Sunday, December 7, 2014

Southwest Alabama ...


Southwest Alabama was not what I expected.  Instead of swamp land, ... conifers, not growing naturally, but in various stages of maturity in various plantings, many in neat lines and tightly spaced.  Will dropped me off alongside a dense stand of such, and pointed to a lane.  “The shooting house is down at the end of the lane, just to the left.”  I looked down the lane, which was like looking down a utility tunnel in the basement of a large building, so dense the trees.  And though mid-day, the trek down the lane was in near darkness.  But sure enough, once to the end, I was back in daylight, a small shooting house to my left, and green field beyond.

 


 

 

This field was smaller than the first.  It was mid-day.  There was talk of a storm coming in, so perhaps the deer would move well before nightfall.  I got settled in for the long afternoon.  In these shooting houses at the ends of green fields one cannot `want’ a deer into view, or `will’ a deer into view; one can only wait.  Wish all you want, it takes time.  I couldn’t text; we were in a phone-dead zone.  I didn’t bring a computer, or book.  All I could do was wait, and best yet, to learn to enjoy it. 


I think the giant-size Stanley thermos is awesome for such afternoons, and I sure enjoyed mine – full of strong, black coffee.


Movement.

 
A doe walking along the west edge of the field.  Would she come in? She disappeared.  Then she appeared in the field.  More movement.  A second deer, and even a third, still in the trees. 


Will said that if a doe comes into the field, `wait’.  `Wait ten minutes’.  I waited.  The second deer came into the field.  Bigger, greyer.  A buck!  I was worried I would be detected, maneuvering for a shot, trying to get a steady sight picture.   The third deer was not visible.  I waited long enough.  Not ten, but perhaps one (minute).  The bigger deer was quartering toward me.  It was a good shot, especially if I was not as steady as I’d like. 


Bang.  The deer collapsed.  The others bounded off. 
 

I walked out to my prize.  Big … doe!  What I had mistaken for antlers were not. 
 

 


 
She appeared to be alive so I dispatched her with knife to the throat, cautiously, conscious of what a thrust of a hoof might do to me.
 

I couldn’t report my success in the dead zone.
 

I dragged the deer off the field and to a stream bank to the west, and proceeded to do my `thing’.  Will had not seen a deer de-meated in the field; nor would he here, but I would be able to deal with my deer alone, myself, without calling him off his hunt to help. 

 
Whereas the first doe was mature but young, this one was mature and old.  Her hide was tough.  Her meat, tough, and dark. 

 
The bullet entered the front of the deer and collided with the backbone, shattering it, and causing the instant collapse but not necessarily death.

 
And again, I was blessed with virtually no damaged meat.
 
...

Shots from other hunters range out as the afternoon and my work progressed.  I hoped some were Will, and supposed so, but there was no way to tell.  I wouldn’t know of his success, nor he of mine, until after dark, where he would (hopefully) return to where he had left me off.


I endeavored to get the meat into my `game bags' (retired pillow cases work perfect) with as little as possible sand from the stream bank, and as I finished, so was the afternoon.  In two trips I carried the meat and my gear to the shooting house.  I didn’t want to mess up Will’s next hunt at the same house, so I returned to the stream bank and took the remains (the meat-less deer) across the stream, through the woods, and to the next open area to the west. 

 


I carried my stuff back through the `tunnel’ to the road.  There was still a tiny bit of daylight left, so I got set up for anything crossing to the southeast.  (I could still shoot a buck.) 


I waited for Will.

 
At length I heard a truck, then saw headlights.  I knew he didn’t know (of my success), and since he probably wouldn’t be able to see the `game bags’ off to the side, I went to the middle of road and did a little giggle of a dance signifying my success, ... all the while making sure I gave him enough room to stop if somehow he wasn’t paying attention.

 
Will, too, got a deer … no doubt some of the shots I heard in the afternoon.

 
He reported later that it was a great blessing to hunt with someone who could take care of their own game in the field.

 
 

 
Both deer have tasted fantastic.  The first, a young but mature doe, soft skin, light meat, tender, and the second doe, tough skin, dark meat, and tougher meat ... yet also very good.  The key to good-tasting game is that  I get the meat cool, and dry, as fast as I can IN THE FIELD.  And I keep it clean as I can, by not `gutting’ the animal, and by staying away from (bullet-) damaged meat. 

 


...

I never did see that third deer.  Maybe it WAS a buck.


