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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hunting at the cabin 11.09.13 - 11.12.13

Hunting in the hills of SE Ohio is a definitely a different style of hunting contrasted to the relatively flat farm lands of Central Ohio. With unbroken expanses of public land forests stretching over areas larger than 100 times the local farms I normally hunt, making a mental change in how to hunt is always in order. Combing over aerial photos and topographical maps helps you key in on those likely travel corridors by looking for the areas that contain the path of least resistance across the terrain combined with possible edge habitat that will help funnel the deer movement within bow range. Putting miles on your boots, packing stands & bows up hillsides across drainages and along shelves to reach those selective areas away from other hunters is something that you have to work for.

The overall challenge of hunting the area near camp is something I always look forward to, but the camaraderie of our deer camp is hands down the biggest draw. It's a place probably very similar to other deer camps across the country. We have guys from all ages, all backgrounds, all beliefs, and all walks of life that gather together with the commonality of deer hunting binding us together. It's a place where you can pick up with an old friend at the exact spot you left off the last time you hunted together. Stories are shared, memories are made, and trophies are celebrated together. Fresh tenderloins are often prepared with cold drinks in hand while antlers are measured and admired no matter the score. Although the collective times spent together only represent a few days total out of a calendar year, somehow those days still have the biggest impact on all of us. Deer camp is truly something that is tough to describe, but damn do I look forward to it.

The first morning in the woods was spent hunting from the ground after I couldn't find a suitable tree in the dark. I didn't wander too far from camp actually, with the plan being a close morning hunt, followed by lunch, the departing off to new and distant locations bound to hold deer. The morning calm was broken up by an ambitious 8 pointer chasing around 3 does who clearly weren't smelling what he was cooking.

My afternoon was almost as uneventful as the morning. The bright side was that I did do some exploring and found what should be a great area for spring turkey hunting, but with the miles logged and not "feeling" a quality spot I ultimately hunted again from the ground. With deer sightings totaling 1, and not hanging a stand for the next morning I made my way back to camp for dinner.

Morning 2 found me in a familiar spot where we've all had some success & sighting in past seasons. It's a bottom pinch point facing the hillside that deer tend to travel down. There were a handful of scrapes and rubs in the normal areas that they show up, but this year the sign was noticeably less than in past years. Not that deer sign means squat right now, you need to be hunting the does, but it's an observation that matches with what a lot of other people are reporting this season. The deer sign is slow to pop up this season.

Heading off in the afternoon, I again sought out a new area for me to hunt in. It's one that I had marked on my maps from the past few years, but just had never explored. I liked what I saw when I hiked back into the area. I set up shop at the intersection of a creek bottom thicket, a clear cut, and an oak ridge that dumped down into the bottom. There were some good trails intersecting in the area, so I felt confident in the set up. The late afternoon offered up a show of 2 younger bucks harassing a single doe, both of them grunting with almost ever step they took. It was fun to watch, but the closest they came was to 54 yards.

View to the clear cut area to my left.
View up the ridge and down into the creek bottom to my right.
I returned to the same spot the following morning with high hopes as the morning sun started to light up the sky. It always seems like the perfect morning when your on the stand in November, but it just wasn't meant to be for this particular spot. A lone 8 point wandered through looking for some receptive ladies out there, but he wasn't in range, or of the size of deer I was looking for. Time to pack out and again look for greener pastures.

Somebody else thought this was a good spot too. 
Lunch back at camp was short & sweet since I was off to do some more exploring that afternoon. I decided to stick to my plan of moving until I find the deer along with scoping out more of the areas I've mapped out but had yet to hunt. The way I figured it, I could choose to hunt the same old stand sites and not see deer, or I could challenge myself to get out and seek new spots. When you're not seeing the deer that you want to see then you've got nothing to lose, so that afternoon I made a little drive to set up in another new spot. As always, it took some work to get in there, but at least it "felt" right. I hung my stand and got settled in.

Looking up the ridge and back to my left

Looking up the ridge and back to my right

The view directly behind my stand
But the afternoon was a bust... no deer sightings. Keeping with my optimistic ways, the bright spot was that there was snow in the forecast overnight. Hopefully that would bring a nice white blanket providing extended visibility as well as a clean canvas for me to paint red in the morning. 

