Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks

Just a quick thank you for everyone that has followed. Hope you all stick around to travel along with me. I do want to thank everyone that leaves a comment. I read them all and they do mean alot to a writer.
Happy Outdoor travels my friends.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Wind "Pig"

Like most of us I am not a fan of hunting in the wind. As I type the wind is stripping the last leaves from the trees in a typical late November temper tantrum. Between rain this morning and wind now another day planned for the deer woods has been cancelled. The weather has not been kind to me this year where deer season is concerned. Starting with rain opening day of archery to the mid October heat wave, wind, rain, skeeters it has been a tough year. But sometimes you just gotta go.

A few years ago the season had been going along at a good clip. Between me and my brother we had dropped quite a few does for friends needing freezers filled. I think this was the year he called in a nice 7 pointer and took it with his muzzleloader. I had gotten a double the same day with my muzzleloader with a pair of 120 yard offhand shots in less than a minute. Cool stuff. But then the weatherman said we were in the path of a big storm.

Weatherdude called it right a huge blow came in from the northwest hammering us with rain and winds that topped 70 mph. We had planned to hunt Cheatham county the next morning and talked about calling it off which any sane person would have done. Unlike other places, Tennessee isn’t known for it’s constant high winds so most of the time we just don’t go. But the forecast called for the winds to drop drastically during the morning so we loaded up.

When we got to the farm, by farm I mean a 20 acre mowed field, I headed to my blind only to find it had disappeared. Stakes ripped out and the blind nowhere to be seen. I checked the fence rows, woods, everywhere I could get to. No blind. The wind was still blowing 50+ so I went back to the house where brother was talking to the land owner, Pappy. The temps weren’t bad but the wind was howling so we decided to sit in the driveway using the house as a wind break and look across the field hoping the wind would lay.

Blind had been located by little cedar on the right. Found later in woods down the hill.


As the morning went on we talked about how stupid it was to sit in this wind since no deer were going to move but we figured we were there so might as well stay. Around lunch with no let up in the wind I looked up and standing on top of the hill is a doe. I poked brother to tell him it was there.
“Kill it.”
“Ok, you sure you don’t want to?”
“Nope, I don’t care she’s on your side. Shoot.”

I got braced, shot and say it with me, missed. She took off downhill bobbing and weaving. We tried to get her stopped but she kept running around the field then turned and ran straight at us. Finally at 50 yards we both yelled and she stopped broadside. I was loaded again and heard brother’s favorite saying when something gave me a shot…… ”That was a mistake.”
The doe we called “The Pig”. She weighed 142 lbs which is big here. Built like a football.

She dropped right there so we sat back down. It wasn’t five minutes later I looked up and said, “There’s your’s.”
Sure enough another one was standing not 5 yards from where mine had been. He took a shot and I saw the hit. The deer ran down and dropped 20 feet from mine. We looked at each other and agreed no one would believe this.

We had gotten two deer in 5 minutes at midday in a 50+ mph wind. Just one of those trips when Murphy was determined to ruin things but persistence or not wanting to drive home paid off. No one we talked to had considered going that day, hardcore or not.

As to the fate of the blind. It was found the next year when Pappy was driving his tractor near the fence row. It had blown over into the woods on someone else’s property landing upside down making it even harder to see. By the time I got it back it was useable but not in the best of shape. Later it would meet a bad end in a flood on another property.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The 30 Second Deer

