Thursday, June 29, 2006

Could have easily been flattened!

OK - so we're out on a bushwalk in an area along the Selinda spillway, just east of the Okavango Delta, which had previously been hunted. The local animals were a bit skittish of humans, because of the association. Our guide carried a .375 just in case. We were having a really nice walk. Heard a cheetah "bark" and baboons alarm call because of the cheetah. Watched impala, kudu, and lots of different birds. About 2 hours into the walk we were going through some fairly thick shrub, when the guide spotted a bull elephant about 75 meters ahead of us. We stopped and watched him forage for while. The guide figured we were on his game trail, so we back tracked a bit and went around so we could see him from a different angle and then watch him go down the path we were on. After we got into position, the elephant did exactly that. After he finished eating he started down the path were we previously on. BUT, for whatever reason he stopped, turned and came right at us. As soon as he turned the guide told everyone not to move. We were in a spot where we had very little protection, just some scrawny shrubs in front of us for camouflage. The bull didn't show any aggressive behaviors - no head shaking, no throwing dirt, no bluff charges - but he just came right at us. At 20 ft, yes 20 feet, he stopped. About this time I heard the guide put a round in the chamber of the rifle. Needless to say everyone in the group all thought "OH SHIT" to themselves (some even said it loud enough to hear) when he did this. The bull extended his ears out as wide as he could, drew his head back so his tusks were pointed right at us, and brought his trunk up to check us out. This stare down lasted about 2 or 3 minutes. He then started to walk off just to our left. One of the guys in the group snapped the above pic when he did (that's my head on the right). Sure looks like he was within 10ft at that point. He continued to walk off and then started foraging again. This was definitely a highlight of the trip, even though it could have gone so very differently.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My so-called career as a deer sniper...

well gang, my neighbor the vineyard owner has gotten a nuisance permit for five deer over on Seneca Lake. While I am planning on diving in with my Rem 11-87 slug gun as soon as I have some refrigeration capability in place, I figured now's as good a time as any to start thinking about using this opportunity as an excuse to grow the gun collection. If you know what I mean.

So I'm looking for advice on purchasing my first rifle. Nuisance shooters can use centerfire guns up until 11:00 at night here in New York, plus spotlighting is legal for the job as well (but sorry Jay, no baiting allowed. go figure). So I thought I'd give getting a rifle some thought, plus I can use it if I ever travel to other states for big game.

So what would folks recommend for a first rifle. I've got some ideas but thought I'd leave this open-ended for now. You can also assume I don't know diddly doo about rifles, either, so go ahead and educate me about whatever comes to mind. thanks in advance.

Friday, June 09, 2006

And from the shameless commerce division...

Thinking Like a Manager:
Reflections on Wildlife Management
by John F. Organ, Daniel J. Decker, Len H. Carpenter,
William F. Siemer and Shawn J. Riley
Artwork by Daniel P. Metz
2006 120 pages

Thinking Like a Manager is a fictional novel that follows six wildlife managers—each a representative of a different perspective of the profession—succeeding an emergency survey mission in the aftermath of an oil spill in the Northwest. With the mission complete and with time on their hands due to inclement weather, they discuss the doctrines, theories and tribulations facing contemporary wildlife biologists. Some struggle with and some embrace the human element in wildlife management, yet all agree that the element is inescapable.
Thinking Like a Manager is an entertaining means of exploring the interrelationships of Aldo Leopold¹s ecological tenets, the public trust doctrine and sociological practices that today's wildlife management professionals must incorporate to be effective. For a profession that has changed drastically since its inception in the early 1900s, this novel offers a model for teamwork to achieve such an end.
Order directly from the Wildlife Management Institute
1146 19th Street, NW, Suite 700 Washington DC 20036 (202) 371-1808
($10.00 plus $2.00 shipping and handing)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Welcome to the Estimable One

Not to take away from Keith's jake slaying exploits (sorry, cagey, Eric made me do it), but I just have to acknowledge the addition to our masthead of the one and only, Estimable Coggins. All hail, Estimable One! welcome to grousers.

Discussion Topic #1: baiting of deer is flat-out wrong. Discuss.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Turkey II

Hunting with your mentor is always a big deal. Kind of like driving with your dad in the passenger seat, but more important somehow. Not only did Josh Winchell introduce me to waterfowl hunting, he also introduced me to turkey hunting, and has regaled me more than once with stories of killing a whopper his first time out. I always try to be like my mentor as best I can, but, as you may have heard elsewhere, until this year, Spring turkeys have eluded me.

