Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A few of Grandpa's Pictures

A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time flipping through the photo album with my Grandpa. I felt just like a little kid again, listening to him tell some of the stories, and relive those memories that are still etched clearly in his mind as if the events described had just happened yesterday. A lot of the stories I've heard before, but I love to listen to him tell them again, and again. I know I'm a lucky man to have been blessed with having a Grandpa that I'm so close to, and hopefully as time goes on I'll have more pictures to preserve along with their stories.

The first picture that I was drawn to was this one...

The original is laminated, so hopefully that helps to preserve it as best as it can. This was my Grandpa's first buck taken in sometime around 1954. I'm not sure where exactly it was taken, other than it came from Pennsylvania. Although my mother's side of the family is mainly from around NE Ohio area, they hunted quite a bit over in PA. I guess back then the deer hunting was better over there than in Ohio, go figure. Our family has had a cabin over in Elk County PA since the late 30's or early 40's (I can't remember). As the story goes, my great Grandpa bought the place after the factory in the area exploded. The company owning that factory sold off all the worker's homes because there weren't any other jobs to be had in the area, and people bought them up as cabins. As the years have gone by, the cabin has exchanged hands a few times, but has always remained in the family, and has always been open for friends and family to enjoy. My Mom now owns it to this day.

Uncle Chuck and Mom with Grandpa's first buck.
Hunting Whitetail deer wasn't the enormous machine of an industry that it is today. In fact, it was big news to even cross the track of a deer in the area. Times were different in most parts of the country, in fact, small game hunting was king. Rabbits, Pheasants, and Squirrel were abundant and often the quarry of choice for most. As Grandpa tells it, he would rather go hunt squirrel than just about anything else. He can recall getting his first .22 caliber rifle at the ripe old age of 13 years old, and when the rest of the neighborhood boys would run home to listen to a baseball game on the radio, Grandpa would grab his rifle and head off to the woods. Just him, his gun, and some bushy tails to chase. I think that we've definitely lost something in today's world filled with the latest& greatest gadgets, while being bombarded with marketing messages carefully aimed at the wallets and egos of hunters. Seeking out the simplicity, purity, and honesty of small game hunting needs to get put back on my "to do list" for next season.

All the kids with Great Grandpa getting ready to clean some squirrels...

As the story goes on this one, Grandpa & his older brother, Uncle Harold, (pictured) came across a section of woods that held every squirrel with a 5 mile radius. Apparently they found the mother load of acorns on this hillside, and when all the starts aligned it provided for some of the best squirrel hunting that either one of them had ever experienced. They hunted the area for two days, took their fair share for the table, and made some memories that have lasted a life time.

Uncle Harold admiring the success that being in the right place at the right time can provide.

Friday, March 25, 2011

M2 Farm - Spring Scouting

Saturday was a good day. My son & I got out in the afternoon to do some spring scouting of one of the bow hunting spots that I frequent in the fall, and looked around for some shed antlers while we were there. While we didn't come across any sheds during our quick hike of the farm, we did see plenty of deer, lots of fresh deer sign, and got a few ideas on potential hunting set ups for next fall.

As soon as we were cutting up the middle of the property we spotted a group of 8 deer making their way across the distant field to our left. The wind was blowing from the direction the deer were coming from toward where we were heading, so without them being able to catch our scent, we scurried up the hill, pulled the camera out of the backpack, and tried to get into a position to intersect them. Our efforts were going in the right direction, but the deer beat us to the cut off. We still got within 75 yards to snap some pictures, but we were in plain sight and the deer weren't going to casually waltz across the opening with us standing there.

My son go a kick out of seeing just how fast this group of deer made it through the clearing.
After the deer moved on we continued towards the first bedding area I wanted to search for sheds. We spent some time walking the boarder, and checked out the fence crossings heading into the area, but didn't come across any bone in this spot. There were however quite a few rubs around, so it just has the feel of a good area to hang a stand for the November rut.

