Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Chandler


 … we went down to [Deleted] Creek yesterday.  The `icebox' was still in effect, preventing us from getting up very far ... forcing retreat to the lower reach.  While stopped to watch and photograph several herds of elk ... 100 plus … an old guy on a four-wheeler pulled up and we started chatting. He gave us a mini-history of the area, going back to the 40’s, how all the ranchers went bankrupt during the Carter years, … how the land was bought up for hunting property, and the wolf thing.  Only some of the ranchers run cattle anymore. He was interested to learn Id' been hunting up there since I was a little boy.  We talked about how the [Deleted] Fire had messed things up, though [Deleted] assured us the deer would come back.  He mentioned one of  the farmers there had shot/killed/trapped some thirteen or so wolves in the area in recent years.  And just then he (the farmer) pulled up and joined the chat.  He pointed to a ridge behind which he had taken three wolves recently.  Interesting ... he talked about how fast they learn, and how one method will work to kill one wolf, but the survivors are the smarter because of it. 

 





The elk above us were off and on unsettled, circled up, as for protection. They looked to the east, and no doubt down on us (looking up at them).  “They hang on those benches so they can avoid the wolves.” The second farmer said they’d hang up there high until dark, and then come down into the farmland.
 

[Deleted] spoke of [Deleted] Creek ... the condition of the trail, and that he had gotten a couple elk up there.  We chatted until the wind picked up, making excuse to `get a move on', as some of the stories started to repeat themselves.

The closest elk were a thousand yards away and, of course, UPHILL.  Linda and I strategized how we’d make a sneak and close the distance, if it were a hunt. As we were getting ready to leave, more elk appeared on the very top skyline, some two thousand yards plus, and peered down on us (peering up on them). 


 


 



Thursday, January 23, 2014

6 birds, no, 5 ...


 … there are three bridges across a certain stretch of creek I hunt, no four.  The stretch is one-and-a-half miles long; there are bridges at each end, and each half mile; thus four.  We parked at the second bridge and I hunted a short stretch upstream.  While doing so, I noticed a white pickup with utility back end snooping around the bridge at the east end.  Then the pickup snooped the bridge where we were parked.  The pickup didn’t look familiar, nor did it look like the trapper we had almost regularly encountered there.  I asked Linda, “whacha think he was up to?”  “Don’t know.”  “I wonder if he’s doing the same thing we’re doing?”

 

I’m glad he turned around and kept going.

 

I hunted a stretch downstream.

 

Beyond I could see the white pickup checking out the third bridge. 

 

WTF!

 

I DON’T LIKE OTHER HUNTERS IN MY SPOT!

 

The truck drove on.  I watched to see if it would turn to the fourth bring.  Cringing.

 

Somewhat to my surprise … it did not.

 

Good.

 

I finished the stretch and we loaded up and headed toward the fourth bridge.

 

The final stretch was loaded with ducks.  Mallards.  And, in the warm, winter sun, it looked like they were all Greenheads.  They were on the creek clear down to the bridge itself.  I told Linda NOT to slow down as we crossed the bridge.  Some of the Greens made eye contact and started swimming upstream.

 

“ … let’s turn around up the road; we’ll drive past them again at the bridge, I’ll get out and jump the stretch about 50 yards upstream of the bridge.”

 

At the turn around point two Rooster Pheasants presented themselves out in the field in front.  Season over – but couldn’t resist – grabbed the T2i with brand new 250mm zoom telephoto lens, and `shot’ them. 

 
 


“Good! … breeders left for next year.”

 

We drove past the bridge, at which I glanced upstream to see the birds spread more or less continuously up the stream clear to the first big bend.  I got out and headed for the bank midway up the stretch.  I would have birds in front and on both sides – it would be `target rich’.

 

At the jump I picked out a nice Green and pulled the trigger.  He fell, along with the one flying right behind him.  At the second trigger pull another green folded, along with another beyond it.  I had four birds down in two shots.  I stopped shooting.  I didn’t want more down than I could handle without a dog.  (I HATE losing birds.) 

 

Of the first two, one lay clearly dead in the water at the edge of the creek, but I could not see the other.  Of the second two, both lay motionless in the field beyond.  Where did the other bird go?  Nothin’ in the water to finish off, and no place to hide.

