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Monday, December 27, 2010

On the X ; December 26th 2010

Twas the day after Christmas and stuffed throughout the truck,
were shotgun shells, blind bags, and essential goose hunting muck.
I was behind the wheel with Timber perched in the back,
looking onward toward the field where the geese would get wacked.

Weather Conditions: N winds blowing from between 10 - 15mph, with gusts upward of 30+ mph. Snow flurries, overcast skies, and temperatures starting off in the upper teens in the morning.

The scouting for this hunt started on the 23rd of December, where I watched about a hundred or so geese feeding along the northern portions of the property. With the Christmas holiday, and family obligations to come first, the actual hunting portion of the hunt didn't take place until a few days later. With no drastic changes in the weather, and no other hunting pressure on this spot, I was hopeful that the birds would keep to their feeding and flight patterns.

So, with that being the case we actually slept in a bit, and didn't wake up at 0' dark thirty in the morning to set decoys in the dark. Our trucks were driving into the cut corn field by about 8:00am, with some quick work we had the layout blinds, and decoy spread set up and ready to go in under an hour.

Mike & Timber waiting on the flights of geese
It wasn't much after that we were standing around BS'ing like usual. I had no sooner poured a cup of coffee, and raised the steaming thermos lid to my lips, when over the treetops the first flight of birds were spotted. Oh shit, GEESE!!! Everybody dove into their blinds, covered up, and readied themselves.

These birds were committed to landing in this field from the time they first opened their eye lids and took flight from their roost. A few clucks was all the calling that was done, and their wings were set. In just a matter of minutes there were already birds on the ground, with our tally being only one bird short of our daily limit. 5 birds down, only 1 to go. It wasn't much longer before more birds were on their way in, however it would be a little bit longer before we finally finished. Apparently the next flight of birds were either bullet proof, or the shells I was shooting weren't properly packed with shot because nothing fell from the sky after my next attempt. I mean, what fun would it be if we finished that quickly anyways. Might as well make it a little dramatic for all the work we did setting up the decoys. Not much later through, I was presented with another opportunity and made good.

They're locked in on us now boys!!!

Wait for it, wait for it....
TAKE 'EM!!!!
We all agreed to stick it out for about another hour, hoping that one of the future flights of geese would have some greenheads in tow. That never turned out to be the case, but we did get to enjoy the spectacle of what it's like to be on the "X" for that hunt. Geese flew in steadily from just before 9:00am that morning until we were driving out of the field with our trucks once again loaded down with decoys at around 11:30am.

I'll let the field rest for a few days and then hit it hard again later in the week. Hopefully we can put together another hunt like this one again!!

Eric, Me, and Mike after a great hunt.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Second Split opener 12/11/10

We decided to hunt the big cut corn field for the second split opener. Not because the scouting turned up piles of birds sitting in the field day in , and day out, but because it's in a location that gives you a chance to draw birds from all directions. The scouting efforts, in fact, only had birds in this field on Tuesday the 7th, and nothing that I saw after that. So, rather than wake up at 3:00am to go out and battle other hunters for possible spots on the Public waters, we made the call to go to the field.

The weather for the day changed from clear skies and zero wind early on, to an overcast sky that finally produced enough breeze to make the spread move, before clearing again and bringing back the blue bird skies. Winds were out of the South, South East for the entire hunt. Temperatures were in the upper 20's to start the day, but climbed with the southern wind into the lower 40's by the time we were driving out of the field.

Bird movement was mostly out of the south, with only two groups of birds that we spotted coming from the north. One was a group of migrating geese flying waaaay high at 8:15am, one hour after legal shooting light. We did manage to get spotted by them, but the appearance of the decoy spread we laid out in the pre-dawn darkness wasn't enough to make them drop from the heavens and into shooting range. Another big wad of ducks came though from the north and spotted us all standing in the decoys, stretching our legs and sipping coffee, instead of laying low in our blinds. We didn't get a look from them either.

Most of the huntable birds in the area took to the air between 9:30am and 11:00am, with some large groups of geese heading north east of the spot we were located. Hopefully some scouting in that direction this week will turn up the location of their buffet, and possibly land us a new field to hunt.

