Deer Season 2017: Part 2

So very long overdue; here is part two of my 2017 deer hunting story.

After my primitive camping and hunting experience at Glen Elder State Park in November, and my trophy broken nose, I continued to hunt the private property belonging to my friend, John, to no avail. Except for a hind-end and my son’s doe; the only deer I saw were on my Moultrie game camera. But jumping in to save the day, like Marines do, the great veterans at Veterans 4 Veterans Outdoor Adventures planned a guided hunt for me out in Republic County.

My hunt host, and lodging host, Josh presented me with many great opportunities on my hunt weekend. Josh, a Marine Corps vet, took me around Belleville for a tour, showed me the Rocky Pond Christmas Lights Display which was initiated in 2010 as a community event, and introduced me to his father and some other folks who helped out on my quest to harvest a deer. Josh’s daughter was also sweet in volunteering to stay with family so I could bunk down, literally, in her bunk bed. When I arrived Friday night, I met up with Josh and his dad at Bel-Villa Family restaurant, a friendly diner where the wait staff know customers by name. After dinner, Josh and I sat up until midnight talking about hunting and military service, and then grabbed some shut-eye before arising in the dark of morning to get started on our hunt quest.

The first location, where we watched the sunrise, was on private land, with permission, where Josh’s father had shot a buck just a few days earlier. We didn’t see any deer, but spied a gorgeous, chunky coyote at 200 yards or so, just sitting around watching the sun rise also. Later we headed to a different location, also private property (that’s pretty much all there is to hunt in Republic County; so, it pays to know someone who knows someone…), and Josh and I set up near a tree line, facing a field, where the intended deer was supposed to exit from a bedding area to our right, once nudged by Josh’s dad. Sure enough; the most gorgeous 10-point buck I have ever seen before me (possibly the only 10-point buck I’ve ever seen before me) came trotting out before us at about 180 yards. He stopped a moment but then took up again and I endeavored to make a moving shot.

This is where the bard-worthy adventure story comes in. You see, rather than hunting with my trusted Browning .270 bolt action rifle that I’ve used every deer season since I began hunting, I decided to use my new camo Savage Arms 30.06 that I received for my life membership in Whitetails Unlimited. I’d zeroed the gun on the range before, so I thought, and figured it would be fun to use my engraved, kick-ass rifle. What I didn’t consider was the extra weight, the possibility of making a moving shot (which Josh had educated me on doing properly), or the unknown factor of a loose scope. I also hadn’t considered the kick the larger rifle had, and the impact on my habit of choking up on the scope.

So, there I was; in a lawn chair instead of a hunt stool, trying to twist my body to follow the very handsome buck, while aiming my rifle balanced on my Bog Pod, with my face up against the scope to eliminate the dark ring around the outside of my vision area in the scope, taking my first-ever 180-yard shot. Bam! The round flew just over the buck’s haunch, who – believe it or not – dropped his hind quarter to avoid the round, and the scope slammed into my face, at the bridge of my nose, drawing blood from my forehead and my nose and leaving me punch drunk. You’re never too old to be punch drunk for the first time.

Josh knew the rifle scope made contact with my already-ethnically-large nose but wasn’t aware that my nose had been broken or that I was minorly concussed with loss of balance and coordination, and headache. He excitedly hurried me through a thicket of dead feral cannabis (ditch weed), which I also became trapped in, in order to set me up on the other side of the tree line where the 10-point buck was going to exit as part of his escape route. I endeavored to set up and steady the rifle on my Bog Pod, still not realizing the scope was loose on it’s base and therefore not truly zeroed, and I aimed at the buck, this time 300 yards away. I’d never shot 300 yards, as I’d only just shot 180 yards, but I took aim for the front of the deer, just forward of his shoulder in case my shooting was a tad off, and… Bam! My round went just over the buck again, sending him scurrying on his way; and slamming the scope back into my broken nose. Josh did a marvelous job of supporting my efforts, and we agreed that I should have made both shots. That’s when he inspected my rifle and realized it came from the factory with the scope improperly mounted. That’s also when we both realized my nose was truly broken, after not having fully healed from the first break in November (when my Doc had said, in no uncertain terms, “Don’t hit your nose again.”).