  There isn’t a deer hunter that hasn’t spent countless hours in a stand, blind or stalking. We get out and scout to find good spots then more time building blinds and setting stands. Some of the luckier ones have big permanent blinds over fields that are prepared every year just for the deer. But for most it is long hours of getting prepared with more long hours of sitting in blinds like steam rooms in early season to freezing in the rain, snow and cold late season. But sometimes you just get lucky.
  This is one of those times. Now it wasn’t me but a cousin that got lucky and like the hunt the story doesn’t take long so here we go.
I had gotten a call from my brother asking if I wanted to go to one of our spots near the Kentucky line in Robertson county. We kill a lot of deer there even though we only hunt a couple of spots on the 90 acre farm. He had several blinds set up around the property but I usually hunted one while he hunted another. He had killed his biggest buck there, a 154” 10 pointer so we tried to get there whenever possible. I said sure and headed to his house only to find our cousin there. He didn’t get to hunt often so it wasn’t a problem to take him along.
  We loaded up for the hour long drive. We were bad to rib the guys that don’t take the deer we do so cousin got the worst of it. He gave back pretty good so the drive was big fun and we got to the farm still loud and joking. This was an afternoon hunt and we had decided to put him in a blind on the far corner of the farm that never got hunted.
  As we pulled up I got out to help him get his gear in the blind. We are still joking, slamming blind and truck doors as I throw his vest and hat to him. My brother is, well not yelling, but loudly talking from inside the truck giving last minute instructions. Cousin starts into the blind after getting his .270 loaded and I jump in the truck as we start to head across the field to our blinds. We hadn’t gone 100 yards when the phone rings.
Brother, “Hello.”
“I just smoked that b…h!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I just smoked one!”
  Looking at me, brother says “I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about let’s go see.”
  I am looking at him as he points over his shoulder at the blind. I turn around to look as he turns the truck. Cousin is standing beside the blind looking down the fence row. As we pull up he comes over, sticks his head in the window and says again, “I just smoked one!” while pointing to a spot about 70 yards away.
Sure enough there is a big doe laid out, shot in the neck. She dropped in her tracks. I walked over with him to check her out. I looked up and had to ask.
“Why did you shoot her in the neck?”
“I didn’t want her to run.”
“Well, it worked.” shaking my head.
  Turns out as we pulled away doe critter jumps the fence and stands watching us leave. All we can think is she was used to the farmer feeding the cows near there, which he does, and thought it was him laying out a free meal. She paid no attention to all of our noise and barely waited for the truck to pull off to jump into the field. It was either that or a suicide. Whichever, it was indeed the fastest, strangest deer hunt we had ever been on.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Learning to levitate and getting nekkid afield

  Here is a little something for the folks out there that aren’t big fans of some of our creepy crawly friends. I am lucky to not be scared of the critters we run into on our trips afield. Snakes don’t bother me and spiders I can take. Having said that here are a couple of times that statement broke down.
  Over the years I have had encounters with many different animals. From chickadees and squirrels climbing onto my stand to skunks and snakes meandering across my boots. All of these were neat but none did more than make me smile or ,in the case of the skunk, cause a spike in blood pressure and breathing. But long ago in the distant past I had two run ins that still make me shake.
  One of the big things as a kid was the opening day of dove season. We waited for September 1st to roll around. We would start getting camo and shells ready. Look around the house and find our dove buckets and coolers then decide which fields we would head to for the first big hunt. Season starts at 12:00 noon and we would be there.
  Usually we went to either Beesley’s or Flippo’s farms in Bedford county. This particular year we decided to try a different spot. Never tried it but it was a good looking spot, a nice big field and a cedar filled cut off field which is what we were looking for. This gave us a place to shoot the birds before the hunters in the main field started blasting away.
  We got set up and began the 4 hour wait in the blistering heat for the birds to start flying. Sure enough just about 4 o’clock the birds began to pour into the field and the sounds of a young war echoed through the trees. I was having a good day and had a limit of 15 on the ground fairly fast. Back then my trusty Remington 870 was used on everything from doves to ducks to deer and she didn’t let me down.
  I started to search for birds that I hadn’t picked up which involved a lot of sweating crawling through the cedars looking for little grey feathers. I had just about finished gathering up the last when I felt something down the back of my shirt. This something had some mass not the usual tick or ant. I began some interesting gyrations while grabbing and clawing to capture whatever it was taking up residence between my shoulder blades.
  After a good imitation of Curly from the Three Stooges I got a hold of what felt like half a golf ball. I was yelling for one of the guys hunting with us to help get it out but he just stared and says “No.” “Ok.” says I and off the clothes start to come. Try taking off a shirt while holding a handful of material behind your back, not letting go while in a semi panicked state. Got the shirt off and chucked it as far as I could.
  Shirts have terrible ballistics and it hit the ground a couple of feet away. Now I had the creepies feeling things crawling everywhere. I went over to look and found a huge yellow and black garden spider. Huge I tell ya, maybe P&Y or B&C but I wasn’t in the mood to measure. Now the whole hunting party is staring at me half nekkid in the middle of a field. I gathered up my dignity, shooed the offending arachnid from my shirt and got dressed while thanking them for all the help. I can still feel those eight legs making a transit across my spine.

