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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Welcome home Honey!!!

No, not the mount (although I'm happy as hell to have gone & picked it up today).

Little back ground here: My wife has a "No dead stuff" rule for the first floor of the house. All my racks, mounts, sheds, hunting decor etc. is down stairs in the man cave. Which I'm OK with for the most part, but my buck from this season is my best yet, and I've always said if I shot a BIG buck that he's going above the fireplace. The wife usually just rolls her eyes... which is her common reaction with most of the stuff I say anyway.

So fast forward to the current: The wife left on Wednesday to help out with her Mom who just had neck surgery. Sunday morning she will be leaving NE Ohio to head back home and relieve me of my Mr. Mom duties. Just so happens that I get a text from my buddy saying that my mount is done. I can come up on Saturday and pick it up.

Well, it's been said say timing is everything, and I'd have to agree in a case like this. Here's some pictures of my Veteran's Day Buck from last fall. Properly displayed with great dignity above the fireplace. So now, where's the bourbon?

The view from the side.
View from the couch.
View from the front door.
I'm thinking that when she sees my impressive decorating skills she'll probably want to send the kids off for a play date, so she can tear my clothes off in front of the fire place and proceed to make mad, passionate love to me just like they do in those fancy romance movies.

Then again maybe not so much....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just had a feeling... January 8, 2011

It was a tough week leading up to this hunt. I scouted one evening and found a phenomenal field just absolutely polluted with birds, it was holding both ducks and geese. That was the good part. The bad part was that after researching who the landowner was, and finding out where they lived, I was never able to get in front of them in order gain written permission to hunt the place. I returned another evening and saw 2 other hunters waiting on the birds' evening flight. No doubt they had a great hunt. Then work travels took over and my scouting was over for the week. With no other plan in place, and a good buddy driving down from Toledo to hunt again, I just had a feeling that the "X" field could turn on again.

Timber with the last goose of the morning

Weather Conditions: Cold. Really, really friggin' cold. Morning lows were in the single digits, and that's without the wind chill factor figured in. Highs for the day were only listed in the upper teens, again that's without the wind chill calculated in there. Winds however, are a good thing when you're hunting waterfowl. Especially when they're steady. Winds for the day were out of the WNW, holding steady between 10 to 15 mph with some gusts over 20 mph. Light snow and overcast skies. Sunrise was listed for 7:57am, which translated into legal shooting light coming in at 7:27am for the particular county we were hunting. 

We all met up at the usual meeting spot that morning, hopped out of the trucks, talked about the set up for the day, and then headed up the road. With the ground frozen just as hard as the blacktop road we just drove in on, we pulled the trucks through the gate, closed it behind us, and then eased out through the field. With some quick work the four of us had the blinds set up with snow covers fitted, then we added a slight amount of corn stubble to help blend into the surroundings, the decoys unloaded and positioned in a formation that we hoped the geese would approve of. Soon the thermos lid was being unscrewed, and the first cup of coffee that morning was poured while we waited for the birds.

The morning moved by slowly, with the bird movement matching. We had a few groups here, and a few groups there, but those that were flying seemed to do so without any specific destination in mind. Getting them to give us a look wasn't an issue, but getting them to finish in the hole completely was. With a few missed opportunities, and a couple birds on the ground, we decided to make some changes to the spread. We moved from one large feeding mob, to several smaller family groups, still maintaining the landing zone where we wanted the birds to finish, but breaking up the spread to put something different out there for examination.

Quite frankly it was the best move that we made, and I'm glad that I suggested it (insert sarcasm here). After brooming off some of the snow that collected on the backs of the decoys, and re-positioning the family groups in precisely the exact configuration needed, the geese all decided to leave the roost. And they literally did so, all at the exact same time. Just minutes after the snow cover ceased, the clouds were beginning to break up and the skies provided some bright blue patches to contrast the remaining gray clouds. The sun's rays beamed through the holes in the cover like something you see on a postcard, and masses of geese did their best to blacken the sky. In merely an instant, just that quickly, we were done with another 4 man limit.