Off we went to a friend’s place, a fellow hunter, whom Josh and his father knew fairly well. There, Josh fixed my scope, re-zeroed my rifle, and off we went to hunt some more; this time with the friend and some of her family. It was the first time I’d ever gone on a group spot & stalk; however it didn’t work quite as I was expecting, and didn’t lead me to a harvest. By late afternoon, Josh and I decided to go it alone and we headed back to the first property we’d hunted at sunrise. Unfortunately, or fortunately, some friends of the land owner had taken over the place Josh was going to guide me to, so instead we walked along the ridge of the small canyon, on the East side. As we moved inland, some mature does ran off, but we didn’t let that dissuade us. As we paused to take a break and assess our next move, we spied a doe off in the distance, about 200 yards or so. “She” also spied us and moved into the brush to assess for danger. I set up the rifle on the tripod and waited. Finally, the antlerless deer headed back to the area where it been grazing on some corn (corn on the cob). Josh and I spoke about whether or not I wanted to harvest this antlerless deer, and I decided I truly did. A deer harvest provides meat, whether or not it’s a trophy buck. I sighted in on the antlerless deer….

Bam! This time I hit my target; and Josh was very excited for me, exclaiming, “Yes, that’s how it’s done!” What a difference a steady scope makes although… as I continued to unknowingly choke up on my scope, I again hit myself in the face. Keep in mind; at this point we still don’t realize how it is I keep hitting my face with the scope, though I was three for three so far that day. The deer went down, but then in an odd turn of events, started rolling on it’s back, flailing its legs in the air. Then the deer got up and moved into the tree line in front of us. There was visible blood all over the ground so Josh and I had no doubt I hit the deer, but to make sure it didn’t get away injured we packed up and headed around the other side of the tree line to cut the deer off from any escape. That’s when I came across it, lying under a tree with no energy to move, but not at all dead.

As we approached, we both realized that deflecting off my nose, jarred my shot to the right, and instead of hitting the deer in the kill zone, where I was aiming, I shot it in the neck. As I took aim with my rifle at close range to dispatch the young antlerless, Josh filmed me; which is how we learned that my face had been consistently too close to the scope and, and as I fired one last time, the scope came back slamming into my face, making me rock on my heels. Upon getting up to the deer, Josh and I realized that it was a button buck, with knobs protruding barely a quarter of an inch from the deer’s skull.

We finished field dressing Buttons, as I named him, and began dragging him out as huntset came. Josh wanted to take me back out Sunday morning to try again, still searching for a trophy buck (keep in mind, a trophy buck to me is anything with actual antlers); and we went out for a couple hours until the hunt was stopped dead by a flat tire on Josh’s truck. And apparently, GM/Chevy went out of their way to make dropping the spare as agonizing and time consuming as possible. By the time the tire was changed, I requested that we end all hunt activities and, instead, return to Josh’s place where Buttons was hanging around in the shed so Josh could show me how to fully dress down a deer. It was a great learning experience; and I was able to take home meat the way I wanted to, instead of ending up with over 50% of my harvest as ground meat, as when the processing plant does it. I even got to bring home venison ribs, which the meat locker refused in the past to give me, “because there isn’t enough meat on them,” and have since quite enjoyed tasty Buttons ribs!

Driving the two hours home, with coolers full of venison, I mused that G-d saw fit to answer my prayers in the most unexpected way. I had prayed to finally harvest a buck this year, and though my mind’s eye saw a 6-point or better, I did manage to harvest my first ever buck in the form of a button buck, which counts as an antlerless deer. None the less, upon field dressing Buttons, Josh and I did have to remove his tiny testicles; thus, demonstrating that prayers are answered, but not always in the same way the prayerful is intending. When Josh was showing me how to butcher the deer, he mused that I should keep the skull and do a European mount, to hang beside my future bucks as proof of my first-ever buck. I realized that if I didn’t, I’d come to regret it; so, Button’s skull remains frozen in my meat freezer waiting for the day I have my own yard and can bury the skull for a natural cleaning.