Serious Hunter
 

 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Alabama


So, when Will asked, “Wanna go hunting this weekend?” … my reply was, “Absolutely!”  We headed down `South’ the night before, for to stay at his parents’ place.  We saw a few deer along the road on the drive down, peeking out from the roadside thickets.  Will is much better spotting these Alabama deer than I am … maybe eight-to-one or so.  But, no worry, it took me years to spot theretofore invisible deer in Idaho; it might take a bit here in Alabama.

Early the next morning Will drove me out to my `shooting house’.  I had never hunted from a shooting house.  The closest thing would have been way back in the day, hunting ducks from various blinds, crudely constructed along rivers and sloughs in Southern Idaho.  Neither had I ever hunted off the ground, and made it clear that it would probably stay that way.  The drive in was much farther than I expected, on an access road through family property, and not-family-property.  The thought of walking back myself  if I wanted (or needed) to was near being dismissed.

Will walked me to the house, and then left.

This shooting house was big enough for three chairs.  I picked the middle one, an old, but functional, recliner.  Out in front was a `green field’.  Still mostly dark,  I ranged trees along one side … 110 yards.  I ranged trees at the far end … 120.  It must be a mistake!  The field must be at least 200 yards long, if it isn’t a quarter mile.


Dawn brought mostly silence.  A single shot range out in the distance.  It was not the barrage of gunfire I expected of the opening day of rifle season.  I texted Will, “Was that you?” … “Not me.”

Birds chirped.  The sun rose.  I wanted to get a deer.  But nothing.

Sunlight caught the top of the trees beyond the right side of the field, indicating east to my left.  I postulated that as soon as the sunlight hit the ground, things would start moving.  And, if not, I would start moving. 

So, after a while, I did.  I went out the back of the house, and turned left on the `lane’ Will had described on a couple occasions beforehand.  It was noisy walking.  At various locations various skid roads intersected the lane, all looking the same.  I got to the end and turned left.  After a while, I broke off the lane to explore right, found a ravine that looked interesting, turned around, and returned.  I went farther.  Cloudy, I could not determine direction.  All the lanes looked more the same.  I did not want to get lost.  I kept my cool and returned by way I came.

Back in the house I thought, I prayed, I waited, I napped, I dozed, I texted.  I drank coffee; I ate snacks.  I prayed.  I posted to Facebook.  I drank more coffee.

Oh, did I say that I prayed for a deer?

When that didn’t work, I gave some thought.  Am I incomplete without getting a deer?  Am I in lack?  I prayed for a deer, and nothing. I `believed’ for a deer, and nothing, also.  I prayed and thanked.  But all of these gymnastics are built on what I lack?  What if I ALREADY lack no good thing?!!!  What if by knowing God, and accepting Jesus, I have everything I need. 

Movement beyond the far end of the field caught my eye.  A deer moving through the forest in the broken morning sunlight.  She stopped.  I got positioned. 

She moved, and then stopped again, noticing the motion, and looked my way.  A solid rest poking a rifle out the window of a shooting house is not as easy as imagined.  Intuitively I knew two things: one, this was my only chance, as she was by-passing the field, and 2) range: 130 yards. 

“Bang!”

She bolted, favoring her front end, indicating a shoulder shot.  After about 25 yards she went down.

I waited.  I knew it wasn’t a perfect shot, but still expected a dead deer soon.
(Texting unedited)

9:31 to Will: Bang

9:33 Will: U get ten

9:34: Gonna look see

9:36:  On my way

The deer jumped up as I got close, and ran.

UGHHHHH!  Not good!

Now I needed Will’s help, to block a runner.

9:37 to Will: Wounded

9:39: Left or right

I couldn’t get a clear shot.  It looked like she would take the flat ground across the lane at the end of the field.

I moved right, over to the lane, dropped to the ground and got ready with the bipod.

It worked.  She made it to the lane … and presented a head-shot.  Close.  Aim a couple inches low. 

9:40:  She s down.

9:42:  PTL

My first Alabama deer!
 

 


Will asked later what `PTL’ means.

“Praise the Lord.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

these things are heavy


I didn’t sleep well at all … coming down with a sore throat, I went to bed early, making me wake early … 4 AM.  It was actually the correct time, to go turkey hunting, but I felt terrible.  Besides, it had been raining, and I had no desire to lay on the wet ground waiting for daylight.  I spent the time till sunrise praying – not because I’m particularly spiritual – but because sleep was a bust, and because I didn’t want to start the workday.  Once light, I checked the bike trail in back, and it was too muddy for any mountain biking.  So I decided to go up `The Hill’ (anyway) … one last hunt in Idaho.  I grabbed some wildflowers from the back yard, gave them to a drowsy Linda, unpacked my shotgun, and headed out.

