Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Deer Season kicks off... Shed Hunting with the Kids 2/19/12

In our house deer season never ends. While it's a fact that the State of Ohio DOW publishes their version of the Ohio Deer Season each and every year, those are really only the dates in which you must legally abide by if you would like to harvest a deer and wrap your tag around it's antlers. Looking at the big picture from 5,000 feet however, that's truly only one piece of the entire deer season. It's basically the climactic ending to all the months of preparation. It's the part of the season that all of the marketing campaigns, catalog sales, internet promotions, outdoor retailers, trade shows, and big time TV personalities make their living on. It's the smell of the autumn air, the cool mornings, the frost covered multi-colored leaves, fresh cut corn fields, and wood burner scented air. There's not doubt that on the calendar days falling between those officially published hunting season dates that most people think it's deer season because it's the part of the hunt that we all look forward to. It's game time.

But like I said, in our house deer season never really ends, it's a year round passion with ups, downs, lulls in action, peaks in activity, and breaks when needed. Right now, we're just coming off of the state's officially published deer season dates. Which means that it's the scouting portion of deer season. It's the best time of the year to get out and really walk, inspect, and study the spots that you plan to hunt next fall. The landscape is pretty much representative of what it's going to look like for the majority of "deer season" next fall with all of the leaves, ground cover, and foliage gone you can really get out and "see" the woods. You can map out rub lines, scrapes, bedding areas, trails, and all of the other deer sign that might have been overlooked when you didn't have the right wind to hunt a particular area you wanted to hunt. Plus, one of the biggest bonuses of all is you can try to locate the shed antlers of those surviving bucks that should be around in September, and will hopefully be sporting a bigger, beefier rack than they did last fall.

With that said, the kids & I packed some snacks, drinks, and the camera, grabbed Timber then headed out to the "G" farm to do a bit of walking on Sunday afternoon. As far as finding sheds goes, it can still be somewhat productive, but in general I try to hold off until early to mid March before I really start walking around. The "G" farm was a new property that I just got permission on last year, so I didn't get to scout very much other than some brief walks around to hang trail cameras during the summer. I hunted here a fair amount, but I never hunted a spot more than twice, only hunting spots with a favorable wind, and really stayed on the edges of the woods for the most part. After walking a bit here the last few weeks, I've already begun to gather thoughts on how that will change next fall.

Anyway, one thing that I wanted to try and do on this outing was to have my daughter find her first shed. It wasn't going to be easy, shed hunting never is, so I decided to stack the deck by slipping an old shed into my backpack while I was getting our gear ready. If we didn't come across any sheds on our own, then I could always fall back on good ole plan "B" to make the magic happen.

We rolled into the farm at about 1:30 and no sooner had I opened the door of the truck, were the kids already unbuckled and jumping out. Boots on, ready to roll. Timber bounded out of the back as I dropped the tailgate, off on the heals of the kids, probably racing past cast antlers laying long the fence row crossings. Oh well, they already new what block of woods we were heading toward so I just took my time in pursuit, slowly inspecting all the likely spots where a discarded antler might lay.

Off to the races
We continued down to the woods, inspecting trails, creek crossings, finding more rubs, and overlooked spots to hang stands. After a while I could see that the mud caked boots were starting to wear down the initial adrenaline surge from the kid's legs. It was about time to suggest that we look for a good log to take a breather on, grab a snack, and get ready for the long walk back to the truck.

With the kids occupied I told them I was going to go over and check the field edge for some good spots to hang a tree stand. They were content, with enough crackers & fruit snacks to keep them busy for at least a few minutes. So I made my way over to the planned exit route and looked around like I was actually looking for something. The kids were watching so this was gonna be tough. Then I spotted a big dead fall that provided enough cover to block their view, so I hurried up, flung open the pack, ripped out the tiny shed, and flung it over near a deer trail that entered into the open field. Time to head back and gather the troops for the hike out.

It wasn't much longer and I could put the plan into action. My daughter was leading the way when I saw her walk right past the shed! "Hey!" I shouted to her, "You better stop right there!" She turned around, frozen like a statue. "Did you check the ground when you walked over that trail coming out of the woods?"

"Uh, I tink so Daddy, I didn't see anyting."