My 2017 deer hunting season provided many firsts and many adventures for sharing. Though not the first-ever time my nose has been broken (that’s an honor belonging to a husky-chow mix I had many years ago), it certainly was the first-ever time I’d broken my nose twice in a one-month period, and the first time I’d ever hit myself in the face with a scope while hunting – four times in one day! It was my first-ever buck, albeit a button buck, and my first-ever time being punch drunk. Stay tuned for 2018 deer season… where I will stick with my Browning .270 bolt action rifle, when not hunting using my Parker Bows Challenger crossbow.

And as if to prove that the tale I’ve shared is true; my nose starting aching mid-way through the writing of this adventure….

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Changing Perspectives Through Hunting

Since I began hunting almost three years ago, I’ve come to recognize something special, different, about myself; not so much about me as a person, but a shift in my perspective and the way I view the environs surrounding me. Take this evening for instance; as the Flint Hills of Kansas comes off several days with a heat index over 100 (heat category 4), the evening sky is blanketed in grey storm clouds. The temperature has dipped to 80 degrees as thunderstorms move in. The wind whips the tree-tops like intoxicated dancers at a nightclub. I took my labbie-girl for a walk just a bit ago in order to take care of business, and as we strolled along the chain-link fence dividing the apartment complex from the woods beside Fort Riley I found my gaze staring off deep into the timbers, hoping to spy a whitetail deer. For just a moment I could feel autumn beckoning, inching ever closer, even if only in my mind; but I swear my body responded ever so slightly to the thought of autumn asserting itself in summer’s place.

To passersby I may appear to be walking in a daze, or with my head in the clouds, staring off instead of focusing on where I’m at and where I’m going. Yet other hunters, obsessed as I am with the opportunity to be nestled in the bosom of Mother Nature, likely understand and behave the same way. Harvesting an animal during a hunt is the sweetest frosting on the cake; but just experiencing G-d’s creatures in their natural habitat is the thrill.

On several occasions now I’ve gone predator hunting; most specifically for coyotes. I recently paid off and picked up a Savage Arms 22-250 that I placed on layaway at Bud’s Guns and Ammo for just such a purpose. In keeping with my desire to be an ethical hunter, and a decent shot, I took my new rifle to an outdoor range (Sportsman’s Acres – part of Geary County Fish & Game) to zero it at 100 yards. Then I hightailed it out to my friend’s property where I have had multiple coyote encounters over the past several years, and listened to the chorus of coyote song. I just had to get out to hunt in between spring turkey and autumn deer season.

The first time I went out, it was still early spring and the temperatures weren’t too bad. I had never called in a coyote but had watched some shows on Outdoor TV on the topic, so armed with my deer call, I set out to call in a yote with a fawn-in-distress call. By the end of the first day it was I who was in distress, as my calling hadn’t even impressed the crows. That was June 8th. I went again on June 30th while my son was visiting with his wife. I had watched even more hunting shows to prepare; purchased coyote urine, and multiple calls (coyote and jack rabbit) in order to up my game. The crows seemed quite impressed with my son’s rabbit-in-distress call, but the coyotes were nowhere to be found. We did experience the thrill of nature, however, when we moved locations and a big whitetail (likely a buck without a full rack yet) fussed at us and sounded the alarm. Later we saw a beautiful reddish-colored doe with big floppy ears high-tailing it away from us as we walked back to my truck. My friend John, on whose property we were hunting, said the doe, whom he named Floppy, has been perusing our vegetable garden and will come within 5 feet of John.

On July 8th, after my son and daughter-in-law had begun the second leg of their honeymoon – road-tripping to Alaska, I went out in the evening predator hunting, with the hope that I’d fare better later than I had at sun-up. But alas still no coyotes; but my hunt was redeemed with another sighting of “Floppy.” (Check out my son & daughter-in-laws travel blog: http://www.globalcrusades.net)