There were deer in the field below [Deleted]’s house.  The field heretofore had been `dirt’, but the recent rains had sprouted the Spring Wheat, now an inch or so tall.  That meant that the turkeys could be `anywhere’, no longer concentrated around the Winter Wheat where I had been hunting them.  No wonder Christi hadn’t seen any around the house lately.

I made my way up to the `Top’ and then poked my way down the timber on the back side, and on down to the `Other Corner’.  Indeed, the Wheat had sprouted there also, giving the turkey acre after acre of food and play, far from the bother of civilization.

I peeked around the cover to look west.  A dozen toms were displaying their feathers a third of a mile away out in the Wheat.  I decided to try.

I crept back into the shadows and timber, making my move out of direct sight, trying to get to them as soon as possible and without making too much noise.  The sun was at my back, to my advantage, and breaking through the morning clouds, produced enough glare that I should be undetected. 

I paused to put black camo paint on my face and fingers.

In the ravine below them I shed my coat, gloves, binos … actually everything except shotgun, and made my quiet assault up the hill. 

Hmmmmm … they weren’t there.

I quietly assaulted the next fold in terrain … nothing.

I crossed the open field toward the next little ravine.

Dang.  In the time it had taken me to close the distance, the birds had finished their ritual out in the field and were back in the timber, a hundred yards to my right.  Hens were working up the hill, and upon seeing me, worked their way up all the faster.  I moved their direction, just in case.

A tom appeared at the edge of the field.  It would be a long shot – but I’d try.  He shrugged off the #6 shot.  At the shot a big tom … really big tom … maybe the Tom popped out to the edge of the field.  I could have shot … I wanted to shoot … but I had already hit the other bird … (never mind without effect).  A hen burst out of the timber and ran straight toward me, unaware of the source of the commotion.  Then she took to flight.

I watched the first bird make his way up through the somewhat open trees, hoping he would show some sign of mortal wounding, pretending in my mind that he was a deer with a double-lung shot, unwilling to embrace the fact that if a pellet punctured him at all, it’d only be to a depth of easy healing.

Ughhhh.  I did not want it to end this way.

I paced off the shot.  Sixty yards.  A good case for #4 and a turkey choke.

I made my way back to my coat and other stuff, and then decided to go back up and `follow’ the tom.  Maybe by chance perhaps I’d find him.  Besides, he was headed west when I last saw him … there was only one little draw left, and if he stayed there, perhaps I could get a shot.

I rehearsed what I had done wrong, and what I would do differently the next time.  Prudence said to me that I should have followed up my first shot with two more, as many as it would take, to get a pellet onto his head, and at least stun him.  I just don’t shoot that way.  But I should learn.


I followed a game trail over to the far draw.  I was noisy, but I was also close enough to get a shot.  The last ravine was tight … probably not more than seventy yards across, so if anything appeared in between, I might well get a shot. 

A big tom burst into flight from the middle of the ravine below me.  He no doubt heard my approach, and probably launched to see what he was fleeing.  I swung the gun through and pulled the trigger just a bit in front of his head.  He tumbled from the air into the bottom of the ravine.

7:45 (To Linda): Dumped his ass!
 
 

7:46 (Linda to Jeff): You are awesome!!!

7:46 (Linda to Jeff): Let’s cook him up

7:49 … Thanks Jesus … you are good to me.

8:04 … These are heavy … still a mile to the car.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

ZOOM ... and look again!


I was showing my wife pictures from our 2007 Bighorn Sheep Hunt, Idaho.  One pic that I thought was kind of cool is one taken with a `powershot-type’ camera through a spotting scope … at a ewe Bighorn standing at the edge of a rock outcropping and looking down.  The outcrop was across the drainage and over a mile away.  I always marveled at how we only saw one sheep in that group that afternoon … even though we scoured up and down and all around looking for more.

 
Solitary ewe on outcrop just below center of photo.  Wait! ... there are two more!

Then, as I showed the pic to my wife … and having a hunch, zooming in on the photo … `plain as day’ … are two more sheep!  Amazing.  Seven years later I pick out two more sheep we couldn’t see then. 
 