All in all we had a good hunt, with the jump shot of a lone Ruddy duck from the pond, as well as a few geese that committed to the landing hole and didn't end up leaving. Timber did well too, not breaking on the geese that we called in and let land in the spread while the remainder of their group circled one more time before locking their wings, dropping their feet and following the same course. With about six or seven birds on the ground, feeding only ten to fifteen feet from our layout blinds, and nothing else in the air that was working, I called out "Kill 'em!!" to the group as we let chaos break loose. There's nothing like it!!


Yeah, we should of had a few more geese to take home, and probably some mallards too. But, that's why it's called hunting I guess. All in all a good time was had by everybody, and that's really what it's all about.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Veterans Day Buck 11/11/10

As I left home and made my way down to camp on Wednesday night, I was thinking about where I would be hunting the next morning. The available options bouncing around my head would eventually be narrowed down depending on where the other guys had their stands set up, and where everybody else had already been hunting that week. The plan was to go in someplace that I was already somewhat familiar with, set up early, sit until lunch, then decide whether to pack out and head to someplace more promising, or stay put if the deer movement was good. For the weeks leading up to my vacation, I'd been pouring over both aerial and topo maps of the areas we’ve been hunting, making notes of the likely places to set up based on terrain features that could hopefully funnel the deer movement within bow range.

Thursday's weather: Overnight lows hit 29 degrees before jumping into the upper 60's for the afternoon. Winds were minimal, ranging between 0 to 15 mph and coming out of the ENE for the most part. Barometric pressure averaged around the 30.36. Sunrise for the counties contained within the Eastern half of Ohio was listed at 7:07am according to the ODNR regulation book, with legal shooting light arriving 30 minutes prior to that. Even with the whitetail rut being full swing, the hot weather was probably going to limit daylight movements to dawn & dusk, with most of the movement to occur during the much cooler nighttime hours. Not exactly what you would call ideal conditions as a bowhunter on vacation.

The cell phone’s alarm broke it’s silence at 5:00am the next morning. A couple good luck exchanges were had with the other guys in camp getting ready to head out. In short order I had already made my way into the truck and was covering ground down the dirt road. I wanted to make sure I gave myself more time than was needed to get dressed, enter the woods, and the have those extra minutes to make the slow and deliberate hike up the ridge I intended to hunt that morning. I always like to try to be up in my stand and settled in well before legal light. Even though I was moving cautiously though the woods, the dry conditions made every foot fall sound, and feel, like I was walking on bubble wrap. I heard two different times when deer blew at me during my early morning walk, or at least in my mind they were directed at me because of all the commotion I felt I was making.

Soon enough I was resting with my back against the bark of the tree, elevated well off the ground in my climber, with my bow dangling from it’s hanger within reach of my left hand. The sun’s early morning rays started to push back the night’s dark grip and illuminate sky. Hen mallards were sounding off in the distance, followed shortly later by some of the Canada geese joining in with their echoing honks as the morning was awakening. Squirrels also sensed the safety of daylight’s arrival, and were soon scurrying about the bountiful buffet of the oak flat below. There's just nothing like experiencing the world come alive from 20+ feet off of the ground, and knowing that you’re part of it’s cycle as a hunter. That's a feeling I hope to never grow tired of, and something that not too many other people in this world are privileged to understand.

Before I had much more time to let my thoughts drift off, in the distance I heard that familiar sound, the consistent crunch of a deer making its way through the woods. I snapped my head to the right to try and locate the source. My eyes keyed in on the dull brown motion approaching through the brush. A doe was making her way up the backside of the ridge that I was facing. Then I spotted another set of legs behind hers, and these legs were attached to a much larger body, that was attached to a set of antlers. I quickly decided that this looked like a quality deer and eased up quietly onto my feet.

Almost automatically, my release was clipped to the string loop on my bow, as I pivoted as precisely as possible towards my right. The doe was doing everything possible to avoid the harassment of the buck in pursuit, as she burrowed herself into a mess of briars, a dead fall, and the tangles of young saplings that would keep him at bay for at least for the moment. Maybe she could now catch her breathe. The buck stood broadside like a GlenDel target, about 10 yards behind the doe, allowing me time to range the distance at just over 25 yards away. The issue was that because of all the branches, saplings, and underbrush in the way I just had no feasible way to slip an arrow in anywhere near his vitals. At least where he currently stood. I reached into my coat pocket, pulled out the grunt call, and put it to my lips. Then just as quickly I pulled it away. He's way too close, it might spook him, and he might pin my location down. It's not worth it just yet. Let’s wait it out.