 

Since I was close to the bridge, and the birds were all on the other side, I headed to the bridge to go around. 

 

The mass of birds along the stretch took to flight at the shooting, but as I reached the bridge, they came back.  “They look like they want back in.”  We watched in marvel as some sixty to eighty Mallards pitched in around the bend, hardly more than a hundred yards from their just fallen comrades.

 

 
 

I let the downed birds lay, and started across the field for the jump. 
 
 
 

They took to flight.  Someone in their number must have convinced them of the bad idea.

 

But I had a hunch some may have remained.  Maybe remained all along.

 

At the jump I felled a nice Green with the first shot, missed with a second, and felled a second Green with the third.  What is it about these second shot misses?

 

Yeah, a dozen or so Mallards had stayed behind … probably were there the whole time … luring the battered flock back, though only temporarily.

 

I had 6 Mallards down.  Sure glad the white pickup drove on.

 

I collected the last two, and headed back to collect the first four.  The three stone-cold dead ones were as they laid, but couldn’t find the second bird that fell at my first shot.  No sign whatsoever.  I got in the water in case he’d dove and held onto something underneath.  Nothin.  I checked out the grasses upstream.  Nothin.   And at this particular place there was really no place it could have hid.  NOTHIN.

 

 
Second two birds down beyond ... looking for the second of the first two ...


I surmised …

 

   the Green I could not find had simply taken off and flown away.  I have seen in the past when I crumple a bird … on occasion the bird next to or behind it will suddenly land with it … apparently thinking the bird ahead simply changed his/her mind and decided to land.  Once they see that all the other birds are continuing to depart (and perhaps that their friend doesn’t look very alive) … they fly off.  This particular Green simply went airborne again and blended in with all the other fleeing birds.

Sure glad the white pickup drove on.

 

So, I had 6 birds, no, 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mail Run


Hunting at Civilization …
 

So, Linda and I went on our daily mail run.  I ordered her to bring her gun also, in case we ran into a good set-up. 


 

At the first creek crossing we spied no ducks, but a hundred or so geese out in the fields.  There was virtually no way to sneak them, so we drove half mile east to the next bridge, to check out ducks in that area, and perhaps figure out how to get up on the geese.  At the second bridge, a group of geese was within gunning distance of the road (and on property I have permission to hunt).  I directed Linda to drive on, and out of sight of the geese, pulled over, and after deciding which one of us would make the assault, re-tooled my shotgun off ducks to geese.  The whole process did not take long, but by the time we got in motion again for the drop-off assault, the geese had moved out of range into the field.  Assault off.  The key would be to coax them back closer to the road.  I directed Linda to drive on to the next bridge and creek crossing, another half mile up the creek, where I would get out of the car and push just enough to coax the birds back closer to road.  I re-tooled for ducks, as I would push along the creek, and while it would be impossible to get within range of the geese, I might be able to get up on some Mallards along the way.  Just out of the rig, the geese closest to me took off, flew a mile, and landed.  The geese of interest at the next road crossing remained.  Good - gig going as planned.  I continued.  A flock of mallards appeared in the sky ahead and wanted to land just several hundred yards ahead of.  I stood still, and though entirely in the open, either I looked like a post, or tree, or a jogger (still wearing the clothes from lecture and faculty meeting) ... the birds settled into the creek right ahead of me.  I made the stalk and jumped at point blank range.  I had been instructing Linda to aim for the head of close birds ... and following my own advice, blew the head off the first departing Greenhead.  The blast caused another twenty to burst into frantic flight, right at my feet. Thinking I could score several in one shot, I missed them altogether, my pattern being too tight at that range to be careless.  My third shot felled a second Greenhead. 

 
The geese of interest at the next road crossing remained.  Good - gig going as planned. 

 
And now I had a couple Mallards.  I crossed the creek at some shallow ripples and retrieved my birds.

 
I headed back to the car and re-tooled for geese.  I figured the mayhem was just enough to walk them back closer to the other road.

 
We returned, to see the plan had worked perfect.  I instructed Linda to drive past at normal speed ... as the passenger side of the car, where I sat, was on the wrong side.  Past them, Linda turned around ... I told her to maintain medium speed until we'd flanked them, then gently stop, I'd de-board, load up, climb off the roadway, and if I could do so before their taking to flight - I just might get a goose.

