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Monday, August 29, 2011

Gettin' ready for Goose!

Last weekend was mostly about waterfowl around here. Saturday morning, some of the guys from our crew got together at one of the inland lake blind drawings here in Central Ohio. Along with 150+ others that had the same plan as us, we stood in line, showed the authorities our assortment of licenses & stamps, drew tickets, then continued to stand around sipping coffee, shooting bull, all the while hoping to get drawn for a decent spot along the shoreline to build a duck blind for this fall's season. Well, for once we go lucky, and a our ticket was pulled. So after going over what blind locations were left unpicked, we pulled down our selection, filled out the appropriate paperwork, paid the non-refundable permit fee, and headed out for breakfast.

The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon was spend flocking goose heads & decoy tails before we all parted ways for the evening. The next morning had the same guys back at my garage for some painting, and still more flocking to be done. I think we spent the better part of 8 or more hours painting blue bills and geese, telling old war stories, and even taking a break to chow down on some goose balls. Here's some picks from the paint-a-thon...
One of the used full bodies that I picked up this summer. A little paint should bring this guy back to life!
And the "after" picture. Just need to finish flocking the tail & it'll be ready to hunt!
Even my daughter helped out with some of the prep work, brushing off any of the loose paint.
Gotta prep before you can paint.
Even Timber is getting ready for the season to get here.
Before & After Blue Bills. A little paint can make a big difference!
Outlining the body.
Nash is gettin' pretty handy with the airbrush!
Pile of Herters geese that have been used & abused for quite a few seasons.
A sample of some before & after flocking on the Herters heads.
Just about every car that drove past had to slow down and look!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First camera check of the summer

Man... is time just flying by this summer or what? In just a few short weeks archery season will be upon us, and within just days, early goose, dove, and squirrel start up on September 1st. Time has been elusive lately to say the least...

Headed out two weeks ago and checked one trail camera for the first time this summer (at the "M" farm), and then went to a new property I just got permission to hunt (the "G" farm) and hung a second camera. Tagging along with me that day was my son, who was an absolute trooper. We put some miles on the rubber boots that day, and even had to break out the rain coats to keep dry from the scattered showers that blew through. All in all it was a great time spent outdoors with my lil buddy. The trail camera pics didn't reveal anything special in the way of a monster buck lurking in the shadows, but I know he's there...

Here's just a few of the pics I snapped along the way, along with some of the trail camera pictures from the "M" farm...

Nice doe we watched on the way to the "G" farm.
Huge Sycamore at the "M" farm

"You lookin' at me?"

It'll be fun to watch this guy develop over the next few seasons.

Not sure if this is the same buck as above, but could be another one with future potential.

I've never seen a groundhog climb a tree before. Who knew?
So, nothing too exciting in the way of deer pictures, but it was a fun day to say the least. My son helped move the camera at the "M" farm to a new location along the field edge where we've seen some good deer movement into the bean field. We actually watched 5 bucks in a bachelor group mill around near the spot we hung the camera just recently. One of them was definitely a real good buck. Hopefully this weekend's camera check will reveal that monster we're after... if not, it'll still be quality time spent outdoor!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Off Season Adjustments

Saying it's busy is kind of an understatement. It's been down right hectic around the homestead the past few months, and I haven't had much time to sit down and keep up with things outdoor related. Not that I haven't been working on some projects here or there, it's just that time is in very high demand, yet there seems to be a dwindling supply of it.

One of the tasks that was on my "to do" list for the summer was to make some adjustments to my bow set up. Over the past few months I've been slowly doing just that, and maintaining a routine of shooting somewhat regularly. Although I still feel like I haven't shot as much this summer as I have in the past few years.

The objective of this project was to make some simple changes in my equipment to help improve the overall efficiency of the bow. Basically try to spend some time with my bow, really getting to know it better, and understand what it can do. My thought process leading up to this was centered around speed & penetration, with developing a solid balance of the two. Speed is great when you're shooting competitively, and it most definitely has it's place in hunting as well, but too much speed without regard to penetration could cause more harm than good in the whitetail woods. I'm by no means anything close to being expert in any of this stuff, but I try like crazy to understand it all to the best of my limited capabilities.