By now the yearling was 30 - 40 yards up hill from my position, and the lead doe actually decided to follow her. I pivoted again, this time 180 degrees back in the other direction, towards my left shoulder, doing my best to keep the tree between me and the deer to conceal my movement. I was ready to draw, and as soon as the doe moved past my tree, I pulled back on the string, bringing the bow to full draw. I had an opening. Now all I needed was for the buck to follow. Peaking around the tree I could see his nose, as he paused watching the doe make her way up the ridge. All I needed was just two more steps, and he would be in a clear shooting lane. He was gracious enough to take those steps a moment later. I gave him a quick grunt that stopped him in his tracks, as he paused slightly quartering away, with my neon green 20 yard pin floating in contrast against the brown fur behind his shoulder.

The last thought that went though my head before I put pressure on the release trigger was "follow though." I watched my arrow bury itself up to the fletchings as the buck mule kicked, loaded up his legs, and dashed like a freight train down the hillside, into a small gully, then up and out the other side. He paused after jumping out of the dry creek bottom. I blew my grunt call in an effort to try and get his attention, and keep him from running. "Drop, drop, just freakin' drop!" A second or two later I see him start the wobble, then a stumble forward, followed by another lapse in balance..... "He's down! Holy s$#t, he's down!"

The wave of pure adrenaline, excitement, disbelief, relief, and everything else that gets pumped though your body in the minutes that follow something like this are simply incredible. Quite honestly, they're truly something that only another hunter can completely understand and comprehend. I still get shook up shooting a doe, and that's something that I hope never changes. But shooting a good, quality buck is something entirely different, even on another level. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

Even though I watched the buck run 60 to 70 yards and fall over, I still like to follow the blood trail. This time was no different. There was very good sign all along the route he took through the woods. 

Picking up the blood trail near the arrow's point of impact.

As I walked along, I was able to find the remnants of my arrow. I didn't get a complete pass through, but the penetration covered all but the last six inches of the arrow. The arrow was dangling from some of the saplings in the area, and was right next to one of the many rubs located along this hill side.

The broken arrow worked it's way out of the deer, but the damage had already been done.

There was no ground shrinkage on the rack of this deer as I approached him. In fact he kept getting bigger as I closed the distance from my stand to where he piled up. Once I had made the decision that he was a good buck, one that I was going to try and shoot, I didn't look at his rack much more. My focus remained on his body, the available shooting lanes, and trying to determine where my shot opportunities were going to come from. I'm glad I didn't start counting points or I probably would’ve shot ten feet over his back.

A picture taken from down in the dry gully at the bottom of the ridge.



As I found him. By far, my biggest deer to date.


The Veterans Day Buck 2011

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday 11/08/11 - Bow Hunt

It's the first day of vacation this week, and the long term forecast is looking rather craptasticly warm for bow hunting. Hopefully the morning and evening deer movement isn't hampered with the heat moving into Ohio. Oh well, at least I'm not working!

Weather conditions: Things started off cool this morning with temperatures in the lower 30's, but then warming up into the upper 50's by the afternoon. Clear, star filled skies walking into the woods this morning, remained clear as the giant red sun crested the eastern skyline at 7:07am this morning. Making legal shooting light 30 minutes prior to that at 6:37am. Barometric pressure stayed steady at around 30.0 mark throughout most of the hunt, and the day for that matter. Winds were mostly out of the WSW at around 5mph. Very calm day.

I hunted the Mel Woods stand today from my climber. Same tree that I hunted last Sunday when the coulda, woulda, shoulda buck came through. Those thoughts still fresh in my mind had me wondering if things would be different this morning if he stopped by. All total I spotted 5 deer. 2 bucks, and 3 does. Nothing really in shooting range, or in what I would consider the "shooter" category for this property either. Still seeing the younger bucks out cruising. The does I saw were in a group too, which tells me that they're not quite yet ready. I haven't witnessed any chasing going on just yet, although I've been getting reports from other buddies throughout the state that some chasing is starting up. Hopefully the mature bucks start feeling the urge to get out there...

