Archive for the ‘Real Avid’ 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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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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I see bucks, at least four different ones, though these photos are the only two I could get on camera. (Keep in mind, I’m using a ten year old Fuji FinePix that isn’t even 8 megapixel.) And I can only shoot hogs on this property. *sigh*

…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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My goal was to at least shoot a 200.  I didn’t make my goal, but, as always with archery, I learned some more (or I should say ‘re-learned,’ since what I was doing wrong that cost me 10 points yesterday is something I know not to do, my release-hand wasn’t positioned correctly on my jaw, it was rotated flat instead of the first two knuckles being against my jaw.) and had a great time.   My eyes are getting worse though: the clarifier that worked just fine a year ago doesn’t work very well now, and all I’m seeing through my scope is a blur.

Eh, another year, more gear to buy, that’s archery in a nutshell. 😉

I didn’t take much in the way of photos, once we started shooting, I really didn’t think about it much other than one shot where we had three arrows in the 12 ring at the same time.

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I decided to hit Sweetwater State Park this morning for a hike – Little Bear (my 17 year old daughter) came out of hibernation around 10:30am (nearly five hours after I got up, and really, who could sleep that long when I intentionally STOMPED through the house for five hours?) and I said ‘get your hiking boots and let’s go.’

She got her hiking boots, though I didn’t think to tell her ‘and put real socks on, not those cute-almost-socks you like,’ and we drove over to Sweetwater State Park, which is only ten minutes or so away from the house.  I already had a map of the park in my truck from a visit a few weeks ago, so I asked Little Bear what trail she wanted to walk. My vote was for the White trail, which is about five miles long, but relatively flat.  She opted for the Yellow trail, which looks much shorter on the map, but has a lot of elevation changes that the White trail doesn’t.  According to the elevations on the trail map from the park, the White trail changes by approximately 150′ over the course of five miles.

The yellow trail changes by about four hundred  and fifty feet in three miles, ranging from 850 feet to 1200 feet.   This isn’t a ‘OMG!’ elevation change, but for a spur-of-the-moment hike by people who are out of practice, the difference is noticeable.

So, hike it we did, it took about an hour and fifty minutes, and according to my fitness app on my smart phone, it was 3.56 miles from the truck and back again.

Little bear? She went back into hibernation as soon as we hit the house.

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.

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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…BUT… the property isn’t trophy managed, nor are any of the properties that BORDER this property.  So… do I try to take him, or let him walk knowing that (except for Jimmy and probably Danny) anyone else who spots this buck will take him?   I’m not really a trophy hunter, but I’d rather take a nice buck than no buck at all.

The backstory is – My wife bought me a trail cam last year, and I never found someplace to put it where I was comfortable leaving a $100 piece of equipment in the woods.   I am NOT a professional outdoor writer or entertainment figure, everything comes out of my family’s budget, so I don’t have a ton of extra equipment laying around.  Half of what I do use to hunt with these days I have because of being an archery staff shooter for Gable Sporting Goods.   So, this year, when we joined a lease up near Rome, GA., I was very happy to finally put the trail cam out and see what I could find.

I put the camera in a thin section of oaks that had some nicely worn trails – yesterday, I retrieved the camera, and all that was on it were six photos, leading me to think that I had three photos of me setting the camera up, and three photos of me taking the camera DOWN.   I was wrong, there were two photos of a small doe, two photos of probably a two year old buck, one creepy photo at night, and a garbage photo from taking the camera down.

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So now I have to decide whether or not to take the buck, or let him walk and *HOPE* nobody else takes him, so he can get bigger next year…

Sorry the site’s been so quiet lately – I do have some news, DANNY scored again.  (Note to self, make him eat a GPS tracker so I can find his hunting spots…)

Rassa frakkin no good varmint! :) (Danny is my hunting buddy...)

Rassa frakkin no good varmint! 🙂 (Danny is my hunting buddy…)

Also, tomorrow is the start of gun season here in Georgia – BE. SAFE.  Wear a harness if you’re in a tree stand, know what’s around you and practice good firearm safety as well!