Josh came to visit for a weekend hunt recently. Saturday and Sunday only. I scouted quite a bit in advance of his trip, and also let certain favorite turkey hangouts in my domain “rest” until my mentor’s arrival. Unfortunately, we blanked on Saturday, but had a lot of excitement to keep things interesting. We had three hens walk in to uswithin the first hour and had a gobbler flirting with Josh from down in a gully, but we couldn't get him to cross the creek and come up to us.

We finally moved out of that spot because it was so windy. Closed in on another bird at the back of my place. No go.

Tried crossing the creek to find the gobbler Josh and I had entertained earlier...I managed to track/guess him and his harem to the right spot...we walked up a trail out of the gulley into the neighboring field and there they were about 150 yards away. They saw us briefly and got nervous but didn't spook. We got into position in the hedgerow and called aggressively to be heard over the wind. They came a-runnin', but then, just our luck, the neighboring farmer started hauling across the field and blew our chance.

By this time it was near noon and we were through. Same evening, we heard gobbling where we saw those birds, just into the woods. We walked over and had one gobbler roosted. We "put him to bed" and made plans for the Sunday AM hunt.

Next morning, the gobbler was roosted in a tree about half way down the steep bank of the gulley, a tree that had a view of the wide trail that crosses the creek. I had observed turkeys fly down from trees like that on to the trail, and then walk up and out of the gulley on the trail. I really wanted Josh to get a bird at my farm, so I put him in what I thought would be the best spot down on that trail an hour before first light. I took up a position up on the edge of the field, in case the gobbler snuck by Josh somehow.

We waited. It got lighter. We heard amazing songbirds. It rained slightly. The sky was dark and heavy. We heard loons flying over head doing their tremolo thing. I wondered how Josh was faring down in the gully. I picked a crappy tree to lean against and my ass hurt. I looked at my had been an hour and we had heard no turkeys. At that moment, the gobbler sounded off. I love that feeling...being startled by what you are expecting. Only in hunting do you get that, and fly-fishing, which is a kind ofhunting to me.

After his gobble, I thought "Sweet, Josh is set." Then, the bird flapped a few times, and flew hard off of the tree, breaking a few branches. He careened straight into the middle of the field I was watching. Out of range, how perplexing...he wasn't supposed to do that. And then he sprinted to the corner of the field a few hundred yards away and disappeared into the woods. DAMN!

I sat for a while, predictably crestfallen. I heard Josh calling down in the gully, trying all different hen calls. I fought jealousy over his superior calling. “Good for him,” I thought. “Maybe he has another bird.” But then the calling stopped. Another 30 minutes passed, and I heard no more gobbling. The big boy had gobbled one time and basically fled the scene. I wondered if he somehow had “made us,” knew we were there, escaped a threat.

My ass really started to hurt, so I decided to get up and out of there. But wait, my rule for the year was, before leaving a set up, call super aggressively and wait 10 more minutes. Then pack up and go. So, I went hen-call berserk for about three minutes straight. It started to rain lightly again. I was feeling quite tortured by the little tree I had chosen, and was literally counting the minutes. 3-2-1... That's it- outta here.

I shifted my legs, set my gun down, put calls on my bag, raised up to stand---FREEZE---two candy-apple red heads at 50 yards, eyeballing me hard, just to my left. I had two hen decoys in the shorter grass and I was ten yards into the woods. I am pretty sure I said it out loud, with certain disgust..."Oh my God, I am SO f#@%-ing busted." But what the heck. I eased back down, back to my sapling, slowly reached for my slate call, and putted a few times, then a coupla purrs. They liked that...perhaps my little break-dancing in the woods routine was seen by them as more hens moving around. They came charging right in. I couldn't believe it. In mere seconds they were at ten yards, before I could put the call down and get the gun up.

Problem was, there was two of them and they were practically glued together. Any shot I took with the ten gauge would kill them both. I had been in this situation before and never ended up shooting, much to my good friend Eric’s great dismay. But that is a story for another day. These birds were definitely jakes, but one had a nicer beard and tail. They strutted around, seeming connected to one another like Siamese-twins. It was really something having them strut so close, oblivious to me, focused on the hen decoys and reveling in their good fortune, that the big boy gobbler wasn't rushing in to thump them for hitting on his babes.

