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!



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. 






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


Somewhat to my surprise … it did not.




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.


 ... two birds down on the other side ... looking for the third.

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!


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.