Oct 26, 2014

Squirrel Hunting - Frederick Watershed

What a beautiful day yesterday was.  Temperatures were in the low 60s and a steady wind blew the leaves all about.  I got out of bed late, but still made it to the Frederick Watershed by 9:30 to hunt squirrels and scout new deer hunting area.  The watershed is my favorite place to hunt because it's just so beautiful.  The terrain is rugged and features a lot of exposed rock with dense patches of mountain laurel strewn throughout it.  Yesterday morning, the sights I saw were absolutely stunning.  The forest was a whirling sea of yellow, orange and red leaves.  It was a beautifully noisy day in the woods, with the crunching of leaves underfoot and the sound of the leaves clipping branches on their way down to the forest floor.  I sat at the base of a tree to watch for movement over a valley below.  Twenty-five minutes later, I realized I had fallen asleep.  This isn't the first time this has happened; it's funny, but it's just so easy to do when you're comfortable in the woods and beauty is all around you.
I love finding stuff out in the woods.  Whether it be an old dumping ground full of old bottles and cans, an automobile, or even a unique or interesting tree.  This time I found a hunting blind/fort.  The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) prohibits leaving personal tree stands or blinds up, overnight on public land.  As a way around this, hunters build blinds out of natural materials.  I've come across several blinds while hunting the Watershed, and I take advantage of them (See this post for example).  Though this one was over the top.  However, based on what I found inside, I think that this may be more of a "fort" built by local kids, rather than a hunting blind.  Or maybe a hunting blind, overrun by local kids.  You decide.  
Whoever built this blind, used the existing rock cave to maximize the inside space.  They even built a fireplace and chimney into it!  There were random items stashed in the cracks and crevices of the rocks.  Among them I found an arrow and a recurve bow; it's string made of bailing twine.  I also found frying pans, a broken pair of binoculars, a handmade pipe (haha) and a bottle of rum.  
On this hunt, I carried my Rock Island Armory, Mig 22.  Although extremely accurate, I really need to mount a different scope on this rifle.  The length of pull (distance from the middle of the trigger to the end of the buttstock) on this rifle is so short that I cannot mount my current scope, far enough forward.  I am constantly having to back my eye away from the scope.  I'll have to do some shopping around to find a scope that can be mounted farther away from my eye.  It's important to note that the Mig 22 (pictured above) is a .22.  It is not an AR-15.  Although the similar in form, it is still just a semi-automatic, .22 rifle. (Like the Ruger 10/22 for example)  Some people see this rifle and I know that they think i'm some sort of nut-job hunting squirrels with an "assault weapon".  Please, do your homework folks.  THIS IS NOT AN AR-15.
As usual, my hunting trips turn into photo opportunities.  I took a couple of photos of a compass that Debbie bought for me last year.  We found this in an antique store in Gettysburg.  It was labeled as a World War I, US Army Aviator's compass, though I have a hard time believing this.  I don't think the US had much of an Army Air Corps during WWI.  I may be wrong.  But, to say that this compass was issued exclusively to pilots; I highly doubt.  I will have to do more research.  Regardless, this is an excellent compass, and coincidentally, is the same type my father carries in the woods.

Hunting with Dad

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get back home to where I grew up in Sherrill, NY.  I had a great time visiting family.  In fact, the purpose of the visit was to attend my sister's annual wine & cheese party.  Her parties have become something that I Debbie and I look forward to each fall.  Never have so many wonderful cheeses and wines come together under roof.  I suppose, the same can be said for the people who attend.

Just like last year, I took my double barrel and was able to squeeze in a few hours, bird hunting with my father.  Of all of my hobbies and interests, I must say that hunting with my father is, hands down, my all-time favorite thing to do.  I suppose this is because my father is such a genuine woodsman.  The woods are really his natural habitat.  As a kid, he taught me so much, out in the woods; about the critters out there, their sounds, their habits, and how to find them.  It was and still is, fascinating to me, how much he knows about the outdoors.  So, I jump at the chance to get out hunting with him, we have some good talks and fun times.  
And as luck would have it, I actually got a partridge this time.  I don't think I've seen or shot at one of these since I was in high school.  When I flushed him, he flew off to my left and I put a bead on him. I missed him with the first shot, and was glad that I had another barrel ready to fire.  I thought he was too far away for the second shot, but took a chance anyway.  Down he dropped!  My father and I were both really happy about it.  It had been so long since one of us actually got a bird.  We don't hunt nearly as much as we used to and nailing that partridge was a real delight!  
My father gave me a quick refresher course on how to clean the bird.  I had forgotten how stinky they are.  The longer you wait to clean the birds, the worse they smell.  Nevertheless, he made quick work of it, and before long, we had the bird sitting in a pan of salt water in the fridge.  This helps to draw the blood out of the meat and remove some of the gamey taste.  The next day we bagged the bird and packed it in ice for my drive back home to Maryland.
When I got home to Westminster, Maryland, I rinsed the bird, quartered it, dipped it in flour and fried it in olive oil with some onions.  It came out perfect.  I paired it with a bit of homemade marmalade I had recently made and a glass of local strawberry wine.  What a meal!  

Oct 4, 2014

Squirrel Hunting - Patuxent River State Park

Squirrel season has been open since early September. I held off from hunting them until this morning. Early-season squirrel hunting is difficult with all of the leaves on the trees; it's hard to get a clear line of sight through all of the foliage. But this morning, I could wait no longer. I took my Marlin, 17 caliber rifle and trecked over to Patuxent River State Park. It was a damp, rainy morning, and while I saw a lot of wildlife, I saw no squirrels. What I did see was a young hawk.  He, silently, glided through the forest and perched himself on a branch about 15 feet away from where I sat. I watched him clean himself for a few minutes, before he noticed me, and flew away.  I also saw a couple of doe that were bedded down in some dense brush.  Were they in season, and I had the right gun, I'm sure I could have taken one.  But the coolest part of this hunting trip was spotting an eastern box turtle. His shell was a perfect camouflage of yellow and brown but his bright orange head and legs stood right out.  This turtle was really awesome! I've found shells in the woods before, but never have I seen a live box turtle. He, of course, tucked into his shell when I knelt down to take a closer look at him.  What a cool looking turtle.  He has red eyes and orange stripes on his head and legs.  I picked him up for a closer examination and was amazed to see that, unlike the red-eared turtles I used to catch as a kid, he could totally encase himself inside his shell.  With his head pulled inside, his bottom shell shuts, similar to the cargo door on a C-130.  A little reading about box turtles, taught me that their bottom shell is hinged to allow for total protection.  Neat!