Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wanted (the movie)

Just finished watching Wanted. I have to say it was a pretty cool and entertaining movie! If I could teach myself to shoot like those guys hunting would be a breeze!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scouting 1-18-09

For the past several days Wytheville Virginia had been gripped by a cold front unlike anything residents had encountered in many years. For some areas the single digit temperatures may have seemed like a warm front but for those of us that live here it seemed like we had packed our bags and moved North. Most of the days had been fairly calm but when the wind blew, and the chill moved in to the negative, our bodies felt something that we were not accustomed to. Scouting had not been something on my mind until earlier in the cold spell when my girlfriend informed me that she and my son would be visiting some of her family Saturday morning. Knowing it would be very cold I wasn’t necessarily excited about traipsing around on a ridge top where the wind would be constantly blowing but when you work a full time job and have a family you don’t have always have the option to pick and choose when you’ll scout, you just have to be ready to hit the ground running when the time becomes available.

The extreme cold front that had swept through the area for days had finally moved out and the day of January 17, 2009 had warmed up to a blazing hot 11 degrees. The first chance I would have for post-season scouting was going to start out with acceptable weather and I was happy for it. A lot of people would be wary about heading to the woods on a day that would not be exceeding 20 degrees but I knew if I kept moving and layered correctly that I should be able to stay warm enough to get by ok. The Ford F150 started after a crank and a groan or two but didn’t seem to be too happy about it. I cranked the heat up inside it and went back in to the house to finish my final preparations. After sufficient time for the truck to warm up I headed down the road to get to the area I was going to scout. Upon arrival I readied my gear, took a deep breath, and then hit the trail moving as fast as I could to warm up my body temperature. Knowing I wouldn’t set foot back on the property for quite some time I wasn’t worried about spooking the wildlife, they would have plenty of time to settle back down before next hunting season began. Being as the weather was so cold, I guess, I was lucky that the trail was entirely up hill for the first half a mile or so. By the time I had reached the ridge top that I would be walking and scouting my body had warmed up and most all of me but my cheeks were fairly warm. I had forgotten to grab my balaclava from the truck so my cheeks were going to have to endure the wind throughout my entire time there. It was time to get tough or get out.

The old trail that runs across the ridge top is a mixture of the clean and neat, and the wild and unkempt. Walking along I searched for any and all sign of how the deer were using the area. I looked for rubs, scrapes, droppings, and anything else I could find that would help me understand what the animals were doing. As I looked for sign I also tried to imagine how I would react to things if I were a resident of the area. Would I cross under or around a fallen tree, would I go through the over grown brush to the left of a certain rise or to the right. Knowledge is the key to unlocking the secrets to the wildlife kingdom and while I was out I wanted to glean as much of it as I could. Another reason for the trip was to document as much of it as possible with photographs. Recently I had bought several new camera accessories that would allow me to do so and I was excited about giving it all a try. A lesson learned is a lesson learned though and I learned that all of the cool accessories in the world are useless when you forget to pack spare batteries. After I had taken just a few pictures I realized that documenting the trip the way I wanted to was out of the question.

The path itself is a road that seemed to have been cut through many years ago. My belief is that it was cut and well maintained for many years but over the years whoever maintained it started maintaining less and less of it until no one was currently keeping it up. The first half-mile to a mile of the path is pretty clear and easy to travel but as you go back further it gets thicker and thicker until the trail completely disappears. It’s a pretty hot location and I know that I’m not the first person to discover this as there are countless old and dilapidated stands scattered throughout the landscape. The newest one is an older ladder stand that was probably put up in the late 80’s or early 90’s but I could be way off base. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the actual owner of the property so almost all I know about the area is from scouting and guessing.

While the trail may be starting to grow up a bit it’s still beautiful in the way it cuts through the landscape and beautiful in the way it shows a lot of wildlife use! There are a enormous amount of large rock formation on the top of the mountain and the way the trail winds through them and the way the trees hug the trail creates many postcard type scenes. Again, I would love to have the pictures to prove it but it just didn’t happen on this particular day. As the trail grows thicker the buck sign grows thicker as well. However, I wasn’t too pumped up about it for two reasons. The first reason is that all the sign indicated smaller bucks. That is not such a bad thing though as smaller bucks can become bigger bucks if they are allowed to grow. The second reason is a little tougher, the wind is pretty constant in the way it blows and it’s going to make it very hard to hunt. I have a few ideas on how to handle it but to be honest it’s going to take a little luck. I may have to just leave the area alone and only hunt up there during the rut.

Traveling for about two hours I had covered quite a bit of territory, had frozen cheeks, and a lot of information to use in the future. Then it was time for one of the outdoors greatest pleasures, at least in my opinion. Lunch. That’s right, lunch. One of my favorite things is going deep in to a secluded area of the woods and sitting down to eat. Nothing tastes as good indoors as it does out of doors, and nothing tastes quite as good as it does until you’ve had a long walk before eating it either. A tree had fallen over in a clear spot and it provided me with a perfect place to sit and lay out my lunch. The spot I had found was also shielded from the wind and it allowed me to lie out all of my food and not worry about chasing it all over the mountains as well. As I sat there eating and thinking about my life everything seemed so perfect! My family is great, and healthy, and I’m living out my dream! I’ve always loved the out of doors and I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Everything seems to be coming together so well in my life and I count my blessings for sure! The meal went down so well and the Vienna sausages, crackers, and water may as well have been a gourmet dinner!

