Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First snow of the year

Three to six inches in our local area. This is about when it started fallin' last year... hopefully this year ain't as bad, but who knows.

I love snow. I just hate drivin' in it and shovellin' it.

Gone huntin' (and workin')

The way my work schedule's laid out, I more or less have a "heaven" week and then a "hell" week. I'll work five 12-hour shifts in seven days, then only work one 12-hour shift durin' the followin' seven day stretch. There's a smatterin' of milkin' shifts and bar shifts thrown into both of those scenarios which also make life interestin'. Regardless, I run myself into the ground with work for a week, then run myself into the ground chasin' adventures the next week. Hence, the reason you don't see nearly as much from me here as you used to. It was a helluva lot easier to keep this blog up when I made my livin' in front of a computer....

Anyway, November is purty much one of the best huntin' months of the entire year. The whitetail deer rut usually peaks in the first week, durin' the tail of our archery season. Then it's on to Bear Camp, our annual Thanksgivin' mornin' waterfowl hunt, then Deer Camp. Sprinkle in a mix of pheasants, rabbits, ducks and geese into the mix, and you got one helluva busy huntin' month. Work is merely a nuisance that keeps me outta the woods a few days a week.

Now that everyone's stopped readin', I'll get to the good stuff.

I had to work the Tuesday after Bowhunter's Weekend, and then I had two more days off before my "hell" week began. Since it was the final week of archery season, I planned to spend both days in a familiar stand at the farm.

Wednesday yielded plenty of deer, but no legal buck. I got to enjoy yet another beautiful sunrise, so not all was lost.

Thursday mornin' was about the same, although I had a very close encounter with a beautiful pair of red foxes that were eye-level with me at less than five yards. I did manage to unstring an arrow at one at about 20 yards, but wasn't able to anchor it. While I was down retrievin' that arrow, I decided to move my stand about 60 yards, which turned out to be a good plan.

On a side note, I was sittin' there for damn near three hours before I discovered my little brother's bow hook, forgotten in a tree less than five yards in front of my face. Seems Joe and I both thought this to be a purty good spot.

The rest of the mornin' passed uneventfully before a hellish sleet storm moved in. After sittin' through that for over an hour, the deer started to move. Before long, a nice buck ran a doe right under me, and I finally managed to get him stopped. He took the 100-grain muzzy right through the boiler room at 40 yards... it was a better shot than either of us deserved.

Between the cold and the adrenaline, I was shakin' uncontrollably, so I got myself outta the tree before I fell out. I found my arrow, and a short 60-yard track led me to a piled-up buck. With 90 minutes left in my archery season, I'd been blessed with a little bit of luck.

He's a young deer, but my best archery buck. He'll make for a very nice euro mount. I may even get froggy and try the power-washer method, as recommended by CenTexTim.

On another side note, I became an uncle again a few hours after I shot my buck. Jesse's wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the wee hours of Friday mornin' I was purty much on Cloud Nine all day Friday after all the excitement.

And, of course, the best part of gettin' a fat ol' deer is the obligitory tenderloin feast a few days later. Some folks are weird and put 'em in the freezer, but not me. Those delectable little morsels are usually enjoyed within 72 hours of the harvest. A little Old Bay seasonin', some pepper out of the grinder, and fried in butter beside some sauteed mushrooms and onions.... some damn good eatin' right there. Enjoy with a rum and coke for better appeal.

Durin' the gaps of the followin' hell week, I was able to get the buck cut up and in the freezer, so when I finally came up for air, it was time to go huntin' again.

First thing's first, Joe and I hit up the range last Friday for some trigger therapy, and to make sure our deer rifles were ready to go. On the way home, we stopped at a local gun shop and found a right purty Mossberg 835 12-gauge. Joe's buddy Batts had been lookin' for the right deal on a good pump gun, and this was it. The next day, with new gun in hand, the three of us headed for the local game lands to try to score a pheasant. With the very first pull of the trigger, Batts put down a beautiful rooster with his new gun. That was our only action that evenin', but it was still a nice tromp through the switchgrass.

