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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hunting with Grandpa


My Grandpa passed away on October 14, 2011. He was a huge part of my life and his influences are felt everyday. I knew before I answered the phone that day what news was waiting on the other end. It didn't make it any easier knowing that he was gone, but I had prepared myself and knew how he would expect me to carry on. The next morning I went duck hunting, and he was with me.

Since then, I've always tried to be someplace outdoors on October 14. As the man who really introduced me to the outdoors, he is always alongside me one way or another. My time in the treestand yesterday was peaceful, just what was needed. I didn't see any deer, and missed a shot I took on a squirrel, but some days just being out in the autumn woods is satisfying enough.


As the setting sun was forcing my hunt to a close I decided to return in the morning if darkness arrived without any last-minute action. I admired the stars on my walk out to the truck. It's always prettier the farther you can be from the light pollution of the city. 

Morning rolled around and I was again looking toward the stars as I crept along the field edge. The wet grass soaking my pants from the knees down. With the quietness of my steps and the breeze in my favor, I walked within 15 feet of a deer as I turned to enter the woods. The loud wheeze made me jump as the deer stomped it's foot and blew again before bounding off a few more feet. Pausing for a while, I shrugged my shoulders, took about ten more steps and began ascending the tree. 

As the sun lit up the morning sky the day officially started as deer were moving from the woods out into the standing beans. Likely the deer that blew at me 45 minutes earlier. She was joined by several others and before long they were all browsing along the field edge. 


The urge for acorns must have been too strong to stay in the beans or work toward the corn. Soon the group was heading back into the corner pinch point where the oaks dropped food on a constant basis. 


In range, then out of range. The dance seemed to go on for a while. I was drawn once but as the deer turned broadside it also turned behind a tree. As she walked away I let down, then took a seat as the group was drifting off toward the bedding area. 

Minutes later three of the does decided they weren't done eating, circling back around and heading into an area with several shooting lanes to my left. I was picking the spots as they were heading back into range, drawing and holding for the right moment. 

At about 25 yards the right moment appeared as the biggest of the does stepped into a clearing. I held the pin behind her shoulder and waited for her to stop. "Take your time. Follow through" echoed through my head as my body went into autopilot. I can still see the arrow flying in slow motion. The white vanes and red nock almost glowing from the morning sun. 



Fletchings disappeared. The deer leaped, kicked, and dashed off. Coming to a stop seconds later at the field edge, pausing behind a giant oak. The next steps out into the open field were wobbly as she bedded down for the last time. It's moments like this that I want to call my Grandpa the most, to relive the story and hear his voice ask questions about the hunt. 



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Youth Waterfowl Season Success



Sunday October 4, 2015 was the second day of Ohio's special youth waterfowl season but the first day that my son and I were able to hunt. Saturday was a complete wash between the weather, other youth sporting events and family commitments filling the schedule. Getting kids out is tough and getting tougher it seems. It's no wonder that youth participation and recruitment rates are struggling to keep pace with so much going on in our lives these days, but I digress.

Thanks to an offer from a good friend to catch the sunrise in the marsh, my son and I were out the door at 5:00 am with everything needed to shoot and retrieve any legal waterfowl that crossed his gun barrel. The safety discussion was had, the decoys were set and we waited patiently as the dawn approached.


Silhouetted wood ducks lifted from the opposite shoreline, calling to each other as group after group erupted from the cattails. None of them interested in responding our calls or decoys however.  An impatient dog trembled on the platform behind us, sending ripples into the water with every exhale. Probably wondering why we weren't shooting at anything yet. 


It wasn't too much longer before a lone duck returned to the marsh, splashing down on the opposite shore, near the area the wood ducks had roosted for the night. I'm not sure how long the duck hung out by it's lonesome self before it decided to fly over to the decoy party across the way, but I'm glad that it did. The teal crashed the party, plopping down in the duck weed covered water. Simultaneously, my son was shouldering the 20 gauge. Click, BOOM! 

"Shoot it again!" shouted Mike. 

BOOM!

"Timber, fetch 'em up!!" The dog super-manned off the platform straight into the water. Wrong way. Maybe the handler should've lined him up better since the cattails obstructed his view of where the duck was shot. 

"Timber! NO!! Timber, over!!" 

After a quick correction, Timber locked onto the location on the downed bird and finished the retrieve. It was an awesome moment with both of my boys. One that I know I'll never forget, and one that I hope my son will carry in his memory for years as well. 


The rest of the morning was spent telling stories, making jokes and doing things that guys do when they're duck hunting. It was a perfect morning even though we didn't have any other birds join the decoy party. We hunted a few hours, picked up the spread and finished things off with a hearty breakfast at the local diner. Life is good. 





Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Daddy Daughter hunt

This weekend was completely dedicated to getting the kids outdoors. It was my daughter's turn first, and we crafted bowhunting plans throughout the week for a Friday afternoon adventure. I had the truck loaded up with the few necessities required so when she hopped off of the school bus all that was left to do was change clothes and hit the road.

A short drive later we arrived at the farm where three weeks earlier a ground blind, some corn, a trail camera and a little wishful thinking were all set up. A quick conversation with the landowner raised hopes as he had been seeing deer in the field somewhat regularly. The wind was favorable and the light drizzle couldn't dampen the excitement as we came around the barn to see a deer feeding a few hundred yards away.

We eased along the fence row with the wind in our face and the deer oblivious. It stood between us and the ground blind so we decided to try to make a stalk. There was a one in a million chance that this deer was blind and wouldn't pick us off, so after a quick conference we dropped our gear and began the stalk. Ainsley was tight to my side checking the rangefinder to let me know the distance. At 120 yards, she wondered if we were in range.

"Not quite yet. We need to get closer." We conferred again, then slowly pressed forward, low to the ground and moving only when the deer would face away from us. 80 yards was the next distance check and I could see the excitement in her eyes. For a moment, I thought this might actually happen! Those thoughts quickly faded as the deer looked our direction, wondering where the two camouflage blobs in the field came from. It raised it's tail, flagged it back and forth a few times, then calmly trotted off into the woods. We sat in the open field, smiled and fist-bumped from the fun we just experienced and headed to the blind where snacks became the priority.


A short time later we spotted our deer again as he returned to the field to feed some more. Ainsley's attention was as sharp as ever. She quickly resumed her job as the rangefinder consultant marking him at close to 100 yards. 


Both of our hopes were high as the deer was now grazing his way closer to the blind. Maybe this is going to work after all.


However as things often do, the script that was written wasn't matching up with what we were wanting. The button buck never came closer that 79 yards before he casually worked back into the woods with a belly full of alfalfa.


A mole that entered and exited the blind all afternoon kept us entertained while the deer were feeding elsewhere. We hunted until dark without spotting another deer, but the time spent together was perfect. We talked about whatever it was we decided to talk about. Some silly stuff, some serious stuff, it didn't really matter. We just got to spend some time together and that was really the important accomplishment that day. These simple times won't last so I will strive to make the most of the opportunities as often as I can.