Archive for the ‘Photography’ 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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Well, I finally managed to get in the woods during turkey season.  I planned to go to Paulding Forest WMA (the closest WMA to my home) last Saturday, and the plan was simple – get up at the same time I get up for work (4:50 am or so), jump in the truck and head to an area of the WMA that I know well enough to walk in with just a headlamp and set up my decoys.

Life happened, and I had to stay at the house until 8 am.  By the time I drove up to Paulding, there was a truck everywhere I wanted to park, so I thought ‘why not go on to JL Lester WMA?’  I had never been there, it’s not that far away from Paulding Forest, and may not have as many hunters.

So I drove the extra half hour or so, found the WMA, spent another fifteen minutes explaining to a nice older man that ‘open to fishing’ meant ‘open to fishing,’ then headed into the WMA.  I found an area that looked good, set up my decoys and called, but never did hear or see anything.

Keep in mind: it was probably 10am by the time I put decoys out, my expectations were not high.  So after an hour and a half, I picked up my decoys and just started hiking the WMA to take a look around.  I probably spent an hour to an hour and a half meandering around slowly and quietly, looking at deer tracks (many), looking for turkey sign (none in the bit I walked), and in general just scouting about.

It was a nice relaxing afternoon.

Map

The red circle is the area I scouted – lots of deer sign, almost no turkey sign that morning.

Next time, I think I’ll follow the creek up to the bigger lake to the east.

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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.)

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*

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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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.

(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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North American Whitetail

I saw a post by North American Whitetail – B&C’s Monster Bucks: 20 Biggest Non-Typicals of All Time and thought to myself ‘Yeah, the twenty or so people who read my blog would love to look at that slideshow!’   Then I saw a link in the middle of the post for the article – B&C’s Monster Bucks: 20 Biggest Typicals of All Time and decided that rather than post a stub with a link, I’d post a screenshot of both slideshows and link the screenshots, so that everyone can see both sets of MONSTER bucks!

Just click either image to go to the appropriate article:

20 Biggest Non-Typicals of All Time

20 Biggest Typicals of All Time