Saturday, November 14, 2015

Politically incorrect

I stopped at the beer store last weekend when I was up at Schlongie's cabin. More on the whole trip later, but the sign on the door made for an easy, quick post. I wish more businesses operated like this.

P.S. I bought a case of CenTexTim-approved Shiner Bock, which was goddammed delicious. The only problem is that up here, it costs about the same as a case of several good craft beers, which is more up my alley.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fall in Pennsyltucky

I'm sure I've mentioned on these pages before about the beauty of our fair state in the fall season before. It's literally like livin' in a kaleidoscope. We're on the tail end of things now, but here's some pictures I've taken along the way the last few weeks. I didn't touch any of them up, because (a) I didn't take the time, and (b) it still wouldn't do it justice....

Monday, November 9, 2015

PA huntin' success

With our Colorado elk huntin' trip consumin' most of my time and thought up until mid-October this year, I really didn't do too much of anythin' at all related to huntin' around home.

Somewhere in that batshit craziness though, Tater and I were able to make plans for what has become our annual foray for ducks at the farm. In what was almost a repeat of last year, we set up the pond, and waited in the dark as ducks poured into it. Once again, our shootin' left a lot to be desired, but at the end of the day we came away with a trio of woodies and a pair of teal. The company was good, and the B.S. was flyin', so all in all, it was a mornin' well spent.

After our mornin' duck hunt, I loaded up the truck and headed up to Ron's to get some freezer meat.

A little back story here... Pennsylvania has an early muzzleloader season for antlerless deer, and you can use these newfangled inlines. You might as well give me my .30-06, as accurate as these things are. The deer are still in their predictable late summer patterns and haven't been pressured, so essentially, they're still dumb (for lack of better description). Basically, if you're competent enough to get within 200 yards of where they have been comin' out regularly, it's about as close to guaranteed meat as you can get.

I generally like a little bit of challenge when it comes to huntin' deer, but the deer are extremely overpopulated up there, and several of the farmers that give us permission each year are completely fed up with the amount of crop damage they experience. With that in mind, I had no qualms about takin' the inline out and helpin' the cause. I was able to take two mature doe out of the population in as many evenin's.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I still hadn't had any hunts with a bow in my hand, outside of a few quick sits behind the house after work. I finally had a day off on my schedule, and with the peak of whitetail rut approachin', it was time to be in a tree. Havin' had plenty of excitement in the rut at the farm over the years, I headed there and climbed in the same tree that I took my buck out of last year.

I saw a few deer early, but that was 'bout it for the mornin', sans a careless groundhog that showed up around mid mornin' and a great blue heron sneakin' down the creek.

Around 2:30, I had just finished bangin' out my post about our elk hunt when I heard some crashin' to my right. I looked down, and a scant five yards away was a doe, pantin' hard and lookin' behind her. I immediately panicked, because I was slouched down in my stand, and wasn't even remotely close to bein' ready to shoot. Hell, I didn't even have my release strapped on. Sure enough, I heard a grunt behind her, and followed her gaze to see a good buck about 25 yards behind us. Somehow, I managed to get stood up, get my bow in hand, and fish my release out of my pocket and into my palm without gettin' busted. He turned and headed down the same path the doe took, and I was able to get a good arrow in 'im at about eight yards. It wasn't my best shot, so I called Joe and gave the buck time to expire. A few hours and a short track later, we made a quick recovery of what turned out to be a much bigger buck than I thought he was. He even had a big non-typical point on the left side at the base, and some other junk stickers. I was damn near speechless when I walked up to him. I've been waitin' a long time to shoot a buck worthy of a shoulder mount, and this'n was it.

A stop at the stuffer was in order on the way home.
I'd made the decision a few weeks ago to not hold our annual Bowhunter's Weekend this year, which was not an easy decision to make seein' we've been doin' it for ten years. Instead, I'm now hangin' out at Schlongie's family huntin' cabin in Fulton County. With no more deer tags left in my pocket, I'll be spendin' the weekend tryin' to find some turkey and grouse, and hopefully draggin' out a buck for Schlongie or one of his uncles. Either way, it's the best time of year in PA, and there's no place I'd rather be than the woods.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A little bit of elk huntin'

It's a slow day in the deer woods, so I'm gonna take the opportunity to catch up a bit until Mr. Bones shows up...

As I eluded to earlier, I was fortunate to find success on my first trip to elk country. It wound up bein' some of the hardest, but fun and fulfillin' huntin' that I've ever done. If you're part of the TL;DR crowd, might as well head back to Facebook now. If you're up for a huntin' story, grab a beer and keep readin'.