The outcropping with Sheep is just to right of the tree in the foreground just left of scope.
 
How many wild animals are in our photos and we don’t even know it!  Like on a Mountain Goat scouting trip … I took a pic of my buddy … a few minutes later and farther up the mountain we ran into some goats and started taking pics.  Once at home I looked at the pic of my buddy – and sure enough – there are the goats – even though we had not yet `seen’ them.

Farewell to Idaho ...


We leave for Alabama in thirteen days … I have a `real’ job there. 

 
(click on pic for full width) 

I have spent my entire adult life in the Northwest, much of it in Idaho.  I have hunted Bighorn Sheep on a shoestring, and we called in and shot a duck while standing in the street in front of our house. 

I didn’t hunt every day, but some days I hunted twice, and at least once went out three times. 

Most of the time I have driven farther to work than I did to my secret hunting spots.  And I passed a shot on one deer Opening Morning, knowing the bullet would pass through, and fall into town beyond.

Two elk, and the two biggest deer, we carried out to the car with the City lights glimmering in the distance. 

And then there is the Wilderness … the Frank Church, the Idaho Primitive Area … so vast and rugged it stuns guides from Alaska.  And the Seven Devils, and Hells Canyon, half again deeper than the Grand.

I used to brag about hunting Idaho … or, should I say, Idaho’s hunting … but then decided to be quiet. 

Most simply don’t understand what I have enjoyed here, and so why try and convince.  Besides, it’s been nice to have it to myself.

I will miss you, my Idaho, my Love.  I know I will find home in Alabama … and no doubt will hunt, and it will be good, but it will not be …

 
Merriams Gobblers near Cottonwood, Idaho
 
 

... Idaho.

Hearing aids ...


This is the first season I have hunted with hearing aids.  I put off getting them for perhaps way too long … not wanting to enter the ranks of `old people’, but also realizing without them my disadvantage in life, both hunting, and socially.

 

 
Still quite dark, I sent Linda to the Corner, hoping she could get in on any birds orbiting the House, while I went to the east.  No birds were gobbling in either place, so they were either `not up yet’, or somewhere else.   

 
I slipped into my spot and waited.

 
Toms started gobbling around me.  Close.  I didn’t dare move.  With as little noise and motion as possible I aligned the Benelli in the direction I suspected the birds would show, and remained motionless.  One bird behind me to the left started, and then went silent.  A bird to my right gobbled, and was answered by four or five toms right behind me.

 
I waited.  But it was still quite dark.  Too dark.  Too early. 
 

As it got light the birds right behind me went silent.  Ughhhh.  Would they appear suddenly?  Or had I somehow lost them?  Could I have been somehow detected? 

 
The weather was turning cold … the trees over where Linda was were getting progressively shrouded by fog. 

 
I could hear a hen a hundred yards to the right.  Had the toms gone to her?
 

 

Through the years of poor hearing I have never really taken calling the birds in the Spring Season seriously.  I assumed to the disadvantage.  And I never really learned or practiced (turkey) calling much.  What few times I tried, years ago, seemed unfruitful, and all I kept doing was losing the striker.  I had a call with me now, but only a stick to strike it with. 

 
The tom distant to the right gobbled.  Since the other birds had apparently left, I decided to try. 
 

The tom gobbled back at my effort.
 

I tried some more, with response.  Sweet!

 
I got a bit bolder!

 
And waited … gun steadied in the direction I supposed the bird would appear.

 
Another tom had gobbled off to my left, but the bird on the right seemed to be the interested one … so my attention was focused right … peeking along the edge of the winter wheat field ... ready!

 
Colder by the minute.  Temps in the thirties, with wind, and near a hundred percent humidity.  I took deep breaths and let myself shiver, and managing to keep from sneezing and coughing.

 
I heard a weird clucking behind me, to the left.  Dang!  A tom was out in the field, dashing back and forth, looking for me.  My gun was pointed the other way.  He had the look of, “where the hell are you?” He took back to the timber, then back to the field, … back to the timber, back to the field.  Then he headed over the shallow rise.  All I could see was his head, or not …  I managed to pull my gun into cover, and emerge with it aligned his direction.

 
With all I could see of him as his head … I took the shot. 



 
The 3-1/2 in. turkey load roared his way.

 
I did it!  My first bird calling!

 
And with hearing aids!

 
 

 
 
 
S.H.

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).