  The second encounter was with my first hunting buddy, Joey. We were in the infancy of our deer hunting. We didn’t know it then but we had a great place to hunt but had no idea how to go after the deer. Our parents didn’t hunt so we were trying to do what all the magazines told us to do. Now this was before climbing stands so you would find your spot and build something in a tree hoping not to fall through before then season ended. So before bow season we headed off to build our new stands.
  Joey headed to one end of the property while I headed up a truly steep hill to get to a ridge line I wanted to hunt. I beat and banged a Frankenstein of a stand into a likely spot and headed back to Joey’s spot. I found him near his stand kind of staring at the base. I walked up and asked what he was doing. He pointed at the 2 ½ ft rattlesnake still twitching a few feet away.
  I asked what happened. He had climbed down the tree and decided to drop the last three steps rather than climb. When he landed he felt something under his foot and looked down to see he was standing on the rattler. Not having anything but his hammer he managed to give the snake a quick bashing while not getting bit. This was bad enough but then came next week and opening day.
  The opener was cool early and late with warm in the middle. We hunted that morning then decided to scout a new ridge before the afternoon set. As we came down the hill I saw something pop up out of the leaves by my right foot. You know how you step on a stick and the other end pops up. That’s what I was thinking. I looked down and saw a big wide head staring at my leg and WAY over there a black tail ending in a stack of rattles.
  I froze and told Joey, “I see a rattler.”
  “Where?”
  “Right by my foot, please, don’t miss it.”
  All we had then were recurve bows and I heard his “Oh Shit!” and the bow string pop. He hit the snake about 10 inches back pinning it to the ground. Everything slowed. I saw the snake turn and strike the arrow repeatedly. I saw the venom running down the shaft. I slowly rose off the ground to a level many a bird would be proud of, moved in a leftward direction while pivoting midair and drawing my bow. I landed at full draw and hit the snake behind the head such was my tunnel vision. The next shot hit about 2 inches back and Joey put one more in for good measure.
  After we calmed down a little and finished the poor snake off we measured to find almost 6 feet of Eastern Timber Rattler. We took it home and then donated it to our high school where it may still be today.
  So for those of you not thrilled with the idea of spiders and snakes I hope the images here are good enough to give you a bit of a chill and other folks a bit of a thrill. They sure did me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Revenge of the Christmas Duck

