Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas eve bowhunt

Lee & I returned to the "G" farm to try and stick a deer on the morning of Christmas eve. He would be situated in the ground blind with his crossbow and bi-pod shooting stick, while I would press further back and hunt near the backside of the property, and to the north of the boot's inside corner. Weather conditions were fairly mild for our hunt that morning with the temperature in the mid 30's to lower 40's, and the winter winds of December barely blowing at all. When they did push through the barren branches of the woods they were streaming in from the WSW.

There was good sign right in front of the trail camera with the trail pounded from fresh tracks of various sizes, so hopes were high as we parted ways and exchanged "good lucks" about a half an hour before the sun's light would be scheduled to crest the horizon. And that's about it.... really. We sat vigilantly until about 9:45 when I shot off a text before climbing down from my perch. I met Lee again a short while later as he climbed out of the blind, and we confirmed each other's observations that squirrels can be a pain in the butt, crows are migrating like crazy, and the geese weren't honking that much as they flew seemingly just over the tree tops that  morning. "Shoulda brought the guns and shot some squirrels."

A quick swap of the memory cards showed that deer actually did inhabit the woods, just mostly in the afternoon, and early evening. Not in the mornings, when we've decided to be there. Oh well. That's hunting when you've got other obligations, and family matters to attend to. You just try and make the most of the time you have, and pray that the deer Gods just help put you in the right place, at the right time, at least once this season. So far though those prayers to the deer Gods have gone unanswered. The good news is that there's still time.

And I shall call him Narf. The name was the first one that popped in my head when I saw this buck.
The picture that dubbed this guy as "Narf"
Narf with his good buddy "Newman"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Following through with the Second Half

The extra weekend of gun season came & went without firing a shot, let along seeing a deer. Well, I can say that I did see a flicker of what appeared to be a whitetail's white tail off in the distance, through the gray brush, as the minutes of legal shooting light ticked away on the clock. The subtle flicker that a deer will make to signal everything is alright is what it looked like, but I was never able to clearly see a body attached to the flickering white. Granted, I hunted Sunday afternoon, which by then I didn't expect deer to be just roaming the woods in a care free manner like they do in say June, but I always try to keep an optimistic outlook when I'm heading out.

The weather conditions on Sunday: The low for the day was 34, with the afternoon high reaching 39 degrees. The light snow from Saturday was still present on the scattered logs laying throughout the woods, but it was already melted away just about anywhere else. Winds were mostly out of the west between 5 to 13 mph, but there were times that they blew from the south, and times that they blew from the north. Overall pressure was at 30.20 with fairly clear, bright blue skies.

With my expectations positive, yet realistic, I headed up to the "G" farm which I haven't hunted since the last day of the regular shot gun season. The overall plan was simply to get another ground blind set up, hang a trail camera back out, and if the stars all aligned, shoot a deer. Although as I drove around the perimeter of the farm, I could tell yet again that somebody else had likely done a deer drive through the property, so the percentage chance of accomplishing the third objective was probably a low one. Muddy tire tracks, and boot prints were again present at the north & south end pull offs.

I walked along the bottom edge of the woods, cutting in at roughly the half way point, following a drainage through the timber for roughly 80 yards to the predetermined area that I would set up the ground blind. The area has quite a few heavily used trails that intersect here, along with edge habitat that changes from thick under growth with select cut tree top remains, vines, and briars that intermix with slightly rolling terrain in the open woods.

The damp forest floor made it a somewhat quiet job to clear off the area where the blind would sit, as well as for dragging over branches and such to try and brush things in. The small saplings that I clipped off at their bases while creating a few shooting lanes were all carried back the the blind and stuck in the ground in an attempt to help conceal the new house in the neighborhood.

The intersection of trails, plenty of fresh sign, tracks, and transition habitat looked like a good spot to set things up for the afternoon, and to leave the ground blind in for the rest of the archery season. With the blind situated on the top of a small knoll, there is a 15 yard shot directly to the heavily used trail to the south.

This trail intersects another trail that runs north to south, that is located 20 yards to the west of the blind.

Another slightly used trail branches off of this trail, and dog legs behind the blind at 10 yards before angling back to the north west toward the more open section of timber.

We'll see if things pan out over the next month and a half, and if the deer can settle back down after the past few weeks of gun hunting and deer drives that have taken place. If anything, I'll have a comfortable place to take my son out for a few more bow hunts & checks of the trail camera.

The view from a deer's perspective at 15 yards. A trail camera is set up 5 yards behind the trail from which this picture was taken.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A day outdoors - Sunday 12/11/11

Just some pictures and notes from nearly a full day spent outdoors with family and friends.

We hunted for geese in the morning, but with bright, sunny, bluebird skies it was difficult to find any birds that wanted to come and play. We saw a few ducks, and a fair amount of Canada geese that waited until a few hours after sunrise to get up and spread their wings, but nothing fell from the skies.

The rest of the local wildlife was on the move however, with several deer being watched from our layout blinds tucked in amongst the cut corn stubble...

