Oct 27, 2013

Muzzleloading - Frederick Watershed

I like to carry this simple compass I picked up in Japan.
Yesterday marked the last day of muzzleloader season here in Maryland. I was in the woods from 7:00am to 11:00am, at the Frederick Watershed.  I took advantage of muzzleloading this year because it got me an extra couple of weeks of hunting. In those two weeks, I got out three times; better than nothing I suppose. Still; no deer! Why is it that I nearly tater deer on the way to and from work, but when I go out early in the morning and hunt in their true habitat, they essential vaporize? Its not like I’m doing anything incredibly wrong. I’m not sitting at the base of a tree playing the harmonica and smoking stogies, hoping something happens by. I’m as quiet as a mouse and careful of my scent. Oh well, what can I say? I have fun out there, attempting to best the cunning and elusive white tail.   We'll see how the regular rifle season goes.   I really do enjoy myself out there and the scenery was beautiful as usual. Temps were in the mid 30’s, but I was quite warm. I picked up a pair of insulated coveralls which are really comfortable and warm. It’s nice not having to wear long johns under my pants with these. Instead, I just wear my pants and when I get to where I’m hunting, I slip on these coveralls. I also snagged a pair of three-finger, military surplus mittens. They’re warm as hell and keep my trigger finger free to move.

Oct 25, 2013

Video Friday

A friend sent this video to me on Facebook and I found it to be, both funny and pretty much spot on.

Oct 20, 2013

Deer Hunting - Eastern Shore

Thursday afternoon, I left work and drove out to Maryland's Eastern Shore. It was the opening day of deer season, for muzzleloader, and my friend Phil had invited me down to his camp, which he fondly refers to as "The dump". This is my first season hunting deer with a muzzleloader. With the regular deer season in Maryland being only two weeks long, opting to hunt with a muzzleloader gives you about three more weeks’ worth of deer hunting. You may recall that Phil is the one who picked my muzzleloader up for me a few weeks back; a simple but nice .50 caliber, inline rifle made by CVA. He’s been a strong supporter of my movement into the realm of black powder hunting. Needless to say, I was glad when he invited me down to his camp where more than a few big buck have been taken from his 70-acre plot of woods. 

I reached the camp around 5:00pm. The camp has character; a dingy old trailer sat proudly at the end of the double-track driveway. A handmade (welded) wood stove made from an old piling, stood next to an old picnic table. Yellow well pump wiring made its way from the trailer, out to a nice gas generator tucked off to the side. A spreader hung from a yardarm that showed signs of years of use. I’d learn later, the number of deer, and the stories of their demise, that have hung from it in the past. Phil’s good friend Tommy was milling about the camp, gearing up to head out into the woods for the evening hunt. He greeted me with a warm smile and a firm handshake. I learned quickly that Tommy was “good people”. I hadn’t had a chance to get to the range to sight in my rifle but Tommy helped me laser-bore site it the quick and dirty way; turns out it was pretty much “on” already. So, I geared up, and followed Tommy’s directions back into a nice tree stand overlooking some hardwoods on the edge of a field. When the sun had set low enough that I couldn’t see my sights, I climbed down from my stand and made my way back to the trailer.
When I got back, the generator was humming and the camp was nicely lit. Christmas lights on the trailer added a certain savoir faire to the whole redneck ambiance. We all cracked open beers and sat around the fire sharing stories, jokes and having a good time. Debbie had baked one of her classic treats; a chicken pot pie, and given it to me to bring to camp, so I cut three slices, wrapped them in foil and heated them up on the wood stove. It was delicious; really hit the spot! By 10:30pm I was pretty well pickled and ready for bed. We all turned in. I opted for the couch which looked really comfortable, but lacked any type of cushioning and felt much like I’d imagine sleeping on a ladder would feel. Hard rungs pressed into my shoulders, hips and feet; still I drifted off to sleep with ease. 

The next morning we were all out in our stands before dawn. Squirrels were everywhere, yet I did not see any deer. I quickly became used to the scurrying sound of squirrels in the leaves, yet perked up every time they would pounce slowly from one spot to another; a sound similar to the gate of a deer. After a few hour of watching the squirrels I pulled my .22 pistol from my game bag and loaded a round into the chamber. They were getting closer and closer to my stand and I figured and easy shot at one of them was worth taking. I ended up shooting two of them; one through the head, the other through the shoulder at about 20 yards. When I got back to camp, I cleaned them, put them in a zip-lock bag and threw them in the cooler.