Even my appreciation for the common pigeon has been increased since I joined the ranks of American hunters. Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved animals. There was a time I even contemplated becoming a veterinarian, until I realized math and science were an integral part of medicine. Yet now that I sit for hours and watch birds, bugs (though I’m still not a fan of bugs), and other assorted creatures in their natural habitat, I have developed a greater respect for nature. So when I found a pigeon nest on my balcony a few months ago I provided a domicile for the pigeon to lay eggs, raise her squabs, and then enhanced my patience as I waited for the squabs to grow up and take flight, and move on. Of course, as with all creatures’ big and small, pigeons will do what pigeons will do… and the female squab-grown up, content that my balcony was her home, made her own nest, laid eggs, and now has two squabs of her own. I can’t help but be in wonder of their little “feed me” chirps, and the mama pigeon’s fulfillment of her squabs’ desires for food. This is the stuff found mostly on Nat Geo, not within inches of one’s view; yet I have now watched the ritual of pigeon parenting twice. *I absolutely do plan on reclaiming my balcony after this go-round though; I have wood-working projects to complete… once I scrape the bird crap off my pallet.

There isn’t a field I drive past or a wooded area within my view that doesn’t beckon me to search longingly for a deer or other critter. While “normal” people drive on by, oblivious to the world around them, I spy does feeding on leaves with their fawns, wild turkeys strutting, and assorted woodland creatures in action such as rabbits and squirrels. Non-hunters might consider my perseveration on wildlife a sign that I thirst with blood-lust and care not for our natural world… but au contraire;  I am more educated, more concerned, and more active in conservation now than I ever was as a youthful armchair member of Greenpeace, reading about the exploits of the Rainbow Warrior. Though my mind may imagine a successful hunt, it is the appreciation of the beauty, the wildness of the whitetail deer and such that I observe, and the wonder I feel in the gift of being a part of the habitat that nurtures their very existence. When I can walk the path a deer walked, and read the wildlife news of the day through tracks, scat, and scrapes; then I feel as close as I possibly can to being One with nature.

But had I not sought the way of challenge, of hunting, of following my arrow (straight to its target)… I would not have the perspective on nature that I have today. Had I not found my courage, and my friend John, I would still be a sideline conservationist; admiring the life spirit of nature from my sofa, instead of from my hunting stool in the woods.

Shooting Savage

Resting my Savage Arms 22-250 on my new Bog Pod at Sportsman’s Acres shooting range.

Squabs Deux

Pigeon squabs waiting for mama pigeon.

Yote Hunting

Predator hunting with my son (Savage Arms 22-250 and Browning 270)

Harvesting Patience, but Dreaming of Deer

Here in Kansas we’re almost a full month into deer season; black powder and archery. One of the best investments I made as a hunter was my Parker Challenger crossbow. With the exception of this weekend, which is pre-rut rifle for antlerless deer, there’s no rifle hunting until December. Having the ability to hunt with a bow, in my case a crossbow, is indeed a blessing. It is also a boon because it allows me to extend my hunting area from my friend’s private property to the adjoining Fort Riley woods (with my Fort Riley hunting permit) which are archery only.

This is my third-ever deer season. My first, in 2014, gained me a doe harvest using my crossbow. Last year, I tagged zip with my crossbow but harvested a doe during extended rifle season in January 2016, with my Browning .270 bolt action rifle. So far this season, I have accumulated over 42 hours of hunting… and haven’t even seen deer, let alone had a chance to aim at any. The few experiences I have had, have been completely auditory; foot fall beside my blind in the dark of the morning, does bleating in the woods, and bucks snorting on either side of me but refusing to show themselves.

Up to this point, my hunting experiences look more like a camo fashion spread, made up of myriad selfies in the various hunting outfits and make-up designs I’ve donned. I even have a ghillie suit in order to more stealthily hunt on the Fort Riley side, and to have increased options in the woods, yet thus far I have only dressed to impress myself.

Granted, up to this morning, it has still been somewhat warm outside. The proof is the multitude of mosquito bites I’ve gained when I’ve forgotten my Thermacell, or forgotten to bring replacement butane. This morning, however, seemed beautifully autumn-like; a chill 45 degrees outside with low morning fog rising toward the tree tops. I was very surprised that I saw no deer today. This afternoon it was typically warm again, in the mid to high 70s, and I opted not to hunt; less because of temperature and more because I ended up in a foul mood which I suspected would negatively impact my hunt.