Here's a picture of the buck that was closest to my location today. He skirted the CRP field edge with his nose almost constantly to the ground. Probably within 40 yards of my stand.


Here's a picture of the buck that I would really like to see within bow range instead...


More to come tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a lot of hours spent in the woods this week.

Saturday 11/06/10 - Bow Hunt

Not much happened in the way of mature buck sightings, but the younger guns are out and about looking for the ladies. Hunted the M2 stand which is situated at the intersection of a very overgrown ditch running into the main fence row, with the creek running parallel to the main fence row.

Weather conditions: Very cold in the morning with the low for the day at around 28 degrees, then warming up into the 40's by the afternoon. Zero precipitation, partly cloudy skies, barometric pressure at 30.92 when I checked it sometime mid morning. Wind was out of the NNW between 5mph - 10mph. All in all it was a very calm morning on stand. Spotted 4 deer. I'm guessing that 3 were buck, and 1 was a doe. 2 of the 4 that I saw were well before legal shooting light at 7:39am. Last day of daylight savings.....

The only close encounter came from a younger 8 point that worked across the middle of the north field into the the ditch. He crossed the ditch at what my range finder reported as 36 yards. Pretty far shot. I personally like to keep the shots under 30 yards even though I practice out farther. Luckily I had time to really look him over and make the decision on whether or not to shoot before he dipped into the ditch and popped out on my side. There would have only been seconds available for a shot opportunity as he stood in my shooting lane only briefly before feeding his way across the field.

After observing several bucks cut across the center of this ditch over the past few years, I have to try and figure out a way to possibly hunt it. There's really no cover to set up a ground blind, and this property would need 15 more years before there's a tree large enough along the ditch to hang a stand. The only thing I can think of is to take a seat, and hunker down in the ditch. Basically laying in wait for a deer to waltz by. Could be something exciting to try in the coming weeks.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Hunt - coulda, would, shoulda

The Halloween Hunt's weather conditions: The predawn temperature was in the mid 30's with the barometric pressure holding steady at 30.07. Sunrise was listed at 8:03, which means that legal light started in at 7:33am. High's for the day would reach into the mid 50's. Winds were out of the NNW between 5 to 15 mph with a few gusts closer to 20 mph. Game saw: 4 deer (a 9 point buck, 3 does) and 284 squirrels.

There are so many factors that roll into the overall challenge of bow hunting. Everything is a decision, and you own and become responsible for each and every decision that you make. Everything, from what time you set the alarm clock to sound off, to what time you decide to head home and call the finish of a hunt. Bow hunting is about studying the intimate details of everything around you, and understanding why things happen, and even more so, what causes things to happen. There are signs everywhere in nature, pay attention, but don't get distracted.

Case in point with regards to distraction, squirrels. The little bastards have a way of turning the morning silence of the woods into a fury of fur flying through the fallen leaves, sounding like what my mind thinks and hopes should be a herd of deer charging towards my tree. I look slowly over to where the noise originates from, and yup, squirrels. Little dirty bastard squirrels. I'm starting to hate 'em. Chipmunks too. They're even worse, and possibly ranked a tad high on the bastard scale. How can something as small as chipmunk or squirrel make so much noise, yet something the size of a whitetail deer can slip silently from behind you, and appear out of the thin air?

That's pretty much what happened with this deer this morning....


As the distraction of the squirrels held my attention, the buck sauntered in from behind me and over my left shoulder. As I caught movement, my eyes shifted away from the bastard squirrels and onto this deer. My bow was in hand already, arrow nocked, I quickly attached my release to the string loop and looked him over. He's standing broadside at 20 yards, nose to the ground probably smelling where another deer had walked through sometime before him. Suddenly everything shifts from being distracted to becoming extremely focused, tunnel vision. In an instant it can all be over.

The thoughts speed though my head as the whole thought process begins. Do I want him? Should I shoot? Are his antlers wider than his ears? He's got a split G2 on his left beam, should I shoot? When his head moves behind the next tree and obstructs his vision I can draw. He's going to take a step. Get ready. Do I want him? Is he the buck I want to wrap my tag around? Or do I want to eat tag soup by letting this guy walk, and possibly not getting this close to a shooter the rest of the season. There are several more mature bucks on the farms I'm hunting. This guy still has the body of a young buck. Should I shoot? He's walked closer and is within 10 yards. Now standing quartering away with his eyes directed away from me. I can draw back, let the arrow fly right through the boiler room, and stick it into the dirt on the opposite side of his rib cage. Dead deer walking....

And still walking. Walking away toward the edge of the winter wheat field where he stops and checks the wind. Everything checks out, as he walks out of the woods, onto the field edge where he freshens a scrape, working the licking branch with his forehead and antlers. My heart is still pumping from the close encounter. From the decision making process that flies through your head at mach 1. I decided to pass. It just didn't feel like he was the one, at least not today. He needs at least another year to grow, to mature some more, to develop into something just a little bit more than what he is today.

Was it a good decision or a bad one? Who knows, but who cares. It's my choice, my hunt, my season, my decision. Only time will tell, as November moves in, if I get another opportunity like the one experienced this morning. I certainly hope I do.

Diver bomber wood ducks 10/30/10


Weather conditions: The morning started off with a heavy frost (would've been great to bowhunt!) and temperatures right at 33 degrees. Into the afternoon, the temperature rose to a high of 61 degrees, assisted by a steady wind out of the South - Southwest around 5 - 10 mph,carrying gusts up to 29 mph at times. Barometric pressure was around 30.01 and rising when we left the house at 4:00pm. According to the ODNR, the guns would have to be unloaded in conjunction with sunset at 6:36pm. Hunted the D1 field pond.

Game saw: 50 - 60+ Wood Ducks; 20+ Geese

With the weather warming up in the afternoon, winds blowing good and steady from the south, along with the first split of the duck season coming to a close in Ohio's south zone, the decision was fairly straight forward on what to do. It's a perfect afternoon to get my son, and my dog outdoors to try our luck on some ducks & geese. I placed a call to another buddy and extended the invitation to join us. A short time later Mike, Troy, and I were meeting up and heading on to the afternoon's spot.

The action was starting before we could unload the gear from our trucks, as about 6 wood ducks flushed off of the pond and went skyward. We scurried to offload a few bags of decoys, 3 shotguns, blindbags, waders, and all the other essential snacks and goodies that go hand in hand with duck hunting. The trucks were moved off to a parking spot in the distance, decoys were deployed on the water, shells loaded in the waiting shotguns, and my dog, Timber, was already wet from a short swim to test the waters while watching the sky for more signs of birds.

The next 30 minutes or so were without much action, except for Caleb asking what time the ducks would be coming back? Then out of the blue, a few woodies dropped in and landed to our right. Timber was a ball of whining tension, sitting still with the anticipation of a shot. Then just as quickly as the first birds splashed down, more woodies dropped in, then more, then more, then more, and followed again by still more.

Timber had to be questioning our sanity. Why the hell wasn't a shot being called yet! Would somebody shoot already! There's at least 50 birds right there! Then, in an instant the opportunity came, with some birds peeling off and landing on the left giving both Mike & Troy safe shot opportunities at their first ducks. I blasted out the call, "Shoot 'em!" and as the birds flushed off of the water's surface, the gun rang out, putting birds back down on the water, and sending the flock back into the sky.

It's an amazing sight when it all happens like you hope you've planned it. You hunt the right spot, at the right time, in the right conditions, with the right people. I suppose that's why it's called being on the X. The way those ducks just dropped out of the sky on us was simply too fun to watch to jump the gun and shoot at the first opportunity. Seeing them cup their wings and acrobatically swoop in like fighter jets, hearing them literally cut though the air and call out to each other was enough to call it a successful hunt. Being able to take a few birds home for the grill to savor makes it all that much better.

We ended the night with 4 wood ducks. Timber had 4 good retrieves. Caleb ate well and entertained the group. I didn't even pull the trigger, but still had a hunt that I won't soon forget. That's what it's all about.