After the deer moved through, a curious coyote kept coming out of the standing corn, cutting across a bean stubble field, and hunted along the fence row. The coyote did this about 3 times before Troy decided that the lack of birds in the sky meant that now was the opportune time for him to make his first coyote kill. With the wind in our favor, he stalked down the edge of the corn, and laid prone in the weeds for a good 20 minutes, laying in wait for the coyote to make one more last approach through the open field.

Well, after waiting it out on the frost covered floor, he had enough and returned to the layout blinds. As we stood around watching empty skies and sipping on steaming coffee filled thermos lids, guess who popped out into the field again? Not 30 yards from Troy's ambush spot. Yep, the coyote... Figures.

Later in the afternoon, my son was in tow as I wanted to head out to the M2 Farm and get a ground blind set up along one of the heavily used trails that cuts through the center of the property. We got to the farm, gathered our gear and headed out for the afternoon. It would be his first deer hunt.

The action was slow. Actually non-existent would probably be the best way to describe things, but we had a good time despite not seeing any deer. Well, I never saw any deer. My son on the other hand claims that he saw a few deer, but they were way off in the woods and out of sight every time I leaned forward in my chair to look. Oh well, deer or no deer, we had a good afternoon together.

Dad, there's deer right back there, way in the woods! I'm serious. I saw 'em!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gun Hunt at the "G" Farm 12/04/11

With the final day of the week long gun season arriving, weather looking like it would cooperate at least for the morning, and no good waterfowl scouting results, I was finally in a position to get out & deer hunt this morning. I've missed the woods quite a bit, and was going to be sharing them with a very good family friend who also hasn't been able to get out lately for more than a few quick hunts. One on opening day and another once the weather cleared up mid week. Both of his hunts were uneventful in that the scoped 12 gauge's safety was never clicked off, nor was a finger pressed against a trigger.

There's nothing like watching the world come alive to make you feel alive.
Weather conditions for today's hunt: Above average temperatures for early December with the low around 45 and steadily climbing into the mid 50's as the day progressed. Winds were blowing steady from the S during the entire hunt, with some gusts upwards of 20 MPH. Barometric pressure was hovering right around 30.06 for most of the day.

Lee & I arrived at the "G" farm well ahead of legal light, allowing us plenty of time to walk through the cut bean field, staying above the northern edge of the still standing corn, and into the woods where we would post up in hopes of putting a deer on the ground. With the winds blowing steady from the south we would stay up wind of the larger section of woods where most of the deer travel from, and hunt along a 175 yard wide strip of woods positioned to the east of the corn. I left Lee near an inside corner that contains some very heavy trails entering the field, in hopes that he could squeeze the trigger today and fill his tag. I slowly cut a course through the woods, heading toward the softly glowing eastern skies where I found a nice pile of fallen trees to make myself comfortable for the morning sit.

Where's Lee at?
The plan was to sit tight until about 9:00AM and then if the action was slow, I would walk the eastern edge of the property all the way to the far southern border, then turn back north to make a slow push through the center of the woods to see if anything would flush north so that it could then meet up with one of Lee's unspent slugs. We followed that exact script, except for the whole thing about a deer meeting up with one of Lee's slugs. That part didn't happen.

Time for a walk.
What did happen however, was I was able to take in some more of this new property that I've been hunting this season. For the most part I've tried to only hunt the conditions, and not the property, taking a very cautious and low impact approach throughout the archery hunting season so as not to put deer on alert that they're being hunted. Now that gun season is in, and there appear to signs that somebody might have already pushed this property this week, I was putting caution aside and getting some in depth scouting accomplished.

What I found was additional ammunition for the remainder of the archery season. The far west edge of the woods is covered in good buck sign. I'd walked this edge once before and noticed some good trails, with a few rubs here & there, but never pushed myself to hunt on this side of the farm.

Several rubs of this size were located on the western edge, and connect through the center of the woods.
The far SW corner of the farm is a double inside corner. I've hunted it only once, and noted good sign with fresh rubs & scrapes, but so many times conditions with S winds kept me hunting elsewhere in the woods this season. Hopefully, the winter winds can help give some more days with W or NW winds so that I can get into this area and hunt. I'll also be planning on setting up a ground blind here in the very near future. The trails I found in here are heavy, and so is the cover. Hopefully this will be a good set up to bring my son along too as the season rolls on.

A well worn trail with several rubs in the distance cutting through the double inside corner.
So, although not a shot was fired by Lee or myself today, there were several positives to take away from the hunt. First off, at least one deer was spotted throughout the morning. Yes it was coming out of the corn and too far for Lee to pull off a clear shot, but a deer was spotted. Secondly, I was able to follow through and do some more in depth scouting of the farm, providing some ideas on future set ups, and a good spot to place one of the ground blinds for the rest of archery season. And lastly, I was able to spend time outdoors with a very close family friend, who is almost like a father to my wife, and a man that I've always enjoyed spending time with over the years. We've talked about hunting for many years at family functions, and now have finally made it out to the deer woods together. There's no doubt I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do that again.