year Two of ‘Tag Soup’ has convinced me to come up with a recipe for it.

1 Set of Unfilled Tags*
8 cups beef broth (or 4 beef, 4 vegetable) 14 OZ can diced tomatoes (I like to get the garlic flavored ones)
1 onion chopped
4 potatoes peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
Put the broth in a large stock pot and set the heat to medium-high

Add the vegetables and bring to a boil

Try to ignore all the time, money and effort you put into hunting this year, while plotting next years hunting season.

Stare at the unfilled tags.Ground Wild Sausage

*Substituting 1 lb of ground beef, browned cubed beef, or somebody ELSE’S ground venison makes a better soup.

I’ve hunted mostly Joe Kurz WMA for the last two years, with a few days at a new lease near Rome, GA.  Neither one is close enough to the house for half day or quick hunts, really.  I need to find someplace half an hour or so away, rather than an hour and a half.

Well, I’m packing my gear and heading to Joe Kurz for the final week of bowhunting at that wildlife management area for the year.  I really wish the bowhunting week was BEFORE the six days (two three day quota hunts) of rifle season, last year the deer still had that “OMG! They’re SHOOTING AT US!” look and behavior during this week. But it’s a week of camping with friends and climbing trees in search of venison, and I’ll take it.

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So… back to Joe Kurz WMA for the opening weekend of archery season.  We saw 14-15 deer overall, including 9 the day BEFORE season started.  All of what I saw were does with fawns, one of which still had spots on it.  Jimmy saw a small six pointer, and when we left, there were over a hundred sign-ins (we only saw 15-25 people in the campground, so we figured quite a lot of those sign ins were for local hunters) and as of noon on Monday, there were four does and two eight-pointers signed out.

My Zippo Outdoor 4-in-1 - fantastic camp axe, saw, hammer and tent stake puller.

My Zippo Outdoor 4-in-1 – fantastic camp axe, saw, hammer and tent stake puller.

My new tent - I think I could fit two of the old ones in it.

My new tent – I think I could fit two of the old ones in it.

I was supposed to get down to Joe Kurz around noon on Friday – but between dragging my feet all week with packing (I don’t have a cap on my truck yet, so I have to put everything in the bed at the last minute, even if it doesn’t rain, in Georgia, it would melt.), forgetting my TREE STAND and having to come back, and traffic, I got down there at, oh, ten minutes to three in the afternoon.  (I remembered the tree stand five minutes away, and came back for it. Hey, last year, the first trip I forgot my SLEEPING BAG, the second trip, I forgot my PILLOW.   I may be entering the ‘write a checklist, have somebody else check it’ years.)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe scouted a bit on Friday and decided where we wanted to hunt.  This is something of a dilemma at this WMA on Saturdays because of the dove hunters.  Neither of us can figure out what the deer are doing during the feathery war over the fields, so we opted to hunt a good distance from the dove fields.  Jimmy saw some does out of range, I didn’t see anything that morning, but I still think the spot I was in will be much better once the white oaks start dropping acorns.  (Or ‘ay-kerns’ as folks around here like to say.)   Every single afternoon, Friday through today, it rained, so Saturday afternoon, once the rain stopped, I thought ‘I wonder whats behind camp?’ and just walked back through the woods until I found a likely spot.  I was fairly happy in the spot, but I couldn’t find a tree near enough to likely shooting opportunities to get high in, so I was only twelve to fourteen feet up in a pine tree.   I saw three that night, a doe and her fawn, and another doe.  Jimmy had moved his stand closer to the travel route the does took in the morning, but instead of seeing a doe, he saw a six pointer (not legal to shoot at Joe Kurz unless it’s 15″ or wider) cross under where he had the stand in the morning.  We both left our stands in the woods, ate some nice cheddarwurst with chili and more cheese on top, then turned in.

Sunday morning was so humid and hot that I left my glasses in the truck; experience has taught me that on days like that, they fog so much I might as well not have glasses at all.   I climbed back into the pine tree and waited.  I could hear some movement, and using my binoculars, I made a startling discovery. Directly in front of me, maybe forty-five yards out, was a fawn bedded down. These were different from the night before, that fawn didn’t have any spots, and the mother was a gray color, whereas this one was ruddy.   This fawn was very young, with spots and stripes still clear in his or her coat.  I won’t shoot a fawn, or a doe with a fawn still in spots, because I want to see what the fawn will be in a few years.   I know a bit about deer habits, and I wondered if the doe had left the fawn there while she feeds, trusting its natural camouflage, or if she was bedded down near the fawn, so I kept glassing the thicket trying to find her. Most hunters will agree; glassing for deer is like one of the optical illusions that people are fond of, you can’t see anything until you see it once, then you can always see it.  After several minutes of glassing, and slowly shifting position, I found the doe, ten feet or so to the left of the fawn.  I hadn’t seen her to begin with because there was a tree blocking my view of her.

The left circle is the doe, the right is the fawn.

The left circle is the doe, the right is the fawn.

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The fawn is slightly easier to make out in this photo, the ears are what to look for, behind the brown pine needles.

Both the fawn and the mother were looking at me, but neither showed any alarm, so I tried to get a photograph of the two of them.  All I had to do this with was either my smartphone, or a tiny Samsung pocket camera, but I did the best I could. Sadly, only two photos really came out clear enough to make out both of the deer, but only just.  (Click either photo for a larger view.)   I watched both for about an hour, then quietly packed it in for the morning and went back to camp.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSunday afternoon, Danny showed up, about an hour before Mother Nature decided to improv Noah’s Flood for four hours straight.  The three of us sat in my truck swapping stories and talking about hunting in general (I do NOT hunt when there is lightning in the area – between the carbon arrows, metal stand, etc. I make far too tempting of a target) and finally decided ‘screw sitting here, we might as well drive around while we talk.  I put the truck in gear, and we toured the entire WMA, seeing hunter after hunter sitting in their car (or sleeping in one case) waiting for the rain to stop.   We stopped and chatted with one poor guy who looked like he swam across a lake to get to his truck.  I’ve seen fish, still underwater, that were dryer than this guy.  One oddity – during the rainy drive, we saw three eastern box turtles crossing various roads.  I stopped to move one off of Germany road, but when I stopped near it, it moved to the side of the road without any help.When the rain slowed to a drizzle, we had maybe an hour before dark, and no guarantee that more storms were on the way, so we did what we could, we made dinner.  (Mac-N-Cheese Hamburger Helper.)

Monday morning, I decided I would go hit up the black sunflower field and see what I could find there – if nothing else, if I set my stand right, I could glass for hundreds of yards and make a decision for NEXT weekend, but it was not to be.  Two trucks were parked at the turn off for that leg of Lodge Road, with one guy walking down as I watched, so I turned left instead and sat up over a freshly sprouted food plot on the other side. Other than some pesky squirrels and a hawk, I saw nothing.

I’ll be back next weekend, more bratwurst and chili in hand, after all, it’s called ‘hunting’ for a reason, when you don’t find something, you keep hunting for it

No Eastern Box Turtles were harmed...

No Eastern Box Turtles were harmed…

Ok – this one is a bit complicated – I saw this posted on the North American Hunting Club’s FaceBook page, followed the link to Hunting.Scout.com, which led me to the YouTube video from GrowingDeer.tv

 

Here is the video: