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.)

Went back to the hogs-only property for a few hours yesterday to scout a new area. Saw more deer (4-6, they were a couple of hundred yards away in high grass) and thunder chickens, an actually saw some decent hog sign, but I didn’t spot any hogs.

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Bobby had a big grin on his face at the shop today 🙂

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*

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Frustrating, trying to find an open public hunting area this year, isn’t it?  The DNR has eight public hearings coming up in January – I highly recommend folks attend these hearings and join the discussion.

From Georgiawildlife.com:

“PUBLIC MEETINGS AND HEARINGS

Hunting Regulations Public Meetings: Hunters and other interested citizens are invited to attend any of eight upcoming public meetings regarding the development of hunting regulations for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 hunting seasons:

JAN. 9, 2017: 7 P.M.

  • Merle Manders Conference Center (111 Davis Road, Stockbridge, GA 30281)
  • Stellar Center (144 Stellar Drive, Brunswick, GA 31525)

JAN. 10, 2017: 7 P.M.

  • Southern Regional Technical College (800 Veterans Parkway North, Moultrie, GA 31788)
  • Southeastern Technical College (3001 East 1st Street, Vidalia, GA 30474)

JAN. 11, 2017: 7 P.M.

  • Augusta Tech College (216 Hwy. 24 South, Waynesboro, GA 30830)
  • Middle Georgia State University-Dillard Hall (1100 Second Street, SE, Cochran, GA 31014)

JAN. 12, 2017: 7 P.M.

  • Lion’s Club Barn (1729 South Main Street, Ellijay, GA 30540)
  • Banks Co. High School (1486 Historic Homer Hwy., Homer, GA 30547)”

For 2016 – the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is instituting a game check system: all turkey and deer MUST be entered on your harvest record and checked through the Game Check system within 72 hours.

 

I also see two new Wildlife Management Areas and a new Outdoors Georgia app.

The new WMA’s are Altama Plantation, “The Georgia Department of Natural Resources recently announced the opening of a 3,986-acre tract in Glynn County along I-95 and the Altamaha River, known as Altama Plantation WMA.” (GON.com, Jan 7 2016 )and Buck Shoals WMA. (The only ‘good’ information on Buck Shoals that I can find is above in the PDF.)

 

 

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.