So, with that being  my thought process, I began by looking at (over analyzing according to my wife) arrows as my first change. At the end of the day, I was again focused on finding the right arrow for my current bow. I'm shooting a Parker Hornet that is now set up at 65 pounds, I had the draw weight cranked up from the previous draw of 60 pounds in order to gain additional power. At the same time, I was careful not to go too heavy and cause it to effect my shooting in a negative way by pulling more wight than I could comfortably hold back for an extended period of time. The arrows that I eventually decided that I'll be shooting this season are the Easton ST Epic 400s, cut to 27.5 inches, weighing in at 8.6 grains per inch. The total arrow weight with a 100 grain tip and 2" Blazer Vanes comes in at around 393 grains. My FOC calculation was right at 12, so no issues with an arrow out of balance. Shooting through the chronograph at 267 fps, my total Kinetic Energy works out to be just a hair over 62 foot pounds.

Now, I ask myself, what the hell does all that mean? Well, for deer hunting, my bow & arrow set up will work together to create enough force to more or less kill a deer, as long as the arrow goes where it's supposed to when it's released. It's my job to make that happen. According to several of the KE charts available online, archers should have an arrow producing between 25 - 41 foot pounds of KE for medium game (antelope, deer) and 41 - 65 foot pounds of KE to kill large game (bear, elk, moose). My current set up is now producing 62 foot pounds of KE, so I'm feeling good about my speed & penetration adjustments. Maybe if I'm lucky in the next few years this set up with be out west on an Elk hunt!

But wait there's more... while we're making changes, let's take a look at some of the other accessories too. My previous drop away rest was replaced by a more reliable model, the Quality Archery Designs Ultra-Rest Hunter. I've been looking at these for a while now, and after talking to other bow hunters, and researching various models (again, over analyzing) made the decision to go with the QAD (although the Limb Driver was also very much in consideration). Installation was easy to follow, and after making some slight adjustments to the positioning of the rest and my nocking point on the string, I eliminated any fletching contact that initially occurred. Then a few more subtle adjustments during the paper tuning process and I was seeing those nice, clean bullet hole tears in the roll of paper. A few very minor moves at the range while back tuning, and I'm more than happy with the new QAD rest too!

Lastly, I moved up to a 1/4" peep sight to allow a larger field of view when looking at my pins in lower light conditions. The larger opening also helps me to better center my sight pin ring with the internal edge of the peep sight when I'm at full draw. My former quiver of the past 10 years was moved to my back up bow, and replaced by a new 5 arrow quiver from Treelimb Products. Then to cut down on the noise produced by my bow at the shot, a string suppressor from STS Archery was installed. I've got to say, that adding that string suppressor was one of the best improvements that I've made to this bow. Being that the Parker Hornet is a few years old now, it did not come equipped with a string suppressor that many of the newer models have. The vibration reduction was felt immediately on the first shot I took with it on. Combine that with a noticable amount of noise reduction, and I'm very happy with the way my bow feels & sounds when I release the string.

Add onto the bow my new Greg Flemming Custom Wrist Sling being done up in neon green & black to match my Easton Arrows, and that brings this summer's adjustments to a conclusion. I thought that by improving & upgrading all of my accessories this season, I would start looking for a newer model bow for the the following archery season. I have to say though, that it almost feels like I'm shooting a new bow already. So, perhaps only a new sight and release might be in play for the summer of 2012... time will tell I guess.

Having my daughter come along as a shooting partner is just an added bonus!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Process and Pusuit of Permission

If the overall challenge of hunting wasn't enough in and of itself, add onto that the challenge of finding a quality hunting spot on private property, while then gaining permission from the land owner, and it takes things to another level. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities on public ground across the state, and across the country for that matter. I've taken both fowl and fur from public grounds and will always continue to do so. In fact, some of my most memorable hunts have been on public grounds, but these public spots get pounded with pressure at times, and the closer to a major metro area the land is, the higher the pressure becomes. That's where having access to some private property, with a little lighter load of foot traffic, can provide a nice balance to the honey hole mix in your hunting rotation.