I suppose if I want to be assured to see deer I should wash my truck, and bring only my rifle to the blind tomorrow morning. I have held off washing my truck each weekend thinking I would tag a deer and get blood in the bed of my Ford, thereby needing to wash it again. And this morning, to be doubly prepared for either sex; I hauled my rifle and my crossbow into the blind and propped each up on a shooting stick. For four hours I balanced my crossbow and my rifle on their respective sticks, just waiting for either a doe or buck to grace me with its presence.

About mid-morning, the wind picked up just a tad, but only high above the canopy, causing the highest most leaves to stir like a deer walking through the woods. I was intently peering through the foliage in front of me trying to spy any deer that may come through when I suddenly saw something sandy-brownish moving. For just a second my mind saw it as a deer slowly and purposefully walking toward the tall-grass meadow. My heart became blasted with adrenaline and my hands went tightly around each weapon, not knowing if it was a doe or a buck. That’s when I realized it was strategically placed tall-grass blowing in the wind….

Tomorrow morning I’ll be back out in the blind, though I don’t know that it will be any different than this morning. The temperature should be about the same; good for deer, but not necessarily compelling. I’ll haul out my rifle and cross bow, and sit patiently waiting for a deer, any deer, to come out in the open. Thinking I was going to hunt this afternoon I left my backpack and my shooting sticks in my blind, so I’ll need carry only my weaponry in the darkness. I will wear a jacket this time, as this morning I opted for a vest over a hoody and a long sleeved shirt, and I ended up shivering on my stool and thinking about hot coffee.

Hopefully tomorrow will be THE day. My goal this year, as last, is to harvest more than one deer and to finally get a buck. However, the loftiest goals must still start with a single step. Many steps and 42 hours later, I keep going out into nature, with my crossbow in one hand and my hunting tag in the other. If nothing else, I am becoming a successful student in the art of perseverance and patience….

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First Harvest of the Season: Finally

It’s 05 December 2015 and we’re half way through the two week rifle season for deer here in Kansas. And this morning I harvested my first deer of the year. It only took me about 105 hours of hunting to do it….

It was about time, I have to say, because my lack of a deer harvest had begun to cause me anxiety! And I had become obsessed; which anyone who hunts would agree is a natural state. In all seriousness, I have been waking from sleep to thoughts of hunting, dreaming of hunting, and I awoke in the middle of the night last night to a dream that a doe was running toward me. I scrambled to find my hunting gear only to awaken from the dream realizing I couldn’t find it because I was dreaming, yet upon awakening my heart was beating out of my chest! Given the dream, it came as no surprise to me that I harvested a doe this morning.

Although the doe was not running toward me, and in fact was clueless to my presence 25 yards from her, I did end up scrambling to sight in on her. You see, as with so many times before, I was looking down at my phone. Rather than being on Instagram, however, I was texting my massage therapist for an appointment. When I am not intently reconnoitering the area with my eyes, the deer show up. Recently I watched a television show or movie in which someone told the main character that if she really wants to find something, she has to stop looking for it, and it will show up. The “message” came after a day of hunting and I took it to heart. What I found is that the message rings true. When I stare my eyes out of my head searching for a deer, none show up. Once I relax and stop trying so hard, I have deer encounters. Such as with Threeper the buckling, back in November.

The doe I harvested this morning at 0900 wasn’t the first deer I saw today. At about 0800, while facing toward a field the deer are purported to enter the berm from, I happened to look over my right shoulder to see a buck on the other side of the berm, running away. I couldn’t spin around fast enough, given his quickened gait, but it gave me the impetus to seek out a different placement upon the berm; one in which I could still see the field and corridor atop the berm that the deer use, but also gave me a direct shot into the other side of the berm, where the deer travel and live.

I remember praying and asking for a blessing this morning; as the wind was blowing 15-25 MPH creating a wind-chill that was cutting through my body like a knife. I really wanted to retreat, but knew that I had to stick it out, sensing I would get a deer finally, and knowing if I left the hunt this morning, I’d feel the need to return this afternoon. There I was about to text my massage therapist about an appointment when I had the sense to look up. I call it my “Spidey sense.” I saw the doe…. My rifle was already resting on my bi-pod with the safety off. I let my phone drop to the tall-grass, and I set my scope cross-hairs at the doe’s kill zone. Oddly she was in a herd of does, but at the time I didn’t see any of them but her. I had tunnel vision. I aimed and I squeezed the trigger. It was my first deer with my Browning Medallion rifle, a beautiful bolt-action .270 that my step-father had gifted me years ago in hopes that I would hunt with it.