 
Linda came to a stop, I climbed out, and chambered the first round as I left the roadway.  I had their attention.  I had time to put round in the magazine.  They started to walk.  I put a second round in the magazine.  They started to fly.  My first shot felled nothing, my second shot felled my first goose of the season, and my third round was needed to stop the fleeing, crippled bird.

 

...
 

Now it was Linda's turn.  Remarkably, a hundred or so geese were still in the first field, but no way to assault.  I tooled Linda for geese, and had her drop me off at the east end of the field.  She then parked at the west end, and hid in some cattails along the creek.  My plan was that the birds would first see me, and hopefully not note Linda as she crept into position.  She would text me when ready, and then I'd push along the creek, hopefully bumping them into flight right over her.  They did indeed see me (right from the start), and some flew off.  And the rest noted Linda, and some more flew off. 

 
The geese that remained were on high alert with both of us. 

 
To think that they would be concerned with only one of us at a time was probably rather silly.

 
Linda texted me `Ready'.

 
I started out across the field. 

 
A random truck then pulled up, stopped, and the guy said, "I don't mean to interrupt your hunt." 

 
Well, he just had! ...

 
"Do you hunt here often?"  Huh?  "I was wondering if you were planning on hunting here tomorrow?" I couldn't believe this guy. 

 
I told the guy ... "yeah, we hunt here pretty often."


 ... and the geese took to flight, wave after wave, over neither one of us.


 
"No, I'm not going to hunt tomorrow.  I don't care if you do - but you better get permission from the landowner!"

 
Hunt busted!
 

Grrrrrrr! 

 
Well, I hope he doesn't get any sleep tonight, feeling guilty for busting my hunt.

 
And I hope he DOESN'T get permission.

 
But, as near as I can tell, we've been, for the most part, one step ahead of this guy ... as I've seen his rig out there before.

 
Interesting … hunting at the edge of City Limits.

 
...

 
LINDA – IT’S STILL YOUR TURN!

 
JRF/SH

 







Friday, December 27, 2013

What if ...

 
...
 
Linda and I went to town for the mail.  From our reading of Moses we were talking about the role of present day miracles.  Are they ended … not for today? … were they just to get our attention? … start a new movement?  OMG – let us not be stubborn, as were they (the Children of Israel), to demand that you show your hand. 

We swung over to the Creek on the way home to check a stretch for pheasants. 

As I left the car I proposed: "... what if we are to be in a continual state of receiving from Jesus, where miracles unfold continually?" 

I did several things right.

I swung wide, quietly, in a half-mile a quarter circle, on a short stretch of creek, blocking the way of retreat of any birds to [Deleted]’s in-laws.
 
 

I would be hunting down-wind, which would mitigate the cold.

The sun was over my left shoulder – better for quickly identifying flushed birds.

But then I did something not-so-right: I took out my camera to take a picture of the very-frozen creek.  A rooster flushed.  Dang … (did something wrong ... camera in hand instead of shotgun).
 
(It amazes me these birds know when their pursuer isn't quite ready.)
 
But the bird flushed west, downstream (retreat blocked); I marked where he landed. (I was still in the game.)

 
 
 
Coming up on the spot where he landed, I took off my shooting glove, for better handling of my gun for the jump.

The bird flushed.

My first shot toppled him – hitting a bit back.  He hit the ground and fled in mixed run and flight … another shot didn’t stop him … a third, did, but the bird was still alive, in the plowed ground, across the creek. 
 
I reloaded. 

He was far enough away that it could take five more shots just to get another pellet to a spot to stop him if he took off again.  So I didn’t move – I didn't want to push him.  He could easily get out of range, cross the road, to houses, etc. beyond.  Away.  Gone.  I needed to let the bird die, if he would.

...
 
I have a love affair with God.  I have a love affair with nature.
 
...
 
As I waited, the bird eventually lowered his head.
 
And then the wind caught his feathers, tossing them in the wind.
 
Life had left the bird, along with it the tension that keeps the feathers in perfect position. 
 
The bird was mine.  I crossed the creek and retrieved him.

 
 What if …
 
 … we let God bless us every day.

 

 S.H.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Crunchy!


...