This tree was shredded on all sides. Could potentially be a sign post rub. We'll have to wait until next fall to know.
Once we patrolled the borders on this area, we proceeded to follow a funnel through a break in the overgrown fencerow that the deer frequent, and broke out into the chisel plowed field to continue working around the farm. If the crop rotation continues as it has for the past few years, this particular field should be planted in corn this fall with the adjacent field probably scheduled for soy beans. As we worked the edges, and inspected the high traffic areas at each fence crossing, we also stopped to glass the field and scan for any signs of an antler shining in the sun. 

Scanning the field for the sun's reflection bouncing off a shed antler against the contrast of the dull earth.
Although we were starting to get pressed for time, my son & I pushed on, trying to be as thorough as possible, while still making time to take each question that he fired at me as a teaching moment. And as usual, there were plenty of those to go around. Not all about deer either, but about trees, rocks, plants, crops, and everything under the sun it seemed. Hopefully these little expeditions we take continue to provide those teaching moments over the years, and hopefully that helps lay the foundation for an open door to communication throughout my son's life. There's an old saying, that if you teach your kids to hunt, as they get older you won't have to hunt for your kids. My goal; to make sure I can do everything I can to ensure that's the case for both of my children. Whether they decide to follow my path towards hunting & fishing, or choose not to isn't important. Ultimately that will be their decision to make. It's about making the time to create these special bonds, and from my experience the outdoors is the perfect vessel to do so. Just ask my Grandpa. 

Potential ground blind spot off to the left side of this fence crossing

As we moved towards the last leg of the walk we toured a block of woods that I've avoided hunting for the past two seasons I've had permission on this property. Because the area has such a dense undergrowth, I always thought I'd have to take a chainsaw in just to clear some shooting lanes. Well, that's probably the case if you're hunting from 20 feet up in the air, but not so if you're on the ground. I'll be considering a spot about 20 yards down wind of the above fence crossing to set up the ground blind this fall. Once we squeezed through and navigated the fence crossing the deer sign & paths were ridiculous. 

Checking one last area  for some sheds on the way back to the truck
And that was about it. Two & a half very quick hours spent speed scouting and shed hunting. Some quality time with my little guy hiking around and getting dirty. Checking in on the remaining deer sign to gather intelligence for the coming fall. A quick visit with the land owner to once again show my appreciation for allowing me to come out and bow hunt. It was definitely great to get out. Saturday was a good day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I need to get out

I guess it's been a little while since I've jumped on here and jotted down my thoughts. There hasn't been much in the way to write about with my lack of outdoor adventures I guess. The primary impulse that continues to persist is that I've just got to get outside and do something. I need the woods. It's like there is this magnetic pull that I constantly feel when I'm driving down the road and looking off into the unplanted fields & stands of timber that border the roadways. My mind wants to take off and wander, urging my feet to follow and explore the land that's out there waiting for me. Or when I'm stuck inside my home office returning voice mails, daydreaming through the babble of conference calls, entering data into reports, all the while being surrounded by reminders of the outdoors hanging on my walls, or sitting on nearby shelves. My mind, and my soul are definitely pulling me elsewhere. I need to get out and feel the dirt and leaves beneath my feet.

Things get pretty tough this time of the year. Cabin fever has been present for way too long, and I need to get outside to see what the woods have to tell me. Work is getting increasingly busy, compounded with the responsibility of catching up on the past few months of neglected honey-do projects, the increasing frequency of kids activities, all of the family obligations, traveling across the country and back for work, and did I mention how busy work is getting? Everything is just adding up, and compressing any amount of available time there is. I need to get out and smell the air changing from winter's bitter grasp to springs softer touch, and feel April's approaching breeze on my face.

But there looks to be a small flicker of light at the end of what feels like a rather long tunnel. This weekend. Hopefully after taking care of a few errands on Saturday morning, I should be able to lace up the boots and stretch my legs for a few hours in warm rays of the afternoon sun. Shed hunting, hiking, taking some pictures, and spending time with my soul's therapist, Mother Nature. She always understands that I need to get out.