It's been said that nothing in life worth a damn comes to you easily. The harder you work for things, the more rewarding the experience at the end of the day. That certainly applies to any kind of hunting you're involved with, and searching for quality places to hunt. Its hard to imagine just how many hours I have invested in trying to find new places to hunt because I just embrace it as part of the process. What follows in the next few paragraphs is a brief overview of the approach that I currently take with things. Every year this process seems to evolve into something slightly better than the year before, and it's certainly not a magic solution that guarantees success. In fact it's far from it. But, hopefully some of the things I've learned through reading, talking to other successful hunters, along with my own trials and errors can help you out along the way.

The first step I take is always based in research. Like most hunters, my head is always on a swivel when I'm driving down the road. In a way I'm always scouting, looking for game as I go back and forth to work, running errands, going to little league games, what ever I'm doing, I'm scouting. Once I find a spot that shows promise I make a note of the location, and hit the computer. The county auditor website usually contains the property owner contact information along with a map of the property. Some auditor websites are easier to navigate than others, so a phone call to the auditor's office sometimes comes into play if help is needed. If everything looks promising from a bird's eye view on the computer screen, meaning I can hunt with good entry & exit routes, prevailing winds should be in my favor, surrounding properties or habitat look to funnel game, etc, then I move on to step two.

Step two is personalizing an information packet that I take with me when I knock on a door. The first page is a professional cover letter addressed to the particular property owner I'm going to see. My cover letters are specific, in that I state my intentions, whether I'm looking to bow hunt deer, field hunt Canada geese, or call coyotes. I spell it all out. The property address or location is also mentioned in the body of the letter so that it quickly allows the land owner to see that I've done my research and know about the land I'm seeking permission on. Often times you'll find a property in which the actual owner lives elsewhere, or owns multiple parcels. This helps provide clarification as to which piece of ground you're hoping to gain access to.

Moving on past the cover letter, I also include an aerial map of the property with the boundary outlined as my second page in the information packet. Again, this reinforces that I've done the background work, and I'm approaching them in a prepared fashion. I also try to show the land owner the map. Often times they're surprised that this information is being presented to them, and it allows further conversation about the property. On those rare occasions when the land owner grants permission, the map usually becomes a focal point of conversation. I ask basic questions like where they would like me to park, what have been the game movements that they've noticed, or is there anything particular I should know about the parcel before stepping foot onto it?

Page three is a basic, single page hunting resume. Included are points of interest, types of game pursued, and any specific training or accomplishments that will demonstrate responsibility. For example, the completion of a hunter safety course, a bow hunter safety course, additional outdoor education programs that I've participated in, controller hunt qualifications such as archery tests. Do you donate deer to food pantries, or share venison with land owners? Include that in the resume. Extra labor around the farm to help earn the permission? State that clearly in the resume. References available from other land owners? Member of a local conservation club? Let the resume tell the story. You get the point here. The overall goal is for me to condense as much positive information about who I am, and what I've done throughout my hunting pursuits as possible.

In the final portion of my information packet, I include a completed copy of the permission slip. The only lines I leave empty are the date, and the land owner signature area. Everything else is filled out, and ready to go. I refer to the permission slip in the cover letter, making certain to point out that this is a requirement by the state for me to have, as well as a liability release for the land owner. My reason for addressing the liability concern in the opening cover letter is because over the years, that has single handily, got to be the most frequently used reason I've heard for people not allowing hunting. "Oh, I can't help you there. We just don't allow hunting because of the liability." You can provide a quick bit of education right up front should that come up, and hopefully be able to over come any concerns.

Of course, the land owner can, and often will, still say "no thank you" despite all of this effort that you've just put in. As frustrating as hearing that "no" can be, and believe me, I've been there time and time again. That's still OK. You've done everything in a very cordial and prepared fashion, which not only holds you in a positive light, but hopefully reflects a positive image of a "hunter" in their eye. That in itself is a very good thing when it comes to dealing with the non-hunting population who may only have a stereotypical view of hunters from what they've heard or seen on television. Plus you've also just put together a great packet to leave behind.