In an instant, I heard the crack of the rifle firing the round. The shot rang in my right ear for about 10 seconds. The doe bolted into the woods and up a hill covered in trees and brambles, running with the other does in her herd. That was the first time I realized there were other deer; about four others. I grabbed my backpack, with my knives, camera, and baggies for the heart & liver and headed for the blood trail. My shot was a kill shot, hitting the top of her heart, but her adrenaline must have been pumping in overdrive, because she made it to the top of the wooded hill, just before the Kansas River, leaving one heck of a blood trail on trees, limbs, and leaves as she ran.

My friend, John, on whose property I hunt, was also on the berm, in his blind, about 25 yards to my left. He knew his hunt was officially over at the sound of my rifle and together we followed the blood trail to the top of the hill. As he returned to his blind for his chest saw and such, I field dressed the doe. I had done much of the field dressing last year, on my first-ever deer, but this year I did the whole messy thing myself. I was, and am, very proud of myself for doing a thorough job, and keeping the stomach and bladder intact while removing the guts. I harvested the liver, and the heart which had only been hit at the top, and when I am finished with this essay shortly will make my dinner of fresh venison liver and eggs. My stomach says I had better hurry. The thing about hunting for me, is that I don’t eat or drink. I had one egg at 0600 this morning and nothing since but a latte from Starbucks. It’s almost 13 hours later….

My goal is to harvest two more deer, and I bought a second antlerless tag this afternoon at Walmart. Of course, I know all too well that deer follow their own schedule and do not care about mine. But as the morning in this particular hunt location appears to be productive, I will return tomorrow morning in hopes of making it two deer in two days. I also have next weekend available to me before the rifle season ends until the extended season starts in January.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as having said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” That was my motto when I began hunting last year, and remains true for me today. Although it has taken over 100 hours of actual hunting time to finally harvest my first deer this year, it has been 100 hours of exciting deer encounters, squawking turkeys, adorable prairie quail, and sundry other critter meetings. Hunting has become far more than something I do; it has become an integral part of who I am… and who I hope to remain for the rest of my life.

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Preparation & Anticipation: 2015 Autumn Deer Hunting Season

As much as I’ve been looking forward to the new autumn deer season, I was endeavoring to pretend that I wasn’t, because it would mean my son had already deployed; but now that he has, and the anxiety around seeing him go is subdued, I am in full preparation and anticipation mode.

This year I’m going to be exploring tools for stacking the odds in my favor for a buck… I’m going to make mock scrapes. I’ve never done them before, this is only my second deer season, and quite honestly was not even familiar with them until I started actually reading some of the wonderful hunting magazines I subscribe to (it’s amazing how much can be learned by actually opening the magazine up and reading the articles). I’ve been busy buying scrape drippers, scrape scents, masking scents, and watching videos on the process. Recently I purchased, and read, a brochure on mock scrapes published by Wildlife Research Center, so I’m going to be using their products mainly, such as Golden Scrape, Golden Estrus and Red Fox Urine.

My arsenal also includes a second Ameristep blind, and a second Moultrie game camera. My first blind and camera have been on the upper portion of my friend’s land, where I hunted turkey this spring. Several weeks ago my friend, John, and I raised the second blind on the lower portion of his property, near the pond, in the exact location I hunted last year. Only this year I won’t be sitting on a stool by a tree watching deer watch me like I’m some Chernobyl tree. Today I placed my second game camera out at that location to keep track of the deer using the pond as their drinking hole. Next weekend is when I will likely put up my mock scrapes, to provide enough time for the bucks to re-pattern their nocturnal movements to daytime (hopefully).

I’ve already practiced at the range with my Browning 270 Medallion, the beautiful bolt action I used last rifle season, to no avail as I couldn’t get the shot the only time I saw deer. My plan is to begin hunting with my Parker Challenger crossbow the first week archery season starts, and use my rifle the weekend of pre-rut antlerless hunting. I would truly likely to bypass hunting during rifle season because there are so many hunters on Fort Riley, many hunting with rifles in archery only areas scaring the deer away; and it was really freaking cold. If I can avoid hunting in below zero temperatures I’ll be content, but I have to get my two deer first; an archery buck, and a rifle pre-rut doe. To use a John Steinbeck sentiment: The best laid plans of mice and men….