It’s been way too crunchy to consider chasing turkeys, and way too frozen for any ducks and geese, so I decided to see if there were any pheasants that wanted to play.  The temperature hit 40, with about an hour left of late afternoon sun, absolutely beautiful!  So much so that I embarked in down vest and short sleeves.  I parked at [Deleted]’s house and made way to the creek.  The extremely cold weather, followed by snow, and then rain, and freeze, then thaw, and freeze and thaw … made for a layer of ice and remaining snow that made loud crunches with every step.

 

But to advantage!

Not far up the creek pheasants started to flush.  Though they flushed at far, they were mostly just doing so to pop up above the cover and see what was making all the racket, and then landing again not much farther up the bank.  A hen, and a couple roosters.  Knowing where the birds were put me in the advantage.

To get the jump I took off the shooting glove with my trigger hand, and advanced.

I was pleased to see roosters, as hunting pressure early in the season tends to clean them out … but as the season drags on and the pressure eases, I find that replacement roosters come back onto the scene.

A hen flushed.  I watched the tall grass blown this way and that by the thrust of the launching bird.

A rooster flushed, cackling.  With the down vest I have to be deliberate to get a good sight picture.  The end of the barrel covered the bird and I fired … toppling it into a small patch of open water.  I marked where it lay and proceeded up the creek.  There were one, maybe two more roosters.

A second rooster flushed.  I toppled it with first shot, but it was only crippled and sprang to life, hopping on a frozen bend of the creek, fortunately into view instead of disappearing in cover.  A couple ground shots immobilized him.  I marked where it lay and proceeded up the creek. 

There was maybe one more rooster – that would make a limit – in the few short minutes I had hunted.

 ... nothing.

I came to the spot where a side ditch comes in.  The rooster probably went up the side ditch.  I chose the main creek to continue my hunt – I could hit the ditch later, on the way back.  But after a bit I got anxious to recover my birds, so found a place to cross, and got them one by one, and taking a couple pics.
 

I finished hunting the stretch … about a mile, one way, … nothin’.  And hunted the ditch on the way back.  The birds had either held tight, or flown on.  But two was still quite plenty.  A nice Christmas Eve gift from the Creator.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Organic, Grass Fed ...


I wouldn’t let Linda tell me how much the grass-fed, organic turkey cost, that we served to friends and family over Thanksgiving, but when she told me how much one would cost for Christmas, I grabbed my shotgun and headed out. 

 

We have a Late Fall turkey hunt here, cultivated land, either sex, through the end of the year.  I have been hunting a bunch of birds that, to avoid being shot at, by me, have been hanging out on some property I don’t have permission to hunt.  Today I would go see if, by chance, they had wandered back. 

 

I found fresh tracks in the timber, but no birds. 
 

 

Where were they?

 

I figured I could at least get morning exercise by hunting a familiar timbered draw.

 

 … then, out of the corner of my eye, while enjoying the expanse of landscape below … there they are … the group of fourteen birds were some 800 yards below me in some wheat stubble … feeding, moving around, and generally goofing off … in a place I’ve never seen them before …

 

AND … far from cover.

 

The birds were at the edge of a stubble field next to a sparsely vegetated draw.  I was at the very top of the stubble field, the terrain snow covered … there was no approach except to be instantly seen, and thus the hunt would be instantly over. 

 

The birds were moving generally westward, perhaps to the next draw, which was heavily timbered, and perhaps I could ambush them there.

 

8:59 [To Linda]  I see them.  Trying to figure out how to get.

 

But the birds hung up next to a big bush at the edge of the field.

 

I contemplated the potentially long wait for them to climb up (to me) for their mid-day roost.

 

It could be hours.

 

I paced back and forth trying to come up with a plan.  Perhaps it was futile.

 

The birds were, for the most part, behind the big bush.  I decided to try.  Waiting for the birds to be mostly behind the bush, and using, as best as possible, sparse cover visually between us, I descended from the hilltop toward the draw.

 

Using one bush and then another, I cut the distance in half.  And waited.  I anticipated the birds would start moving, have me pinned in some awkward location, see me, and the hunt would be busted, but they continued to hang around the big bush. 

 

More importantly, they continued to hang on the opposite side of the bush.

 

At one point a big Tom appeared out in the stubble.  The bird was noticeably larger than the other adult birds … (as I would explain to Linda afterward) ... seemingly the size of a livestock animal.

