Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Too late for turkey day

counted 38.  They never seem to be around when you're looking for them, though.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Two more days

Until the Pennsyltucky rifle opener. Driving home last night, 10 pm, 0.25 miles from the Valley of Death, my deer hunting ground. What's that in the headlights? An apparition? Phantom? Fantasy? 10 points with tines scraping tree tops. Into the Valley he slinks. I, KG and Ben will lust for his soul in the days to come.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It takes a village...

Thanksgiving on the Tidball ranch; a fantastic tradition that brings together family, friends, land, sky, and the creatures therein. Jim and Keith, each having shot multiple deer, felt sorry for my state of deprivation (22 hours in the stand and no deer seen) and devised a plan to push something past me.

The morn dawned grey and windy, strong out of the SE, so we drove around to the W of Keith’s back field and worked our way E. I wore my throwback hunter red and black plaid Woolrich coat that belonged to my grandfather. Jim and I each sat on a fencerow, and Keith chose the hickory lot. A brush-busting neighbor paid me a visit, having managed to sit on his stand for an entire 20 minutes!! After departing, he pushed out a couple of deer a couple hundred yards away. My deer shotgun is pretty low tech (smoothbore and no scope). It is more like bowhunting (gotta upgrade) so a few hundred yards feels like the next county. Probably they had been working their way right to me, but at least I had seen deer.

We regrouped. Keith had seen deer as well: a buck and four does. I still hunted my way along the N fenceline toward a good stand just off the corner of the field and with a good view as well of the big gully. A buck jumped up when I was about 30 yards away, but flashed through the thick stuff and was gone. No shot. I settled into the stand and Keith and Jim began a slow push toward me. Movement in the brush along the fenceline. A coyote! Despite farm protocols that suggest I should take advantage, I really didn’t want to shoot the dang thing.

I still wanted a deer.

About 5 minutes later, from where the coyote disappeared, I caught movement. A doe (or so I thought), working her way toward me, down in one of the smaller gullies that drop into the main branch. About 50 yards. She was coming closer but I saw that if she stayed in the gully, she would soon be below my line of sight. She showed me some chest and I held behind the shoulder and touched the trigger. She tumbled, letting out a bloodcurdling bawl that Jim heard from a couple hundred yards away. She lunged to her feet and then crashed down again, and lay still, white belly toward me. I sat still for 5-10 minutes, watching.

Dead deer.

I still hadn’t moved, but then suddenly she was on her feet, lunging away, too thick for a shot. I called to the boys and told them to watch out. Jim walked toward me along the fence, where I had last seen the deer. I still expected it to be dead along the fenceline.

A single shot from Jim. “Great,” I thought, “the finishing shot”. My heart sank, though, when Jim’s shot was followed by another, 10 seconds later. The deer was on the run, the chase was on, and my role was that of the guy trying to piece it together from afar. More shots from the gully. A call from Keith. “The deer is down!”. Relief. Followed by more shots. “What the ****?”

The deer was running the gully, with Jim following and Keith racing to outflank. He made it, to the promontory that overlooks “possum flats” where we dragged out his deer a couple of days earlier. The deer was trying to climb out of the gully to the east. If he made it to the open field, he’d be across route 89 and into the marsh on the other side. Keith hit him again, from ~150 yards across the gully, and down he went.

Only to get back up again.

To be hit at last from Jim. Bang. Dead deer.

Mostly. After yet another shot in the neck.

I have never seen an animal that wanted to live so much, that fought so hard, as this guy (as he turned out to be a button buck). Altogether we hit him five times. I surely am not proud of this, but I am proud of how well we coordinated as a team. Without the team effort, he surely would have not been ours. Much to be thankful for here—the winter meat yes, but so much more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

shortest. writeup. ever.

appointments over -
three o'clock home and in stand
four thirty . . . deer . . . bang

Monday, November 22, 2010

The 2010 NY deer opener (southern)

(This is an abbreviated version of the post at http://tidball.blogspot.com/2010/11/odd-season.html)

Saturday was the opening day of the firearms deer season. At around 7:30 am, I missed a moving buck, a very wide and thick 6 pointer, at about 90 yards in cover. This buck was just hammering on a small button buck, literally kicking his can all over the place. I watched this big old buck throw the little feller into the air with his antlers, chase him down, and pin him to the forest floor. When the shot (80 yards or so, moving- high winds) finally, briefly, presented itself, I was surprised and frustrated by the miss. The day's frustration continued with increasing heavy winds, and the hunting pressure from neighboring farms, as it seemed every time I got settled into a new location, within an hour bright orange blobs could be seen in my upwind scent cones.

I finally decided to finish the opener in a newly installed, safe, two person ladder stand in the "square wood" otherwise known as the "hickory lot." This stand has a great view to the east and the south east of two large fields and a hedgerow. As I entered the little grove to climb into the stand, I kicked up two deer, but I could only hear them and see their tails. About an hour later, two deer, does, appeared at the end of the large field I was hunting over, out of range. They were feeding relatively comfortably on the clover. I watched them for quite awhile through the Nikon BDC scope mounted on my Ithaca Deerslayer II. They finally drifted out of the field and into the gully. Ten minutes later, another doe appeared, this one moving more purposefully toward the gate at the far southeast corner of the field. After 5 minutes, another deer appeared- the big 6 pointer.

The wind was blowing from the West, from behind me, to the field and the deer. I had not noticed any of the three does from minutes earlier obviously "scent" or "wind" me. However, as I had an aerosol can of "Buck Bomb" given to me, I thought I 'd see how well it works by spraying some in the air and hoped it would drift down wind to the buck and lure him my way. I sprayed, and within a minute, the buck could be seen scenting the air, nose high, in my direction. He immediately began to move towards me, closing the 300 yards step by step.