  Way back when I was a duck hunter. The Canadian geese were protected at the time and we rarely saw snows or blues. So I was a duck hunter. Along with my hunting partners, Brian and Keith, who happened to be identical twins we were the scourge of the ducks in our area. From the time we had to be hauled to the lake to hunt off the bank by our ever patient parents to when we could drive and owned our own boats we spent all winter duck hunting.
  We planned and studied. Collected masses of decoys and became pretty good callers. We made all of the blind drawings at the areas we wanted to hunt. Standing around in hundred degree heat hoping our number was called. Then spent days working on blinds in the same hundred degree heat with the added bonus of wasps, snakes and skeeters. Oh and chiggers and ticks. We had jobs at night so we could hunt during the day and all weekend. We had it bad.
  This is a little story about an “excursion” Brian and I decided to undertake on a holiday. Yep Christmas day we jumped in the truck and drove over two hours to be in our blind by daylight. I can’t remember why Keith wasn’t along but it was just the two of us.
  We got to the lake, unloaded the boat and headed to the blind. Cold and clear, man was it cold which isn’t all that normal for middle Tennessee even in December but today it was cold. Remember the cold part you will need it later. Set up the decoys and watch the sun come up over the treeline of Bear Creek. The ducks started flying and a few hit the water including a couple of blacks from a group of about fifty that snuck in while we were talking.
  During a brisk chase through the woods after a cripple involving a very bothered duck and an empty shotgun which led to much cussing and laughing, it finally sank in that we were the only ones in the bottoms. There were no shots coming from any blind. Our spot wasn’t bad but #11 was THE BLIND in the entire area and no one was using it. This required no real thought, we packed up, loaded the boat and drove 8 miles to get to a spot that was only about 600 yards from where we were hunting. I said we had it bad.
  This spot is a pump hole. Normally a corn or milo field it was flooded to create a couple of nice ponds. #11 sat in the middle of a wood duck roost and was a favorite place for anything flying down Bear Creek. No boat needed just chest waders. Sure enough it was empty so after parking we hauled bags of decoys down and got set up once again. By now it was midday and the birds were resting up. We take advantage to eat lunch and plan all the shooting coming this afternoon.
  Despite our best efforts we had a total of two ducks come in. A right to left suzie that I shot and a left to right greenhead that Brian knocked down. As the day wound down and the temps continued to drop we decided to pack it in and head for home. We gathered up the decoys and got them bagged with frozen hands trying to wind up frozen cords. Ice was forming on everything in minutes but the ducks coming in to roost in the ponds helped to take our minds off of the pain.
  The last thing to do was to go get the ducks. Brian’s had drifted into the bank so he walked over to grab it. Mine had hung up in a buttonball bush about 70 yards out in the pond. I started wading out knowing that the bottom was fairly flat and hard. This was a good assumption except for the wet ground the farmer had driven his tractor on during the planting season leaving a trench almost two feet deep in the bottom of the pond. Did I find it? Why yes I did. Did I fall in? Technically, no. But I did a fine bit of clogging while pirouetting, flailing about and doing an amazing imitation of a windmill, shotgun still in hand. I did not go under, I did manage to ship almost an entire load of water in my waders.
  At this point please refer back to the part where I said cold.
  By now it was extremely cold and ice started to form on my clothes within a minute. I couldn’t catch my breathe it was so bad but I continued on to get that stupid suzie. As I got back to the bank Brian saw how bad I was shaking and told me to get to the Jeep and the heater. By the time I walked the short distance ice was forming in my waders. Got the waders off and engine started but my clothes are freezing to me.
  If you have ever been in a mid 70s Jeep you know the heater is a heater in name only. It would be thirty minutes to get anything out of it. So instead of shivering in the truck I stood in frozen clothes and wet socks, no boots and watched the ducks pouring out of a darkening sky and land yards from me. First a few, then dozens, finally the sky was filled with ducks pitching in to go to roost.
  It was one of those hunts that stays with you. I’ve been on hunts where we took more ducks or had worse things happen. This one though we always called the Christmas Excursion or Suzie’s Revenge and always with a laugh. We had a good day, Suzie got me back and I will never forget standing at the water’s edge watching and listening to hundreds of ducks going to bed while slowly freezing into a duck hunter popsicle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Humbling Turkeys