 

The temperature was above freezing and thus the ground and snow wet.  I could sit or lay for a while, but not long, before getting too cold. 

 

I closed the distance some more.

 

I got to a location where their advance to roost would take me within good gunning range.

 

I decided to get closer still … just one rose bush between `their’ bush and me. 

 

At several times I thought they made me.  It’s easy to think a bush is concealment enough, but I’ve been busted before where birds see legs through bushes … legs of a human.

 

I contemplated crossing the last fifty yards to their bush.  If I could get to it – I could possibly peek around either side, and take a shot.  But I risked exposure if their goofing off, or journey to roost, took them to either side, before I crossed the open ground in between.

 

But then I got glimpses of movement. 

 

I dare not move, at all.

 

My rose bush was not a big one.  I was wearing my camo coat – good, but blue jeans below – not good.  My face was not painted.  My hat was dark.  My gun dark. 

 

They were on the move, up the edge of the stubble field on the other side of the draw back to roost.  Their path would take them thirty yards to my west, if I could remain undetected.

 

I had a problem.  My gun was pointed the other direction.  I had to get it pointed west, not southeast.  If I could get it in the right direction, unnoticed, I would let the birds move into my line of fire. 

 

 … to my surprise I got the gun into position, Safety off, without being busted.  I would have to take the first bird in the line, since as soon as the first bird entered my kill zone, I would be totally exposed. 

 

The first bird up the line was a tom.  Head shot.  I fired.  He went down and the rest running.

 

9:57 [To Linda]

 

 


  

[Bleep!] stalk of the century.

 

 … HAOOO!!!!

 

ENDNOTE:  this was the farthest down the hill I have ever seen the birds.  When I cleaned to bird he was full of freshly sprouted wasted grain.  Apparently they had descended the hill to an elevation warm enough to sprout the grain.

 

Now we have an organic, grass-fed (grain-fed) turkey, for Christmas.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Reflex



I needed a break from work.  Sunset was less than an hour away.  It was too late to hunt turkey, and the ducks aren’t here, but I still needed to get out.  I asked Linda if she wanted to join, and she did.  At least we would witness beautiful end-of-day weather.

 

We drove out to the creek and I decided to walk it.  I parked and Linda elected to stay in the car.  Her responsibility would be to photograph the sunset while I would do a quick loop. 

 

I loaded up and walked the road to where the creek crosses under a bridge.  Historically birds on the huntable side of the road flee at first seeing me … over to the side I can’t hunt.  As I approached this time something quite the opposite happened: a rooster flew from the safe haven on the right side, across the road, and filed, to settle along the creek several hundred yards upstream.  I noted the spot and proceeded.

 

I was wearing a shirt, sweater, and down vest.  The vest wrecks the way I shoulder my gun.  I didn’t want to drop the vest as by the time I got to where the bird was I would be just cold enough to lose my edge on the jump.  Then as I got closer I couldn’t shed my vest, as any waiting bird would seize the opportunity, and flush unscathed.  So I practiced bringing the gun up and securing a good sight picture.

 

I got close to where the bird landed and was startled by the splash of a muskrat behind me.

 

The lay of the situation suggested the bird would still be there.  There was too much water for the bird to run, up the bottom, and I was now close enough to see anything running up the bank.  And the cover for the bird ended.  He had to be close.

 

Closer, and closer, and no bird.

 

I kicked clods into the grass  and water.

 

Nothing.

 

Somehow the bird had moved on, unaware.

 

As sometimes they do … escaping unaware.

 

It was over.  Then he flushed! 

 

I was so keyed for the jump that the first shot was pure reflex, close, a bit behind, sawing off his tail.  My second shot was conscious, and felled the bird.  Both shots were almost instant, and it amazed me how much ground the bird covered between the two …  (and) it amazed me how essentially a dead bird could still be making such a fast exit.

 

I wanted to brag (to Linda), yet I was also humbled … everything had happened faster than skill.  I had nearly missed the bird, on the first shot, and while I did everything to be ready for the flush, the bird still so totally surprised me.

 


[Jeff, to Linda]: “I’m the deal.”

 

[Linda, to Jeff]:  “I heard.”

 

So instead of being the Mighty Hunter … I am just grateful. 

 

I am blessed.

 

Bounty, and a beautiful sunset.