Since Joe and I flew in and arrived at camp in the dark, I decided to stay at camp the first mornin' to see the sights. I was not disappointed... our camp was right on the top of the hill, overlookin' the valley below. I was treated to a first-class sunrise, then grabbed some grub and split some wood until the ol' man got back from his mornin' hunt. Then it was time to get my gear together and let the hunt commence.
Sunrise from camp.
Our modest accomodations for the week.
We spent that afternoon and the next day at our buddy Robert's favorite huntin' grounds. They'd had success there a few weeks prior in the bow season, but Dad's fleeting glimpse of an elk a few hundred yards away that first afternoon was the only fresh sign seen. The old sign was there, but the elk no longer were. The views were intoxicatin' though, and I put down quite a few miles as I explored that section of mountain. 
The "Ol' Man's Hole", as our buddy Robert calls it. It's close to
the truck, and has been very good to him over the years.
This tree was about 3" diameter, and
was broke about 8' up. Elk in the
rut take no prisoners.
A few views across the valley.
Some of those aspen trees get the damnedest bark markings...
Dad's second day spot.
The third day, Dad, Joe and I decided to explore a different area. En route, Joe got distracted by a stream full of native trout, so we yanked off the road and let him catch a few. He decided he was gonna stay there and fish, so Dad and I pushed on another couple miles and found a decent hill to hunt for the afternoon. Dad decided to stay near the truck, so I found the tallest hill nearby and headed for it. I found some fresher sign on my way up, so I kept goin' the whole way to the top. I found a nice meadow up there, and was rewarded when a cow and a calf stepped out at 150 yards just before dark. To finally see an elk in the wild after years of waitin' literally sent chills down my back. My trip was made then and there.
Joe, with a beautiful native brook trout.
The view from the top... 11,300ft.
It's a little hard to see, but there's an elk calf in the middle of the
picture. The cow had already gotten behind the trees.

For day four, I was gonna fly solo and go explore a promisin' area I'd found on the map. Dad was headed down to the water hole below camp, and Joe was goin' explorin' in a different area. I was just gettin' dressed when I heard Dad's .300 RUM sound off twice. Sure enough, my phone range a few seconds later. He'd intercepted a herd of elk, includin' a nice bull, as they were leavin' the water hole. He felt certain he'd made a good shot on the bull. I headed down, but after over an hour of searchin', it was apparent that he'd done no damage. I'd have given anything for Dad to take a bull on this trip, so I'm not sure who was more dejected. We sulked around camp for a few hours, then I went down the hill to town for a bit, then went explorin' while Dad got drunk. Day Four was definitely the shitty day of the hunt.
I snapped a few pictures on the way to and from town. Of
course, I had to ge the obligatory Park Service sign.
Not exactly roads that you want to misjudge...
With only one day left to hunt, I decided I was goin' to try my original Day Four plan again. Again, it was another uphill climb, but I was tickled when I got to the top... Lots of meadows with patches of pines scattered about, and several water holes around. The first water hole I encountered had reasonably fresh elk tracks in it, which did nothing to hinder my enthusiasm. The whole place just looked "elky". With a plane to catch early the next mornin', I decided I would explore for a few hours, the sit on the waterhole until early afternoon, then call it a hunt. 

I picked my way slowly across the top, glassin' as I went. The backside of the hill led down into a rocky, deep ravine, and I wanted to stay on top. So naturally, it came as no surprise when I nearly stepped on a handful of elk, and they promptly headed across the rocks and toward the ravine. Although I knew they were long gone, I decided to go to the ledge they'd disappeared over and have a look. I was startin' to see fresh sign, and the whole area smelled like elk. For the first time on the hunt, I felt like I was gettin' close.

As I was glassin' the rocky bowl below me, I heard what sounded like an ol' Holstein bawlin' down below me, and it sounded reasonably close. Seein' that there were no bovines in the area that I knew of, I suspected that my quarry awaited me, so I pressed on. 

The next bowl down was empty, but I could see another one a little further down. I decided I'd have a look, but if that one was empty, I was headin' back up to before I got to far down the ravine.
One of many rocky bowls that led down into a large ravine.
I crept down and glassed the bowl, but there was a large section that was hidden. I started to circle around to glass the hidden part, when I heard the unmistakable sound of runnin' elk. I scrambled back to the gap in the trees I'd just vacated, and sure enough, a herd of elk was runnin' through the bowl, about 150 yards below me. The big bull was leadin' the way; I threw my gun up and tried to get on him, but it was too late. Meanwhile, cows were pourin' through, well over 20 by my rough count. I had just about given up hope when I saw two smaller bulls bringin' up the rear. I picked out the larger of the two, and my trusty Remington 700 .30-06 barked just as the bull slipped into a small patch of trees. Several seconds passed, and the bull stumbled out of the other side of the cover and went down. His head was still up, so I quickly sent what proved to be an unnecessary finishin' shot. Just like that, the hunt was over, and the work began.
It was about 9am when I pulled the trigger. Although I was two miles from the truck, I reasoned that I had all day to get him out, so I decided not to mess up anybody else's hunt. I composed myself, got changed into lighter clothes, and started cuttin'.
This is a zoomed-in view from where I shot. you can see the
elk layin' in the middle of the picture.
This was the bowl where the elk were hidden.
Naturally, he came to rest between several rocks and an old
log, which made the butcherin' process a bit tricky.
My first elk. Hopefully not my last.
Three hours later, I had a bare skull and three bags full of delicious elk meat, ready to be trucked up and over the mountain. I stashed the meat in the shade, strapped the skull to my pack, and headed for the truck to get my frame pack. Two more round trips later, I arrived back at the truck just after dark, thoroughly whooped, but as satisfied as I've been in a long time. I never did get a chance to weigh everythin', but I'd guess I took between 175-225 pounds of meat off the mountain that afternoon.
Everything bagged up and coolin' in the shade.
Jesse bought me this pack for Christmas
ages ago. I do awful things to it, and
it just keeps on tickin'.