When I'm told "no" by a land owner, my response is simply to smile, say that I understand, thank them for their time, and ask if I could leave the packet behind for them to hold onto and review if something should ever change. 99% of the time they say "yes" to leaving the packet and hold onto my information. And actually, I have received one or two calls back over the years where permission was denied at first, but then granted once people have read though all of the information. In my mind that makes it worth it to have that packet each and every time I knock on a door. Plus, you can always follow back up with them next spring, who knows, maybe the second, or even third time around will be the charm.

Lastly, for those truly wonderful and amazing land owners who have been gracious enough to allow me permission to go out and hunt on their properties, I make darn sure to show my appreciation throughout the year. Quick phone calls every once and a while to check in and let them know that I've been hunting, or if I've had some success. The offering of venison is always extended for any deer that I'm fortunate enough to take on private property is a given. Christmas cards are sent, and after the season I always make sure to take a gift of some sorts. I'm blessed to have a wife who is gifted with just about any and all baked goods, so most often we make our own gift baskets with home made cookies, brownies, and bread with a thank you card that I personally deliver in February or March. This is a nice time of the year to visit with people, show your gratitude, and even re-establish permission for the following season!

You see, the process is always on going. We're already back to the early part of spring now when you're taking gifts out to land owners, and it's time to start looking for next season's new spots to hunt, while hopefully securing the places you currently have. It's all done in the effort to combine a few private property spots, with a mixture of public ground if any exists nearby, in order to build up your list of hunting ground options. Which at the end of the season can prove to be a very rewarding endeavour.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Fishing with My Son

The days spent fishing last year with my son have really seemed to light a fire in him. It's beyond great to see him take to fishing like he's done, but it also probably helps that he's gotten access to some pretty prime farm ponds too! Regardless of that, each time we get out to wet a line, he's ready for more the next day. Having just gotten home from a trip to NE Ohio with some fishing & swimming at Uncle Rich's place, one of the first things out of his mouth at breakfast this morning was, "Can we go up to Mr. Brown's to go fishing today Dad?" How great is that?

Here's a sampling of some pictures from the past few months that have seemingly flown right by in the blink of an eye...

These were taken one evening when at the dinner table, he was asking, and asking, and asking when we were gonna go fishing. We finished eating, grabbed our gear, and headed out to the pond down the road for a quick adventure before bedtime. I think he landed about 6 or so fish that night. Some gills, and a few bass, while I mostly tied on different lures for him to try out, and took pictures of him with his catch.

Somebody else must think this is a pretty good spot too.

Next time out was at Uncle Rich's house towards the early part of July. Both my son & daughter got in on the fishing action this time around, but for some reason I didn't snap as many pictures. Fish were caught & released, but the smiles were keepers for sure.

One of the many bluegills that were landed at Uncle Rich's.
Then, most recently we were back at Uncle Rich's again for some family gatherings, and of course more fishing was on the itinerary. We managed the usual gills & sunfish that pound for pound fight better than any other fish in North America, but my son capped off the weekend with a nice lunker of a bass.

We were off on the western edge of the pond when a big splash caught his attention over by the dock. Armed with his Ultra Light rod & reel, and an 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a white Mr. Twister, he looked up at me and said, "There's a big fish over there Dad, let's go catch him!" Off we went, making our way over toward the dock where he proceeded to flip the bail over, securing the line against the rod's handle with his finger, before casting the jig at the ripples on the water. A cast or two later, as he's reeling up the line, his pole suddenly doubles over and the line cuts a powerful streak through the water, heading the opposite direction of the 6 year old boy pulling back on the other end of the rod & reel connection. He muscles the fish close to shore and I reach down and pluck it from the water for him. Eyes wide, and smiling from ear to ear, "See, I told ya Dad, I knew I could catch a BIG fish!!"

Another nice pan fish caught by my Lil Buddy.