Monday mornin' found me up at Bear Camp, ready to do some chasin' with the gang. I damn near stepped on one durin' our first chase, but the mountain laurel was so doggone thick that I never was able to see the bear. I'd guess he was within seven yards when he busted out, so the ol' ticker was definitely tickin' for a few seconds. We had four good chases that day, but that was our only action. Those boys are a helluva lotta fun to hunt with, and although I only made it up for one day, I had a great time.

So, tomorrow mornin' will find the Ol' Man and us kids in a duck blind somewhere, as we do every Thanksgivin' mornin'. Then, Dad and Joe will be off to Deer Camp, with Jesse and I followin' the next weekend when doe season opens.

It sure is a busy time of year, but it's damn near the best time of year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pennsyltucky foliage

We live on a right nice back road that is heavily wooded and doesn't see too much in the way of traffic. With the turnin' of the leaves in the last few weeks, the pilgrimage home from work has been rather pleasant. On a particularly nice day a few weeks ago, I jumped on the bike specifically to ride a half-mile up the road to take this picture. The lightin' ain't quite what I wanted, but I'll take what I could get.

I'm a day late and a dollar short on this post, as most of these purty leaves have long since been on the ground. There's still a few hangin' on for dear life though, so I'll enjoy it while I can.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bowhunter's Weekend '14

We were tryin' to figger out how long we've been gettin' together for Bowhunter's Weekend, and we think this may have been the tenth year. Go, us!

As always, it was a hellva good time amongst good friends. It's a good thing the food was excellent and the beer was cold, because the deer whooped our asses this year.

We had a handful of folks out on the river over goose decoys, and they came back with a pair of honkers. We also had a handful of turkey hunters out and about, but all they had to show was a collective three whiffs. The rest of us were bowhuntin', and while there was several close calls for most of us, and a pair of whiffs by the ol' man, the only deer to come back to camp was arrowed by the camp rookie. My girl's brother Josh and his girl Lauren made the trek north. On her first trip to camp, Lauren showed the rest of us up by bringin' back a fat button buck, her second archery deer.

Bowhunter's Weekend is prolly my second favorite weekend of the year, behind the Spring Gobbler opener. It would certainly not be so without such a great group of friends, and the ridiculous generosity and patience of our camp host, Ron.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm not dead

Just busy, and half the time, when I do get the urge to post, my ol' PC gives me a hard enough time that I just give up.

In the meantime, the 2014 Bowhunter's Weekend is upon us. I think damn near everyone took tomorrow off, as camp is packed already.

Stay tuned for pictures of deceased and delicious critters...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More ducks

When I was a kid, I cut my teeth on duck huntin'. Sometimes I get so busy chasin' deer and partakin' in the rest of life that I forget how much I really enjoy it.

After Tater and I got into the woodies on the creek last week, I decided I needed to get a little more duckin' in my system. When we jump-shot the pond after our creek hunt, there was more than a pile of 'em on there, so I shot Tater a message to see if he wanted to set up the pond on Friday. He was game, so plans were made.

We made it to the pond with plenty of dark left to get set up. We'd been screwin' around on the pond bank for almost five minutes, when all of the sudden there was a helluva commotion along the opposite bank. We stood in awe as a gaggle of geese lifted off of the pond, some flyin' right over us. The sneaky bastards hadn't made a sound until they took off.

Once we got back to our senses, we chucked the duck blocks out into place and got ourselves situated in the weeds along the pond bank. Within minutes, we had ducks lightin' on the water, but it was still plenty dark, so we stood motionless and watched.

Fifteen minutes later, we had over 30 ducks hangin' out on the water right in front of us, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could handle the poundin' in my chest. Shootin' light had arrived, so we decided it was time to turn the shotguns loose. A few embarassin' moments later, we had three ducks down. Not our best shootin'.

A few minutes later, a handful of teal buzzed into the outer edge of the decoys. Another barrage landed us only one more duck... definitely some questionable marksmanship.

To add insult to injury, we managed to lose track of two of the three ducks we'd initially knocked down. I ain't sure whether they made it to the edge of the pond and hid in the thick shit, or managed to lift off the water while we were shootin' at the teal. Regardless, I don't like losin' birds, and that situation was rather discouragin'. We picked apart the pond edge for a half-hour, to no avail.