All told, I'm glad that I didn't get anythin' until the final bell. It gave me time to enjoy the best of what Colorado had to offer. Huntin' out there is a completely different ballgame to what we're used to out here. No traffic noise, no dogs barkin', no nothin' except for whatever noise Momma Nature wants you to hear. Every direction you look makes you want to drag your camera out and snap pictures, which I did plenty of. And although I'd have given my bull ten times over for the ol' man to have connected, I'd be lyin' if I said I wasn't thrilled by havin' the chance to take a bull on my first trip out. It was truly an experience I ain't likely to forget soon.
My final picture from the trip. Dusk as I headed down
the mountain with the final load of meat.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Body Count '15 - #16 & 17

I thought I was gonna be done at 15, so I'll take a few bonus hogs for the year.

I was passively eatin' lunch the other day before I left for the farm, when I looked out the window and noticed a whistlepig doin' the same. I put an abrupt end to that nonsense. 

Fast forward to this mornin', which was the first legitimate time I've gotten to spend bowhuntin' this fall. There are squirrels everywhere, so when I saw a gray shape movin' a scant 10 yards from my tree, I initially mistook it for a big squirrel. Luckily for me, I carry a "beater" arrow just for occasions like this.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Western success

I got back from the Promised Land just in time to launch straight into my "hell" week at work, so suffice it to say, I'm way behind on postin' shit.

That said, I have a good story to share in a few days when I free up some time, and some bone to back it up. My first elk hunt was a success beyond my expectations, and that was before I even pulled the trigger.

Stay tuned, y'all.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Go West, young man

I ain’t sure how I ain’t gotten around to sharin’ this yet, but then again, I been so damned busy all summer that I ain’t had much in the way of quality posts about anythin’.

But, I digress.

The ol’ man and my brothers are members of a huntin’ club down in Maryland. It’s not a land-ownin’ club, but they organize a few travel hunts every year, and because they already own the equipment and have the connections, it can usually be done on the cheap. We normally just go to the club meetin’s to socialize, eat and have a few beers, but when they started talkin’ about a Colorado elk hunt a few months ago, I saw Dad perk up a bit. A western hunt for the mighty wapiti has been at the top of both of our lists for a long, long time.

Apparently, there are four rifle seasons for elk in Colorado. The first season is bull elk only, with no other concurrent seasons, so it’s not as desirable as the others when you can hunt mulies and goats at the same time. The licenses for the first rifle season are plentiful, and it was almost a guaranteed draw. Dad and I talked about it on the way home that day, and a few weeks later, made the decision to put in for the draw and give it a shot.

A few weeks later, the draw results came back, and it was time to start plannin’. There were some leftover tags, and Dad decided that if Joe could get the time off from his new job, we would take him along for his college graduation present. The stars aligned for him as well, so we were set to go. The only thing that would have made it truly perfect is if Jesse could have swung it, but with three young'ns runnin' around, there was just no way he coulda swung it.

Needless to say, the last few months have been hectic as all get-out, with almost every free minute dedicated to gettin’ everythin’ ready for this trip. While I’ve been on a western hunt before, that was a fully-guided deal with all of our needs taken care of by someone else. This trip will be unlike anythin’ else we’ve ever done. We’ll be in guide-style canvas tents on public ground, at a much higher altitude than I’ve even been, to boot. I usually don’t stress about anythin' too terribly much, but I’ve been runnin’ my feeble brain ragged the last few weeks, makin’ the last minute preparations and hopin’ I ain’t forgotten anythin’.

So now, after months of plannin’, it’s just about time to head out for our dream hunt. Dad and six other fellas are drivin’ out early Tuesday mornin’. Joe and I don’t have as much vacation as them old bastards do, so we’re gonna let the TSA have their wicked way with us as we take a plane to Denver on Friday mornin’, where we’ll rent a ride and head to White River National Forest to meet with the rest of the fellas.

The tags and equipment have been purchased, guns have been shot in, boots have been broken in. I’ve spent the last few days packin’ everythin’ into the war room, and we loaded up the trailers this mornin’. Everythin’ is purty much taken care of aside from the gittin’ there. Now, I just gotta push through a few days of work, and then we’ll be on our way.