I watched this for a bit, debating my next move. Do I want to kill another turkey, a jake? Hell yes. If I shoot will I screw Josh up on the bird of a life time? No, he’d say take the shot if you have it...bird in hand, all that. Can I get the gun up quickly enough to get the job done? Well, at this range, even at a run, they'll be in range if I am smooth about it. Will they separate? Hope goes. Up went the gun. Their eyes got huge, and they jumped. One went running to the left into the woods. He's out of the game, but the other one is heading into the open, looping, from left to right...he's in Miss. Swing Got him. Paced it off at just a shade over fifty yards. 10 gauge 3.5's, number 2 Heavy-Shot.

Josh came out of the gulley. "Get him?" I pointed to my feet, under which was a turkey head. "Not the big boy...a jake" I said, feeling mixed regret that I got a bird and Josh didn’t, but proud that I got one in the company of my mentor. He said, "Nice" and shook my hand, after which we stood in a big green field, early in the morning, the air saturated with moisture, and reconstructed the kill. Shortly after, it started to pour. We walked back to the farm house, hung the bird, and got some coffee and breakfast. We did get out later, but all was quiet after the heavy rain. Thus ended the Winchell visit and my 06 turkey season. Though Josh didn't get a turkey, we had a really good time. And of course, being the wise Sensei that Josh is, I am sure from his standpoint it worked out according to the Way of Things.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Will Roy Warriner Keep Crown as World Champion Black Fly Hunter?

This is what enquiring minds need to know. We're on the edge of our seats. The hunt results are due in from Northern Ontario.

Here are the details from last year's hunt:

Roy Warriner Keeps Crown as World Champion Black Fly Hunter

June 4, 2005 South River, ON

The Black Fly Hunt in South River is over and the results show Roy Warriner from Trout Creek, Ontario repeats as 2005 World Black Fly Hunting Champion. Roy collared an impressive 3213 black flies during the 4 week spring Black Fly Hunt in the Almaguin Highlands.

Roy caught his black flies in a net while doing yard work over the past few weeks. His total was almost 500 more than the 2735 he caught to first win the crown in 2004.

Roy echoed the comments of the majority of hunters in this year’s hunt, finding it more difficult than last year to catch black flies.

Chris Hundley mayor of South River (near the northwest corner of Algonquin Park) declared, “It’s quite a bit safer to be outdoors in South River and the Almaguin Highlands this summer,” as he thanked all hunters for their efforts and invited Canadians to discover their Canadian nature this summer.

This year seventeen enthusiastic hunters captured 10, 607 black flies in what has become the unofficial opening of tourism season in Canada.

Doug Currie, curator of entomology at the Royal Ontario Museum was a guest speaker at the weekend’s festivities celebrating a biting insect he is internationally renowned for studying. “Black flies get a bad rap, but their presence indicates clean, clear water and they contribute significantly to a healthy ecosystem.” The fact that there are enough to hunt bodes well for the health of nature-based tourism economies of Canada’s northern communities.

Top 5 Black Fly Hunters for 2005:
Roy Warriner, Trout Creek, ON: 3213
Peter & Elizabeth White, Laurier Tnsp, ON: 2228
Mike Huffman, South River, ON: 2195
Sandy Zimmerman, Pickerel Lake, ON: 1600
Rusty Perkins, Restoule, ON: 749

Jim here: sounds like rollicking good fun, I say we enter a team next year!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Be careful out there...

The world was stunned this past week as evidence surfaced of an alien-possessed mallard duck that was x-rayed (where else?) in California. The complete and breaking news story is here. What with avian flu, misidentified grebes, and now this, aliens in duck gizzards, waterfowling has never been so hazardous. So as you begin your planning for the upcoming 2006 duck hunting campaign, bear in mind that the next duck you kill may just have an army of alien Anatidae behind it.

Been nice knowing you all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Grousers Best Writing Award for May 2006

While it is my pleasure to observe that we had numerous examples of fine, old-fashioned hook 'n bullet writing this past month (although mysteriously the man monikered Mr. Mike was mostly mute in May), special recognition must go out to the author of the following words, which appeared in the commentary to Keith's turkey tale:
"Daylight came and the ducks began flying we had a good shoot bagging 1 red head hen,2 mallard hens and 3 mallard drakes.It was so exciting I had to check my breathing was I under the multi flora rose bush or under the big wolf oak NO I was in the marsh and I was not exposed."
As head cheerleader of this outfit it is my honor to award "anonymous" aka Eric Riegel with the first-ever Best Writing Award for his commentary on Cabin Boy's post.

Congratulations Eric, be sure to share your award, don't be greeby with it.