After the teal, the mornin' turned slow, so eventually we wound up hangin' out in front of the cover, just shootin' the breeze and enjoyin' the mornin'. Sure enough, we got caught with our pants down by a pair of mallards. I was within grabbin' distance of my shotgun, so grab it I did. The hen committed, and I dropped her in the decoys, then caught up with the drake as he passed overhead. He required a few clean-up shots, but we eventually got the job done.

That was the extent of the excitement for the day, but it had already been a helluva day. We collected our stuff and got gone.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Turkey Call Auction

I've been wantin' to post this for a while, but it kept gettin' shuffled to the back burner. I'm finally gettin' caught up...

I may have mentioned my tendency to hang out on the forums on a regular basis. I find 'em to be a great source of information for just about anythin' huntin' related, and Pennsyltucky huntin' in particular. There's also tons of stories and pictures from successful (and not so successful) hunters in our state. There's also a lot of interaction within the membership, both online and in person. Overall, it's purty tight-knit for an online community.

Rick Harro, an HPA member and one of many great turkey call makers in our state, recently found out that one of his neighbor's daughters was battlin' leukemia. With the help of the HPA community, he put together an unusual fundraiser back in September to help out; a turkey call auction.

Anyone that knows me knows I have one helluva weakness for turkey calls, so I knew that I'd be goin', come hell or high water. It'd be a good chance to help out a local family, scratch my itch for turkey calls, and it would also be a good chance to meet some of the fine folks that I converse with on the forums.

I managed to connive Spanky into drivin', and Tater met us there. Let me tell ya, Rick did an awesome job of puttin' the whole thing together. Pennsylvania is home to many of the best callmakers in the country, as evidenced by the piles of awards that come back to PA from the call making contests at the annual NWTF convention. Rick managed to get donations from a staggerin' amount of 'em. Not only that, but he got donations of artwork, knives, firearms, gift baskets, and other huntin' related accessories. To sell it off, he snagged a celebrity auctioneer from Barrett Jackson. There were piles of food and drinks that were donated by local stores to cater to the couple hundred bidders in attendance.

Many of the call makers that donated were in attendance, so I more or less wandered around in a daze for the first hour or so, just in complete awe. When I finally managed to pry my jaw off the ground and utter a few words, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy most of them were to talk to. They all had a story to tell, and most had a few jokes up their sleeves as well. Most of the call makers and bidders were excellent turkey hunters as well, and they were willin' to offer up some sage advice. I wonder how many longbeards have been collectively tug over the years by the folks that were at that auction? It has to be a staggerin' number.

The auction itself was quite a show. I love to hear a good auctioneer, and it was plain to see how that fella came to work for the likes of Barrett Jackson. He was excellent at engagin' the audience and gettin' those extra few dollars from the stubborn bidders, and was quick to crack a joke here and there.

I bid on several call and a few pieces of artwork before I finally pulled the trigger and won a fine wingbone yelper made by Tony Ezolt of Kutztown, PA. I've been admirin' his wingbones for a long time, and I was ecstatic to finally have one of my own. Now I just have to learn to run the damn thing...

I won the lower call... a fine piece of artwork, for sure.

Tater bid for and won a beautiful runnin' pot call made by Austin Botts of Jim Thorpe, PA. He had to leave early, so I picked it up at the end of the auction. Let me tell ya, after runnin' that call a few times, it made it very, very hard to relinquish it back to Tater the other mornin'. That's one good soundin' call.

Of course, Miranda and her family were the guests of honor. One of the highlights of the day was call maker Andy Snair, of Rockhill, PA, presentin' Miranda with one of his beautiful custom wingbone yelpers. It was very emotional for the family, and purty movin' for the bidders. I think I must caught a piece of dirt in my eye about that time... started waterin' up a bit.

Rick's goal for the auction was to raise $5,000. After seein' the quality of calls and the number of bidders in attendance, it was no shock to me that the auction raised more than $11,000.

I had a helluva good time, and it was a great way to burn a September afternoon.

Hat tip to Tater for most of the above pictures, since I was too busy yappin' to take many pictures of my own.