I’m really excited about truly challenging myself, and reaching beyond my disabilities and physical limitations; so today I drove with my dutiful, beautiful service dog two hours to Cabelas in Kansas City and purchased a compound bow. I shot one several times, years ago, and really enjoyed it, and that was the initial reason I bought my Knight and Hale Steady Ready stick. Now that I have a bipod support for my crossbow and rifle, I can use the Steady Ready to support my left arm when I use my Diamond Infinite Edge by Bowtech. My plan is to practice with it, and build my strength up, so that next year I can hunt with my compound bow. It won’t be as attractive as when abled folks use a bow, but if I can hit the target than I don’t really care how perty I look doing it.

The compound bow is a challenge I feel I must take, to demonstrate to myself and the world that 53 (I’ve recently had a birthday) isn’t old and physical disabilities are surmountable. In that same vein; I am scheduled for a motorcycle rider’s course the weekend before deer season starts, as I’ve wanted to ride a motorcycle for most of my life (having fallen in love with the concept while sitting behind my father on his motor scooter as a child). The motorcycle may prove more challenging than I can handle, but I’ll never know if I don’t try… and since moving to Kansas and finally taking on hunting, I am loathe to allow fear to dictate to me what I can and cannot do anymore.

Action Archery at Camp le Noche 03/07/09. Using a Knight & Hale Steady Ready while shooting a Genesis compound bow.

Action Archery at Camp le Noche 03/07/09. Using a Knight & Hale Steady Ready while shooting a Genesis compound bow.

Preparing for mock scrapes....

Preparing for mock scrapes….

Preparing for Deer Season

Less than two months until deer season opens for archery in the great state of Kansas. This summer has provided strange weather systems with a week here and there of unseasonably cool temps with thunderstorms and flooding, and typical hot and humid days that make me long for winter. Today is the end of the weekend, with rain showers and clouds this morning and a combination of heat and humidity this afternoon that make it feel six degrees hotter than it really is. And thanks to the extra rain this season, which we really needed, the mosquitoes have propagated like the wild fire in California.

Between the heat, humidity and mosquitoes I prefer to remain home-bound, where my air conditioner keeps me relatively comfortable. Staying indoors works out well, theoretically, because I have an online course to complete in PTSD, plus myriad books I’ve started, and hunting magazines piling up. Yet… I have not touched my PTSD course this weekend, already obsessed with hunting season. In my defense, my work as a clinical supervisor and substance abuse counselor for soldiers is quite anxiety producing, as is my son’s upcoming deployment, and the hastening destruction of this Country that I love. Makes a gal just want to shut down for a while.

Preparing for the upcoming hunt season, however, has not escaped me. Friday, my service dog and I drove two hours to Cabelas in Kansas City, Kansas in order to do some shopping. A friend and co-worker in the ASAP (Army Substance Abuse Program) gave me an event invitation to Cabelas for this weekend to shop with employee discount savings. My SD and I managed to spend three hours in the store, including a lovely lunch of smoked elk sandwich, in order to make the four-hour roundtrip drive worth it. My chiropractor, a hunter, had suggested I get a Thermacell mosquito repellant for the warmer autumn days at the beginning of the season. I also bought some vanity items, like a Cabelas t-shirt in tan and burnt orange with a buck on the back, and a burnt orange Cabelas ball cap to match.

One of my super finds at Cabelas, in the bargain shop, was a booklet published by Wildlife Research Center. The Hunting Scent Book is really a meaty advertisement for the various scenting products that WRC sells; but I have found it most informative, as I’ve used scenting products without an actual understanding of when, why, and where. So far, I have found the section on mock scrapes the most informative because of the potential value of the mock scrape as a tool. Prior to this weekend, I’d never even heard the term.