After running in to town for lunch at a diner, Phil and Tommy wanted to get a little maintenance out of the way while we were at the camp. The plot of land they own is quite dense. Thicket and brush make it tough-going, but the land was logged in 2007 and the old logging roads serve as a means to hunt the whole place. Several trees had fallen and need to be cleared in order to keep the roads mowed and manageable. So, we took the chainsaw and the tractor back in to the woods and took care of business. All was going well, until a hydraulic line on the tractor blew, covering Tommy with oil. It was the supply line used to raise the bucket on the front of the tractor. A little redneck ingenuity, a rubber glove, zip-ties and some duct tape had the line patched up good enough for Tommy to high-tail it back to the camp before the bucket lowered all the way to the ground!

The rest of the day was spent cutting firewood, firing a new .308 I had just bought and generally relaxing until the evening hunt. That hunt, went much like the one in the morning; lots of squirrels but no deer. No deer that I could see, that is. I would not be surprised if deer walked past me in the dense brush. But it was still great, just to be out there. I always seem to find something neat walking through the woods, be it deer antlers, a bird nest etc. This time, I found a small wood turtle shell. Things like this just make the whole experience great for me. Though my rifle held a charge and a bullet I hadn't fired it over the last two days. Before leaving Saturday morning, I fired my muzzleloader at a target 60 yards away. It hit 1" high of the bulls-eye; good enough for me! I really enjoyed myself and the company of Phil and Tommy at the camp. Phil summed it up best when he said “We don’t always get deer down here, but we have a hell of a good time!”

Oct 15, 2013

Hunting with Dad

Myself (left) and my father (right).
This past weekend I drove to my hometown of Sherrill, New York and got to hunt with my father. On Saturday morning we went out for partridge in Deerfield, just north of Utica. This is a spot that my father hunted as a boy, and where he took my brothers and I when we were growing up. In the past, Deerfield was always good for a bird or two and the occasional rabbit. Its landscape is comprised of old apple orchards, fields and patches of pine and hardwoods. Small cricks meander through the valleys between the fields. I flushed out one partridge but couldn’t put my eyes on him in time to get a shot off. I also kicked out a woodcock and a couple of deer; one of which was a buck. We came across a Garter snake who was stretched out on the bank of a small creek, sunning himself. We thought for a minute that he was hurt or dead until my father reached down to touch him. Shortly thereafter, we became very certain that the snake was indeed alive and did not care to be touched! I was really surprised that we didn’t see more birds here; the old apple orchards we hunt are completely loaded with apples. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful breezy day with temperatures in the 70’s. I rolled my shirt sleeves and took off my hat several times to cool down. Leaves fell constantly and the wind produced a steady “woosh” through the trees. We sat at the top of a hill, overlooking a meadow and shared an apple, while we talked about guns, previous hunts, how my father’s uncles were upset that he had scheduled his wedding on the opening day of deer season back in 1964 and other random things. It was great.   (Click here for a gallery of photos from this hunt!)

Mr. Porcupine.
The next day; Sunday, in the afternoon, I went up north, past Utica to Forestport, New York. I wanted to do some hunting in the Adirondacks while I was home. Something I hadn’t done since high school. My father stayed behind, this time, to spend some time with my oldest sister, Kate, who was visiting. Although I was alone, I was so glad that I still went up north. Hunting is one of my favorite things to do, but hunting in the Adirondacks is completely amazing and brings the trill of the hunt to a higher plane. There is nothing like it. Fifty feet in to the woods I came across a porcupine who scurried up a tree and waited for me to pass by. I have only seen a porcupine once before. They’re darker than I remembered; almost all black except for the ends of their quills. He stood out like a sore thumb, against the yellow leaves of the birch tree, he so fearfully clung to. Numerous little red squirrels scurried about as I made my way through the forest; constantly startling me into shooting position (Those little squirrels must have a death wish). About a mile later, I came across the Black River and a fantastic little fishing hole. It was a warm day, probably around 80 degrees, and I was tempted to jump in for a swim, but thought I’d better just keep moving; there was lots to see. A while later, I found myself looking down into a deer meadow, with wavy tall grass flowing with the breeze. After scanning it for deer, and the surrounding ridges for foxes, I walked down into the meadow and made my way slowly across its center. In doing so, I saw something white, and moved towards it to investigate. Kneeling down, I realized I had found a deer skull with a tiny rack. This is the second one of these I’ve found in the last two years. I tossed it in my game sack and decided to head back to the truck; the sun was starting to set. It was another great day in the woods, with beautiful sights, sounds and smells. I met my older brother Jim at the Wigwam for a couple of beers before heading back home. The Wigwam is an old tavern; a land mark really, known for the tail end of a piper cub stuck in its roof. The inside of its log structure is decorated with saw blades, propellers, skis and topographic maps of the surrounding mountains. It was the perfect watering hole after a few hours out hunting in the Adirondacks. Classic!  (Click here for a gallery of images from this hunt!)