"What's that by your left foot? No, honey you're other left foot. I think I see something on the ground."

"You DO see sumthin!!" She answered back excitedly. "It's a shed!!"

Hopefully we just added a little fuel to the fire for another future deer hunter from the Curran family...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And another bow season comes to a close... 02/05/12

The last weekend of bow season came and went in a rather uneventful way. After a few days had passed and I had some time to think back on it, the last weekend of the season was pretty reflective of the entire second half of the season for me. I saw deer on Friday, but only when I was driving to meet up with some other bowhunting buddies for an annual get together during the last weekend of the season. I saw deer Saturday, but only when I was driving to the ground blind I chose to hunt at the M2 farm that afternoon. I saw deer on Sunday, but only because I walked right into their bedroom during a walk around at the G2 farm. My bow wasn't even with me for the trip. For the most part, as I look back on all of my hunts from gun season through the end of bow season, my deer sightings on stand were extremely few and far between. There deer are still using the farms that I've been hunting, and I've got pictures to prove it. It's just that those pictures taken from my various trail cameras were all snapped after legal light's expiration. The deer had gone 98% nocturnal.

So, when I'm referring to those hunts as being non-eventful, I'm simply referring to the lack of deer sighting that I've been able to have while on stand. That's hunting. That's especially bowhunting the late season. And it's no secret to anybody that has spent some serious seat time bowhunting pressured whitetails that they become very difficult to hunt as the season carries on, and the pressure steadily increases. That's what makes it so much fun though. It's always about the hunt, the journey, the adventures along the way to the destination. That's why I'm already looking forward to next season. As the dates on the calendar, and in the regulation book dictate that one season closes, it only means that all the planning, preparation, and anticipation for the next season begin...

Well, the last weekend of bow season pretty much came and went without being able to use my Gerber gut hook, or my deer cart. Saturday afternoon found me in a ground blind with tons of deer tracks out front, the huge pile of corn I dumped a few days prior was gone, and my trail camera didn't catch a single picture because apparently it took a dump. Seemed fitting that as I sat patiently in the blind, still holding out hope for a shot at anything, my eyes started to grow heavy. I checked the phone and it was just after 4:00 PM. Plenty of time left to rest my eyes for just a few minutes...

The next thing I know I'm waking up to the distant sound of a train blowing it's horn as it was closing the distance on the approaching intersection. It's dark. I'm completely out of it. What the hell is going on? What time is it? I shake my head to try and clear the cobwebs and bring back some sort of focus to my thoughts. I must have been out cold. I mean deep sleep, head musta been tilted at a 90 degree angle to the left because I can't straighten out my neck all the way, probably snoring so loud it scared every deer with a few hundred yards, out freakin' cold! Whew...

I sat there looking out into the moon lit field. The train whistle still sounding off way in the distance. I checked my phone and see a text from the wife asking what time I'm coming home? It's only a few minutes after 6:00 PM, so at least I'm not too late there, and there's not a search party mounted someplace to come find me! I text her back that I'm on the way in a few. As I stumble sleepily out of the blind I just laugh, shake my head, and say out loud, "Fugg it... I was better off just takin' a nap today anyway."

So, instead of throwing a Hail Mary and going back out on Sunday, I just let the game clock run down. Leaving the bow at home, I headed out to the G farm armed with my camera, my daughter, and a backpack full of drinks and snacks to help us get through the afternoon. We planned on pulling another ground blind and trail camera that I had set up. Then if her little legs still had the juice left in them, we'd hike around the woods a bit and see what we could see. Here's some of the pics from our outting...

Where's the Mud?
First rub that my daughter found on this hike, and it's a good one.
That's a good buck that made this rub. Hope he's still around for next season to chase.
I'm pretty sure those boots are water proof.

Yep... still water proof.
"Hey Dad, look there's another rub!"
"That's a good one too. Hey, do you know how the deer make those marks on the tree? Can you show me?"
"This looks like the perfect chair to have our snack Dad."
Just some interesting stuff we came across in the woods.
Not sure what this was, or how old it is, but it made for a cool picture.
"Look Dad, another creek we should cross! Come on!"
"Ok Dad. Now let's climb up to the top of this hill and see what's on the other side!"