With lunch out of the way and time ticking away until I had to be home I headed back toward my truck. The scenery was no less beautiful on the way out and to make sure I learned more and kept from getting bored I took a slightly different route out. I really didn’t learn much more until I got nearly back to the field that I had entered through. I elected to take a shortcut out and discovered several deer trails that I never knew were there. I really don’t feel that they are being used much late in the season but I wouldn’t be surprised to see deer using them as the year goes on. I got back to my truck and enjoyed hopping inside its wind shielding, comfort. I drove slowly out of there very happy with the fact that I had braved the elements and had a great time learning more about an area that I will be hunting again next fall.

The walk had been a lung searing, leg pounding adventure at times, and a leisurely stroll at others but it was constantly fun. There is nothing like getting out of the four walls that constantly seemed to have us trapped and going for a stroll. It doesn’t have to be a mountaintop or even in the country. A walk around town can sometimes be every bit as liberating as traipsing trough the deep woods. Walking does something magical to the mind, it seems to somehow bring all of life’s problems in to focus and I often do my best thinking while my legs are moving one in front of the other. A walk is always a thing of beauty and I recommend that everyone take one as often as possible. That reminds me, I think it’s about time for another walk of my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Every day I think about hunting. At least one thing about hunting crosses my mind constantly its such a multifaceted sport that there is always something to keep you from getting bored. Is it a healthy obsession? I think in the long run it is. As long as it’s not interfering with the rest of your life, (i.e. family, job) then I personally believe its ok to have a hunting/outdoors obsession. I work for Mossy Oak and the companies tag line is “it’s more than a passion, it’s an obsession”, and I believe that’s true for quite a few of us. I like the fact that there are so many varieties of game to hunt and so many variations of ways to hunt them. I sometimes get bored easily but there is always a different challenge when it comes to hunting. Take whitetail hunting alone, even if you only stand hunt think of the different things that go in to that throughout a year. Just listing a few things that can go in to it in a year that pop in to my head… scouting, stand hanging, food plots, shed hunting, and actually hunting. There are many things within those groups as well, there is after season scouting, in season scouting, late summer scouting and much more. There really is no cause for an outdoorsman to get bored. There is always something to do to feed the obsession.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January Lull

I’m enjoying my “time off” from hunting. Having a good time, relaxing and spending time with the family, is hard to beat. I’m trying to allow myself to unwind and not push myself. However, I just can’t help it, I can’t stop obsessing over hunting. Post-season scouting and getting ready for spring turkey season sometimes just takes over my mind, especially at work. It’s not that I don’t love, appreciate, and enjoy my family it’s just that there is room in my life for all of the above, and I thank God for it! In another week, maybe two, I’ll to give in to those primal urges and head back out in to the jungle, but until then it’s “Easy Street” for me!

If you have some “downtime” in your life right now I hope you are enjoying it as well!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tony Dungy

I’ve never been much of a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. One of the few times I actually pulled for them though was against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI It wasn’t that I didn’t like or respect the Bears or Lovie Smith, it was that my respect for Tony Dungy as a man and a coach was so great.

Tony Dungy is one of those rare human beings who put others before themselves. He never seemed to be in to coaching for the wrong reasons and all of his players seemed to love him and be better for having played for him. I read somewhere that he enjoyed fishing, I’m not sure if he hunted, but I would be more than happy to share any outdoor adventure with such a fine man. Not many people leave the NFL to devote their lives to serving others. Tony had an incredible football career, and I wish him an even more successful post football career.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mike Hanback and Other Outdoor Celebrities

I’ve always felt that hunters and the outdoor community in general are some of the best folks out there. In all my life, my dealings with outdoors people have almost always been pleasant. With any group, of course, there are bad apples. Too often those bad apples in the outdoor community get all of the press and give the rest of us a bad name. I feel that it is my duty to highlight the good part of our community and today I want to focus on “hunting celebrities”.

I participate in various forums in my spare time and I enjoy learning from and conversing with fellow outdoorsman. However, sometimes I’ll read a “horror” story or two about dealing with a “hunting celebrity.” I can’t say that I have a tremendous amount of experience dealing with the hunting “upper crust”. I can say though that every single one of them that I have met or talked too, are some of the best people I’ve ever dealt with. When I meet or talk to someone in their position I expect them to sometimes be too busy to talk with me or fire back an email. Much to my surprise though despite the number of people seeking to speak with them they always seem to take the time to meet and speak with everyone. I understand that not everyone has had the great experiences that I have had but you have to put things in perspective. These people have such tremendous amount of drains on there time. They have to hunt, attend shows, deal with sponsors, deal with producers; editors etc, and still make time for their families and, of course, their fans. If I had to deal with all that they do and still have a smile on my face every time I met someone I’m not sure if I would do as well as most of them do.