Some wind burned faces right there! L to R: Timber, Mike, Eric, Ross, and Sean

And that's how it happens sometimes. All the best laid out plans just don't quite come together. You put in the time, effort, and energy but what you had hoped to gain access to is never provided. So then, you go with your gut, along with what experience has taught you over the past few seasons of hunting and scouting a specific area, and you hope to just have a little luck come into play. Wait for the conditions to be right, and go for it. Besides, you'll never know what's possible if you don't leave the couch.

Startin' the New Year with a BANG!!! January 1, 2011

With the pounding that the geese in my neck of the woods have been taking it was time to let things settle back down again, and hunt on some new ground. My hunting buddy Mike lives in an area that's also holding good amounts of birds right now, and he's got a field that provided a 3 man limit of geese in about 45 minutes the day before. With the New Year coming in the next day, we decided to give it a go, and test out skills for a 5 man hunt.
Nice way to start off the New Year with a 5 man limit of Canadas.

Weather Conditions: Wet. Really, really wet. Any muddy. Temperatures for the day started with early morning low right at freezing, before topping out in the afternoon in the mid 50's. Winds were steady for the most part out of the SSW, but only pushing around 10mph. Barometric pressure measured in at 29.98, with the forecast calling for a chance of thunderstorms.

I had a light drizzle hitting the windshield on the drive over in the early morning darkness, but it wasn't really enough rain to make me think twice. Only enough to have the wipers on their lowest setting, just to keep things clean. Besides, misery loves company, and it seems like the more miserable the weather the better company the birds keep. As the truck is rolling down the road, I'm watching the other cars out there as well, wondering if I'm the only sober person behind the wheel at this time of the night.... errr morning. A couple people on the roads seemed to confirm my thoughts.

We grouped up at Eric's place, exchanged smiles, firm hand shakes and well wishes for a Happy New Year, checked out some of the taxidermy in progress in Eric's shop for a bit, then introduced another new hunter to the addiction that we call goose hunting. (I gotta say, was definitely surprised to see that my buck is almost done, that made the trip over worth it for me!) Time to fill my truck with a few more layout blinds and what ever decoys we can stuff into the back. Everybody hopped into the vehicles and we were off for the field by about 6:30am.

The set up that morning was in a cut bean field. Not much in the way of cover, so we took a rake along with us to help gather the remaining bean stubble, then blended in the blinds to try and breakup any outlines. Trying to hide 5 guys and a dog in a cut bean field is not an easy task, but when you're where the birds want to be, and the weather conditions are right you can get away with a little more.

It was a steady stream of geese from the moment legal light came about, but there were more hunters than anticipated in the same area, and hunting pretty close, if not on, the roost. That kinda complicated things a bit. Smaller groups of birds were giving us looks, and occasionally committing, but it was evident that we were gonna have to earn the birds today. A few changes to the decoy spread after the wind moved on us a bit, and that seemed to help seal the deal. The rains came down of course, shortly after we set up in the field, but when the geese are cupping their wings, dropping their feet, and trying to land on top of your blind the annoyance of a wet ass seems to disappear.

Once again we were in the right place, or at least pretty damn close to it, at the right time, and under the right conditions to make for a great hunt! Our 5 man limit came with some great effort put forth by everybody. It's a lot of work doing what we do, and for only being able to take 2 birds at that. But if you hunt, then you know it's not about the number of limits you take, or the meat in the freezer, those are just a bonus. It's about the experience, the adrenaline, the heart-pounding surge you feel when you're in the moment. There's nothing like it that....

Too wet to take the camera out to the field, L to R: Rob, Eric, Mike, Timber, Sean, and Andy.     

Monday, January 3, 2011

Caleb's first Squirrel Hunt; December 31st 2010

Getting out and chasing some small game is really what got me into hunting quite a few years ago. Sure, getting the chance to go out with my Uncle for deer shotgun when I was in high school was a huge deal too, but chasing squirrels, rabbits, and doves was the entrance into all the other critters that I chase now.  It's so simple to do, you don't need to spend gazillions on gear, decoys, calls, special clothes, etc., all you need is a gun and a hunting license. Yet for some reason, I haven't chased the small stuff, the fun stuff, in the past couple of years.