 Come in and head back to my hunting closet. Look around and find the turkey vest. Take careful note of the properly placed calls, ammo, chalk, scrub pad, gloves, head net and, of course, bug spray. You will find the water bottles, decoy stakes and the TP. Look down by your feet and you will find the stack of decoys ranging from the old foam style to the latest on the market. The camo is hung and arranged by type and weather conditions. The custom camo painted shotgun rests in the gun safe just to the left of where you stand. Taking all of this in you can only think that this is one of “Those” guys. The ones other turkey hunters whisper about. The guy with more long beards on the wall than you will ever see in the woods.
  Nope! Wrong! I am one of “Those” guys that like to make many trips to the store and gather all the cool equipment. . Don’t take me wrong I am a serious hunter but something of a gadget collector. This is not to say that I don’t turkey hunt. I do. This isn’t to say I haven’t killed turkeys. I have. But believe me I have come home beaten by the thunder chickens many more times than I care to admit. But I want to tell you the story of my first bird, the one that led me to believe I had it all figured out in my first two days of hunting.
  After finding a farm to hunt in Marshall county that was full of birds, I watched them all winter as I picked on the deer. Along comes spring and a friend gives me a decoy and some camo gloves for my birthday. I explained that I knew nothing about turkey hunting couldn’t call and had never even thought about actually hunting the things. I mean, they are stupid, how hard could it be. Nothing like deer.
  I went along with the idea because it allowed me to expand the contents of my closet. After a few trips I had a pile of stuff guaranteed to kill turkeys at every outing. I practiced calling and figured out a load that was sure to thump the first one to come into range. I waited for opening day with little of the excitement I have for opening of bow season.
  I crawled out of bed the first day and drove over to the farm. Just before light I walked into the field and could hear turkeys on four different roosts. “See? I knew this would be easy.” I told myself out loud. I set up and waited. Sure enough here they come. About sixty birds come out into the field and the toms go to strutting. Eight big long beards showing off for the hens. I called and sure enough here come some birds. All hens. They come up to the point that a couple were within a foot of my boots. After a few minutes they lose interest and wander off but none of the toms come close.
  I watch them go to the woods across the field and decide I can set up on them by moving a couple of hundred yards. After a few minutes in the new spot I have a tom gobbling and headed my way. Easy, piece of cake, told you so. Nothing. He gobbles and gobbles but won’t come in and then I feel something watching me from behind. I turn to find all eight of the big toms watching me from 10 yards through the fence. After they scatter I pack it up for the day and decide tomorrow will be better.
  The next day goes pretty much the same. Eight toms strutting and then off to the woods in the wrong direction. So, I move to the other end of the field where I had never seen a bird and set up one decoy. I called a couple of times and saw two birds fly into the field a good four hundred yards away. I called every few minutes never really thinking about those two birds. They were too far away. They were in high grass. They wouldn’t bother coming this far. They were standing right in front of me!!
  I saw a tiny movement and like magic there they were. Both now in full strut at twenty yards. I had my gun on the ground, not ready the way I was told to be. I knew that the birds would be gone at the first movement but had no choice. I eased the gun up and they paid me no mind. All the time showing off for the girl they had found. I got the gun up, the hammer back and the sights on the closest bird. He had a head that seemed to glow and was an easy shot. I touched the trigger and felt that great shove into my shoulder. I looked and sure enough I had killed my first long beard. I ran over to get him and found out the hard way about flopping birds with spurs and gloves not protecting fingers. Still have that torn pair of gloves. A torn glove and finger was worth it. He weighed in at 22 pounds, had a 9 ½ inch beard and I had taken him with a muzzle loader.
  After a few pictures and a trip to the check in station I knew that I had this turkey hunting figured out. This was as easy as I knew it would be. I called my brother and told him, sent pictures to anyone that would listen and retold the story of my hunting prowess and the ease of turkey hunting to my friends. Three years later I finally got a chance at another bird. Three years!
  Hunt after hunt. Farm after farm. Too many early mornings to care to remember and the turkeys proved my wrong again and again. For a stupid bird these things proved pretty hard to kill. In that time I have learned from many hunters that are good at this sport and take great birds every year. I found out how humbling and difficult it can be to get a good old bird to come in.
  The only bird I took this year would set no record. That hunt wasn’t much of a hunt. I drove to a spot less than two minutes from my house and got set up. The birds flew down right in my lap and I got a shot at a nice young bird that I was proud to take. I did manage to miss a big tom a week later but that is ok, too. I did every thing right and he came in right where I thought he would. To me a successful hunt because I had listened and learned from some good hunters and come to respect the turkeys for the great game birds they are.    
  If you are considering turkey hunting, by all means, give it a try. There are plenty to go around. If you have never hunted them take the time to listen to the guys and gals out there that can and will give you good advice. Practice your calls, gather your stuff and get to the woods. But believe me, all of you that are new to the sport, it isn’t as easy as you might believe. Take it from someone that found out the long and humbling way.
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About Me

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.

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