As an example of how “hunting celebrities” differ from the norm… today I sent an email to Mike Hanback. At work, they have asked us to put in for our vacations. I’m trying to figure out when the best week(s) will be to take off and Mike seems to be a guru of the rut. Not expecting a quick response, or maybe a response at all, I sent an email asking Mike for advice. I was truly astonished when I got a reply from Mike himself in response to my question not five minutes after I sent it. It probably isn’t a big deal in the big scheme of things but with all of the negative press mainstream celebrities generate I thought it was a nice chance to show that the hunting community isn’t like that. Mike is a big enough “celebrity” that he doesn’t have to answer his own “fan mail” but it’s refreshing to see that he does and that he actually responds to it in a timely manner. Hunters and outdoors people are a great group and I think that it’s time the rest of the world recognizes this and gives us praise instead of criticism. That’s just my two cents for the day though.

I hope you all had as good a weekend as I did hanging out with the family and watching football. I get so caught up with hunting that I sometimes forget some of the other simple pleasures in life. Take care!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I've Made the Big Time!

I feel like I've made the big time now! I've been reading Mark Taylor's work for quite sometime now and much to my surprise I actually made his blog! I sent him an email recently backing up the words of another one of his readers and he posted the email and a picture from one of last weekends hunts! It's a real honor to be featured along side of some of the great hunters he regularly features. The people who normally appear on Marks blog are great hunters and great people and I'm not sure how I got thrown in to the mix, but it sure feels good!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Late Season Muzzleloading Success Again!!!

On January 3rd I was in the woods and headed to my stand area nice and early. I was moving slow but steady and had just started up the logging road toward my setup spot when I heard a deer snort and stomp off in to thicker cover. I wasn’t happy about it but the distance between where I was and where I was going seemed large enough that I didn’t let it discourage me too much. It was the last day of the “2008”, technically it was 2009, deer season and I was determined to enjoy my last day. It was a great morning, cold, foggy, and sprinkling rain. For some reason I love being out in the rain and especially snow. The morning did have a cold bite to it but I knew if I kept going and made it to my stand in time I may have enough excitement to keep me warm. I got to my stand before it was light and got set up. I knew there had been human travel in to the area recently so I thought the deer would come by my area bright and early, or not at all. I sat there for almost two hours and I was really starting to wonder if I would see anything, when I caught movement about 25 yards away. I looked up and right in front of me was a doe. I was standing about half behind a tree so I quietly and slowly slid my body further behind the cover. The deer kept walking toward me until she was about 10 yards away. She was so close that I just knew she was going to spot me. She looked right at me twice but never figured out that I wasn’t part of the tree, thanks to Mossy Oak’s new Treestand pattern! She was not presenting much of a shot and was looking my way so much that I didn’t have a chance at getting a shot on her. It was only a matter of time before the wind swirled and she caught my wind so my heart was pumping fast. I finally got the break I was looking for when she turned to her left and started to feed up the hill. I raised the Traditions Pursuit II, found my spot, and pulled the trigger. She pulled the neatest back flip ever and was dead before she hit the ground. I was happy to have another deer and happy that she had died quickly and easily!

Shot this one at 15yds on the ground wearing the new Mossy Oak Treestand pattern and using a Traditions Pursuit II muzzleloader.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mossy Oak Treestand and Traditions Firearms Come Through Again!

Due to a late start on January 1, 2009 I was heading to my stand site when the light was coming up in to the sky. I generally like to be up my tree by this time but I figured that it was better to be in the woods late than it was to be watching TV on the couch. I was on National Forest with my pack and climber on my back looking for the right tree in an area that I had recently found on a scouting/hunting trip. I guessed that the deer would be coming through later in the morning and that I would have plenty of time to find a tree when I got to the ridgeline I was heading for. Knowing it was light out though I was taking my time and still-hunting to the stand so that I wouldn’t get busted. Much to my surprise as I neared the ridgeline area I was headed for I noticed movement coming my way. A group of deer were going to be passing by my stand site before I had a chance to arrive there. I looked around and found an opening that they would be going through where I would have a good shooting lane. They were above me and I was pretty sure my camo would keep me invisible to them if I just stayed still and calm. The first deer approached the opening and as I peered through my scope I realized that the deer were further back on the trail than I had thought and I didn’t have an ethical shot. I decided to let the group pass and then set up a stand and hope they made it back my way that evening. However much to my surprise a small group started coming down the ridge and were going to be passing by me on the right. I made a few quick adjustments and then found another opening. When the first doe came through I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and pulled the trigger! She went down instantly and I was happy to have finally pulled the trigger on my new muzzleloader! I got her worked up as quickly as possible and my family and I have been enjoying her delicious bounties every since!

It was a cold morning and I was tired and for various reasons running behind schedule. I could have gotten frustrated and through in the towel for the day but I decided that being in the woods and enjoying the beauty of nature was the best place for me that morning. I knew I was heading to a spot that the deer were moving so my optimism put me in the woods. The old saying you can’t kill a deer if you’re not hunting holds true again!