Bow Hunt 10/28/10 Always observing

It had been quite a few days, make that weeks, since my last bow hunt. When you combine the factors of a hectic work schedule, travel demands, family obligations, warm weather, and waiting for the right conditions to get back on stand made it seem like the time was never going to come. So, I decided to make some time. I guess that's what it has to come down to during this time of the year. After finishing off the day's work I shot out for a few hours in the tree to try my luck.

Weather conditions: Steady winds out of the west 15- 20 mph with the maximum gusts registering at 29mph (not exactly ideal conditions if you get motion sickness easily!). Overcast & cloudy, with the temperatures starting off in the mid 50's then dropping down into the mid 40's by the time sunset came. Sunset was at 6:38 according to the ODNR, which meant legal shooting light ended 30 minutes later. Total deer seen from the stand: 8; 3 bucks (Thin tined 8 point, an eager 6 point, and an educated fork horn) 5 does. The bucks are starting to move more during the daylight hours now!

I returned to the M1 stand for several reasons. The farmer's combines had just recently made their passes through the standing corn, the trail camera batteries & memory card needed changed, and there are big bucks in the area. It's hard to ignore that fact and let the stand sit empty for too long.

The first deer I saw that night was the one that taught me something new about the property. He entered the cut corn field from the far south end, traveling across the open ground without a care in the world, stopping to feed on the abundance of kernels left behind. Through the binoculars I watched him disappear into the deep ditch dividing the two fields, then reappear minutes later to continue on his seemingly predetermined route. Why the hell was this deer walking toward the area where my truck was parked, and coincidentally the road? It didn't make any sense. I kept waiting for him to turn away from the suburban car traffic and head to the west where there is a large bedding area, the creek, more woods, more food, more cover, basically everything you read about in an article about whitetail habitat.

Then he turned east towards the busy road, with most of the traffic passing by probably somewhere close to the posted 35mph speed limit. Oh no, this is not going to be good. Unless this guy has learned to look both ways before crossing the street, chances are I might watch this fork horn get smashed, and possibly cause an equally disastrous outcome for the unsuspecting driver coming around the bend. But that's not what happened. There's actually a small bridge, maybe 10 feet wide, where that meandering ditch that cut the two corn fields in half makes it's way under the road. That deer took another mouthful of the waste grains that littered the ground, then calmly and safely crossed the road by walking right under it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bow Hunt 10/02/10

Weather: WNW winds 10 -15 mph, Temperature was in the mid to upper 50's, with a steady, light rain falling. Barometric pressure rose from 30.01 to 30.06 by the time legal shooting light expired. Sunset was at 7:16pm according to the Ohio hunting regulations chart for Delaware County.

I hunted the M1 stand this afternoon. Arriving just after 4:30pm in the afternoon, and staying on stand until roughly 7:45pm. After climbing up into the stand, I screwed in the bow hanger, pulled up my bow from the wet ground below, and began putting up the treestand umbrella ($20 well spent!).

As I was putting the dry seat cushion onto the cold, metal seat some movement off to the right caught my attention. A doe was standing not 10 yards to my right, carelessly browsing between the still-standing corn and miscellaneous field grasses lining the field. I could see the water droplets fly from her fur as she shook off like a dog. When the deer was distracted by the agricultural buffet around her, I cautiously turned, grabbed my bow, attached my release to the string, and drew back all in one motion. Too late. She had already unknowingly taken a very fortunate step into a row of corn, and a clear path for my arrow just wasn't available. I held the string back for another minute until it was again safe to let down without alarming the deer.

That was the only opportunity I had at that particular deer. An hour later a fork horn buck came in from the same direction as the doe did earlier. I took a shot at him, but only with the camera on my phone. Then, a little after 6:00, a buck I've decided to call "Mo" made his way by my stand. Unfortunately he came through without presenting any chance at a shot opportunity. The good news is that he came through unaware of my presence, and the rain that fell after I had left the area for the night will hopefully have washed away any traces of odor that may have been left behind.

Here's a picture of "Mo." He's the largest of the 3 stooges that I have several trail camera pictures of from this property.

I pulled the SD card on my trail camera, and made my way home in the rain. All in all, it was a great hunt.