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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.