Up extra early, I was off to sit in my stand for the last hunt of the trip. Responsibilities back home were waiting, so it was now or wait until gun season to kill a cabin deer. The woods were just beautiful this morning. Coated in a little over an inch of fresh snow that just seemed to lay o soft blanket on everything it came in contact with. It was just a great morning to be in the woods, and soon after legal light came in my hunch on this spot payed off as a young 8 point made his way right into my lap. I picked up my bow seeing a deer make it's way towards my perch, but as I was able to judge the deer I quickly hung it back up and picked up my cell phone to get a short video.

The woods remained calm for another hour or so until a slightly larger 8 made his way into my area. I was standing with bow in hand and was ready to send an arrow his way. It wasn't the biggest deer, but as I was sitting there after the first deer came through I made the decision to try and fill a tag no matter what. Maybe today it's time to judge the size of the hunt and not the deer. The setting was picture perfect, my time in the woods is quickly going to be limited, so what the hell. I was mentally ready and satisfied with my decision. 

The buck closed the distance and was coming behind my stand. I pulled down the fleece balaclava so I could cleanly find my anchor point, slipped the release onto the string loop, and began building tension on the string. Coming to full draw the elastic in the balaclava decided it didn't want to stay under my chin, and popped back up to my nose. Taking my thumb from my release hand I managed to pull down on the elastic while wrenching my neck upward. By now the buck was behind my stand and as I leaned around to take the shot my backpack was now in the way, causing my limb to get caught up on the shoulder strap. I let down slowly, pivoted around to my right, and see the buck standing broadside behind some brush. Looking forward there's an opening and as he steps forward I begin to draw back again only to have my arrow slip off of the string. I pin it on the shelf and let down on the string. Quickly re-nocking the arrow and looking for another opening it's too little too late. He's facing directly away and walking on. I smirked and shrugged my shoulders. I guess it just wasn't meant to be for this buck today.

I waited it out for another hour or so but nothing else showed up. In the time that passed I snapped a couple more picks and then packed out to head for home.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

3 Pepper, 3 Bean, 3 Beer, Venison Chili (aka Triple Threat Chili)

2 lbs. ground venison
1 can 28oz crushed tomatoes
1 can 28oz tomatoe sauce
1 can 15oz kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
2 cans 15oz chili beans with sauce
1 can 15oz black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 to 2 green bell peppers
3 jalapenos
3 hungarian wax peppers
1 red onion
3 cloves of fresh garlic pressed
2 tbs salt
3 tbs chili powder
2 tbs black pepper (use cayenne pepper if you want to go hotter)

Brown the meat, chop up the peppers & onions how you like them (I like bigger chunks vs. finely chopped), mix in the beans & seasonings, stir all of the ingredients together, then simmer on low heat for 4 to 5 hours. Stir occasionally and add more seasonings to you tastes. I also just did this in the crockpot on low for about 6 hours earlier this week.

As it's listed above this recipe is mildly spicy, but if you like "burn your butt the next day kind of hot" you can add hotter peppers, or substitute cayenne pepper for the black pepper the recipe calls for. It's also on the thicker side for it's consistency, so if you like soupier chili add more tomato sauce or even water as it cooks. Keep in mind that the veggies will add moisture as they cook down too, so if you want it even thicker you can add corn starch.

The 3 beers comes after you get the chili cooking on a Saturday morning, you can then sit around and drink a few while you watch college football & wait for the chili to be ready. Enjoy...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ohio Youth Waterfowl Days October 5 & 6 2013

For at least a few hunts each year, my son has been tagging along with me and my buddies since he was 3. It's a tough balance, that often times feels more unbalanced towards the selfish side, to maximize the time I get outdoors while still giving my kids a taste of what consume's their Dad's thoughts on a seemingly constant basis. This past weekend provided that unique opportunity to get my son outdoors with the state's youth hunting days for waterfowl.

I wasn't really sure that we were going to even go, its a decision that I put squarely on him. The last thing that I want to do is force hunting on either one of my kids, so when presenting the youth opportunity to him, I let him know it was his call. Even if he just wanted to go bow hunting with Dad instead, we could do that TOO. The point of this weekend was to spend some time outdoors with just he & I. Well, it didn't take him long to say he wanted to go, but then came the next step; understanding that he was going to be shooting.

So, with my good buddy John letting me borrow a youth model 20 gauge, my son & I headed to the shooting range on Saturday afternoon to get him comfortable with handling the gun. He's been around guns quite a bit, but we still spent several minutes reviewing everything about gun safety before we even loaded a shell, much less took a shot. With a stationary clay pigeon positioned on the ground at 20 yards, he handled his first shot fairly well, mainly because he wasn't familiar with recoil so there wasn't any hesitancy. The next couple shots however, I could tell he wasn't as sure of himself, so I took a couple turns letting him launch clays into the air for me before we had to head for home. Our conversations on the ride revolved around the plan for the morning, and despite my own uncertainties, he still remained committed to hunting in the morning.