This season, I wanted to make it a goal to get after some squirrels at least once if not more, and to take Caleb along with me for the experience. He's been chomping at the bit to get out there too since we bought him his first set of camo coveralls! So, with the winter break coming to a close, and the last day of the year upon us, we ventured out in the afternoon for a few hours in the woods. Snacks, drinks, camera, ammo, and a gun. What else do you need? Oh yeah, the squirrel call. Don't forget the squirrel call.

On the drive up to the spot we went over the rules. We have 3 short and simple rules that the kids have to know when they're going to go shooting, hunting, or scouting with Dad. By now, Caleb can recite them with no problem, Ainsley is still learning them but she won't take too long. Rule #1 - Safety first, rule #2 - Listen to Dad, rule #3 - Have fun. Pretty simple stuff, but we refer to our rules constantly when we're engaged in enjoying the outdoors.

Walking through the woods I had to remind Caleb that he had to be quiet. The boy is always talking and asking questions, which is a good thing, but I think that the excitement of today's outing had a direct contribution to the speed, volume, and frequency of his talking. Let's just say it was a bit elevated compared to the norm. After a while, we started spotting some of the squirrel nests I knew were in the area, so we found a good tree, plopped down, and had a snack.

It was from this spot that we saw our only squirrel of the day. It was nice sized fox squirrel that barked back at us when Caleb worked on the squirrel call (that I kept hidden in my pocket during the ride to the woods for obvious reasons. Let's just say a 5 year old, with a squirrel call, inside a truck is not a good idea). Caleb followed the sound and quickly spotted the bushy tail flickering back & forth on the branch he was perched on across the creek.

After some deliberation, and long range observation through the binoculars we determined to try and take a shot. I swiveled around, waiting for the squirrel to move to a point in which the tree would be positioned as a backstop for the shot. When it was, I clicked off the safety, made sure Caleb was ready, and put pressure on the trigger. Crack! A clean miss, and a squirrel jumping through the tree tops wondering what the hell was that!!! After the shot, we went over for some further inspection, determined that Dad missed, and Caleb got to laugh at me. I did too.

We continued on for a while, just hiking through the woods really. Looking up towards the treetops at the squirrels nests, pointing out each pile of deer poop along the way, following a rub line laid down by a buck sometime this past fall, crossing the creek needlessly just because we were wearing rubber boots, and even finding a little garder snake that must have crawled out of it's winter hole to catch some of the sunshine the day had to offer. As we drove back home for dinner our talks continued on as they did all afternoon, and we both wore smiles, probably from the simple fun that a mere walk in the woods can provide.

Last Goose hunt of the year, December 30th 2010

We let the field rest for a few days to let the birds calm back down a bit, and with weather patterns holding relatively steady the thought was that the field should produce another good hunt this week. The thought process was right....

Weather conditions: getting a bit warmer than it has been with the low for the day being in the lower 30's then heating up into the lower 40's by the afternoon. Light precipitation and overcast skies made for ideal conditions keeping the birds low, and limiting their vision. The wind was the tough part, blowing out of the SSE, and only between 5 - 10 mph on average. A few gusts blew from time to time, but the lack of wind held some of the birds up from locking their wings and gliding right in.

Again, we decided to sleep in a bit and got to the field at about 8:00am or just slightly before hand. After testing the ground, things still looked solid enough to be able to drive the trucks out into the field to set up the spread. After the first group of geese flew over us we hustled a bit more, and short while later the decoys were unloaded, blinds situated and we were ready to hunt. Guess the geese didn't get the memo that they were supposed to sleep in too.

With the roost being to the south of us, and our blinds facing the north due to the wind direction, spotting birds was a pain in the neck. Literally, we had to keep turning around and watching the skies so we weren't caught off guard when the birds started to fly. Their flight patterns were generally the same, except some of the groups tended to fly farther off to the east. Hopefully some scouting will help determine if there's another field that way we can hunt.

This time the birds made us work a bit harder. Not as many birds flew this morning, as compared to the previous hunt, combined with the lack of wind, but we still managed to get our four man limit of geese. What a great morning again out in the field with great friends and some good laughs. As a bonus, we even caught the last goose of the day on video!! Can't wait to do it again.