At about 150 yards, the buck veered slightly left (south) and was concealed by the thin hedgerow that runs perpendicular to the line of woods where I was positioned. The sun was setting, a big full moon was peaking in and out of the clouds. I assumed the buck was marching toward me. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes elapsed. No buck. I resigned myself to the fact that he had been dissatisfied with something and lured elsewhere. I packed up my satchel, slung the gun over my head and shoulder behind me, and prepared to descend from stand. Just as I extended my foot to step down to the first rung, I heard leaves crunching steadily, from behind the hedgerow where I had been expecting the buck. "It's him!" I nearly said out loud. "Better late than never." I clumsily removed my gun, knocking my hat off in the process. I settled in to a shooting position and tried to calm my nerves.

The bright moon and lingering sunset gave decent light, which was improved by the light-gathering qualities of my scope. I watched the end of the hedgerow intently. The sound of shuffling leaves grew louder . I could see feet, legs. The deer paused. Head movement. I could see an antler. "It's him!" I thought again, almost out loud. He was hanging back, sniffing. I needed two steps for a 15 yard shot at vitals, broadside. He took ones step, still partially obscured by the tangly brush of the Buckthorn and other hedgerow miscellany. As he bobbed his head I could make out his profile, tall antlers, points, some thickness... he stepped again. A clear shot at vitals. Bang. The Hornady SST was on its way.

He jumped straight up, and then went running. I shot four more times at him running, later learning that three of these running shots connected. The final shot downed him in the middle of my field, out about 150 yards. It was done. I descended the ladder, slightly shaky and well adrenalized, was smiling as I walked up to the big buck... but he got smaller as I approached. I stopped, paused... "that's a different buck" I said aloud. I walked closer, knelt over him, gently took the tall but juvenile antler, and chuckled softly. "Sorry boy- a case of mistaken identity" I said.

Apparently the original big 6 point deer, when concealed by the hedgerow, was met by the smaller 8 point 1 and 1/2 year old buck. Whatever transpired, time elapsed, and one buck went one way, one buck went my way. The smaller one went my way and is now headed towards the sausage maker.

I believe this is the same buck as pictured below from pre-archery October trail camera shots. He was supposed to benefit from QDM. Instead he fell victim to classic buck lust and "eager orange" as I call it. I have been struggling with that since the kill, but have resolved to be thankful and move on, perhaps wiser. In any case, as I have been told, you can't eat antlers. He'll be tasty. I will remember him for what he is and isn't, and for the Opening Day hunt under a full moon that I wasn't going to get to experience, but did.

Day two of the opener dawned sunny and with little wind. I set up in the second of my three two-person tree stands, the one that faces south down in the gully. I set Rich up in the "Quickie" stand that overlooks "The Bedroom," a deer bedding area that has traditionally held big bucks every year. My goal was to fill the first of my 2 DMPs (the second is for a different WMU). At 7:30 am, I filled that tag with a nice, neat, single 50 yard chip shot that anchored the deer in her tracks. In the picture, the white spot in the center is the doe's belly. Rich helped me gut it and drag it out. There will be feasting.

Friday, November 19, 2010

McPhee: Feb 6, 1996 - Nov 19, 2010

McPhee has joined his hunting companions Abbey, Cody, Fiona, Ginger, and Taga on the other side.
He loved well the Wisconsin grouse woods; the big water, prairie potholes and coulees of Alberta; the rocky hills of Pennsylvania; and the marshes of the Finger Lakes country.

He gave us almost 15 years. He loved us and we loved him. We'll see you again, old pal.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No longer "just" the cook

So I was feeling slightly fraudulent with the attention the Wild Harvest Table has been getting and therefore being asked the question, "do you hunt?", to which I had to reply, well I fish, but I am more the cook. So last weekend I accepted the invitation to go on a squirrel hunt with my family. Cagey set me up with his beloved LC Smith 20 gauge and our oldest daughter had her .22 Chipmunk. We set off for the wood line in the front field. We noted that there suddenly weren't any squirrels to be found when you are actually hunting them, but then we saw one up ahead. Our guide hurried us on. He told us to wait as he went around the huge cotton tree to push the squirrel to our side and not to worry as long as we aimed high. Sure enough, the squirrel came around to our side up high in the tree and I shot. "BOOM", yes the gun tip went up, but the squirrel was shot. He scrambled/fell down the tree and started across the ground. Damn. I shot again. Now he was clearly hit hard and feebly moving away slowly. I have no more shots or ammo to reload, so I call in the sharp shooter with her .22. "Quick, take the squirrel that is getting away (unless I choose to go pick it up, I realized in hindsight)...shoot it in the head", I plead to my daughter. Aim, fire, and the squirrel is quickly dispatched. We now have squirrel to add to our Thanksgiving larder, and I am no longer just the cook.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My next bird dog

apparently a new breed of bird dog is being developed: 

from Terry's Diary.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dispatch from the Front (archery deer hunting obsession)

Ambush nearly successful STOP 20 meters but obscured by cover STOP target is a "shooter"STOP presented "quartering toward" shot oblique STOP shot declined, reference ROE STOP target has exfiltrated STOP will reengage at 1500 STOP regaining radio silence FULL STOP

Trail Cam recon

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Honor the hunt by hunting with honor

Some of you know that I've started writing again. For better or worse.

Latest entry at the Fair Chase blog: http://fairchasehunting.blogspot.com/2010/11/honor-hunt-by-hunting-with-honor.html

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Yes, but is it sporting?

You labba dabba guys never cease to amaze me.  When will you learn that your stupid pet tricks will never measure up to the True Greatness that is the Pointy-Sissy-Dogge.  harrumph.