The plan was to hunt with only one shell chambered while we're sitting side by side so that I could assist & talk him through everything step by step. We hunted a nearby feeding spot that is usually a good producer of early season wood ducks, plus as an added bonus it's youth friendly since I can drive the truck right up to the spot to unload. The early morning drive was filled with laughs, and I think I was now more at ease seeing Caleb's sense of excitement. As Kip Moore's "Somethin bout A Truck" was playing on the radio, my son was singing along but changing the words to "Somethin Bout A Duck." I wish I woulda recorded that. It was good stuff.

With everything unloaded, I went to go park the truck. To my surprise, Caleb wanted to wait by the decoys with Timber... in the early morning darkness. I don't know if I would've done the same at his age. So, off I went to park the truck a few hundred yards away, returning a coupleminutes later to my boy & my dog anxiously awaiting, "What can I help with Dad?" More good stuff, as he handed me decoys and told me where to place them in the pond. Next, we stashed the empty decoy bags away then picked out a big oak to set up next to.

"Dad, check out that sunrise" as he's pointing to the east at the warm, glowing, red sky.

"Yeah that's awesome isn't it? That's one of the best things about being out here. We've got about 15 minutes till legal light buddy, how bout some candy?" I said.

"Heck yeah! This is great! We better not tell Mom we're eating candy this early."... "Hey Dad? Do ducks always float in the water when you shoot 'em?"

"Yep, unless you only cripple it by shooting it's wing, then they can swim away & even dive under water on you."

"What about geese? Do they always float too?"

"Yep, but again, you've got to make sure they're dead because if not it makes for a tough retrieve."

"What if you shot a Tiger in the water, would it float too?"

"Lol... I don't know buddy, I've never shot a tiger but if you see one be ready to shoot!"

"Hey Dad? I'm gonna go pee on a tree real quick before it's time to hunt"

Sitting together back at the oak tree, it wasn't long before a small group of woodies started to slice through the morning air and splashed down in the water. "Dad, Dad, Dad!!! Ducks!!!"

With Timber starting to whimper behind us, there wasn't much we could do except watch them swimming out in the middle of the water. It was legal light, but they were out of range for any type of shot. Moments later, as if on cue, a few more birds zipped down from the heavens and  swooshed across our spread before putting their landing gear down to splash in with the other swimmers out of range. Now Timber was whimpering and trembling, I was smiling, and Caleb was wide eyed and smiling too. Before I could whisper anything, three more splashes sent ripples through the water just outside of our decoys. As Caleb slowly shouldered the gun, I reached around his back to help slide off the safety. "Take the shot whenever you think you're...." BOOM!!

"Did I git him?!"

Seeing the shot bubble the water beyond the bird, it was a clean miss. The sky was full of fleeting woodies.

"No buddy, I think you were just over top of him. Lets stay ready though because they'll be back"

We ejected the empty hull, and I it slipped into my blind bag as a future memento. We didn't end up having any more solid opportunities like that one although we did have more birds come in and buzz us, and of course we had the last group of the morning try to land on us while I was picking up decoys. Instead, we sat back and watched the wood ducks do their thing just out of range. We talked about logs sometimes looking like alligators, we ate more candy, peed on more trees, burped, farted, and threw sticks for Timber to retrieve. All in all we just had a good time outdoors being boys, and I think I might have even lit a little bit of a fire inside my son for what hunting is all about.

Here's a couple pics from the hunt...

Garden spider that my son found along the field edge

Just gotta be in the water...

Throwing sticks...

Gotta have face paint TOO...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pheasant with Creamy Chive Sauce

This is simply a Chicken recipe that I've substituted Pheasant for and made it better...

2 Pheasants (breasts, legs, and wings)
1/4 cup butter
1 0.7 oz package Italian salad dressing mix
1 10 3/4 oz can condensed golden mushroon, soup
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 of an 8 oz. tub cream cheese with chives and onion

Place the pheasant into a 4 quart crock pot. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter while stirring in the Italian dressing mix. Stir in the mushroom soup, wine & cream cheese until it's all blended together. Then pour over the pheasant.

Cover and cook on low heat setting for 4 to 5 hours or until done. Shred the meat then serve over pasta or rice.