My desire to utilize the mock scrape led me to Walmart first thing this morning to shop for a scraping device (as shown on one of several You Tube videos I watched in bed last night) and scents. Apparently it’s too early in summer yet for Walmart to have anything besides clothes in the hunting department; although a new pallet of deer corn had been placed out… so I bought two large bags. Off I went to Orscheln’s farm store to see if they had scents out yet. Their products had not yet been unpacked, but I did still manage to buy a few items that may be handy at some point (that’s why I converted a wooden Army ammo box into a storage container for hunting accessories). Once home, I went online to Bass Pro Shops and ordered scent products, which I’ll pick up in-store on my upcoming trip to Florida for my son’s deployment ceremony.

The calendar in my mobile phone has already been set to notify me as opening day for deer-archery approaches, as well as to remind me of the weekend of pre-rut antlerless rifle hunting, and when autumn turkey season begins. I’m not really sure how the hunters of yesteryear managed without the myriad aids and tools that I seem to be accumulating. And then there’s the hunting attire, which used to be slacks and a blazer or coveralls and work boots. While endeavoring to purchase on a budget, I have acquired SHE apparel hunting pants, scent control long sleeve t-shirt and button-up long sleeve shirt, my camo winter coat purchased last year at Walmart, various camo shirts, and moisture wicking long johns for cold weather hunting, plus various face masks, hunting caps, and three different types of face paint. I’m not sure what type of tree I’m aspiring to be, but it’s all more kosher to the Flint Hills environ than my BDU pants are (although I managed to bag my doe last year while wearing my BDU Army pants). My bathroom cupboard has three packages of different types of scent eliminating dryer sheets, two jugs of scent eliminating laundry detergent, bar soap, liquid body soap/shampoo, and deodorant and foot powder. I’ve spent more money on personal hygiene products and “make-up” for hunting than on average for dressing professionally and attractively at work. I hope the deer appreciate my efforts… by ignoring me and allowing me a shot or two.

Since the end of March, I have also been providing feed and minerals to the deer near my blind so my Motrie game camera can pick up the action. Recently I started my journal of days and times that the deer come to feed in order to begin tracking their movement. I’ve had my “upland” blind out since April (for my unsuccessful turkey hunting) and have another Ameristep blind to place in my hunting spot near the pond, where I bagged my deer in November. Soon I will set up another game camera, down by the pond, and do my mock scrapes in the area of each blind. I sincerely wish to bag a buck this year with my crossbow, and get my doe with my Browning 270 during the antlerless-pre-rut hunt in October. My one and only deer during the 2014 hunt lasted half a year, so I’d like to get two deer this year to keep my freezer stocked.

Until the deer season opens, I will have to be content to catch a glimpse of deer here and there. Most recently I saw a small doe and a young buck munching on breakfast at the edge of the woods next to my apartment complex. I’ve also had enjoyable sightings of skunks (a cute pair frolicking), rabbits, and since turkey season ended – turkeys. I’ve been meaning to sit in the blind early one Saturday to squirrel hunt, but have either slept through the dawn or chosen to pass because of weather.

All in all I find myself day dreaming for autumn and the next hunt challenge; excited by my second deer season, and curious to learn if my studying and new tools will improve my odds. I’m also thrilled to engage in another year of hunting, to legitimize my desire and new-found passion. I turn 53 later this month with the goal of embodying my belief that you’re never too old to learn to hunt.

Preparing for Spring Turkey Season

As I write this, I am so sleepy. But it’s that good kind of tired that comes from staying up late preparing for the next day’s “hunt,” and then arising at 0500 to be in the blind by 0600. I suppose you could say that it’s the kind of tired depicted in modern art of a relaxed hunter asleep under a tree.

This is my first Spring turkey season. I bought a tag during Autumn but didn’t have the first clue how to hunt for turkey, so I’d bring my Illusions box call out with me sometimes while hunting deer, and when no deer showed up, I’d fiddle with the box call a couple of times. Hence, my Thanksgiving turkey was store bought.

I set out to do turkey hunting correctly this season; so I bought a video on turkey hunting from Walmart –Primos Truth 25 Spring Turkey Hunting. First I bought a hen decoy, a Primos Gobbstopper Hen, and then after watching an hour or so of the video, I bought the Gobbstopper Jake as well. Added to my arsenal was a Primos Crow Call. Much to the chagrin of my neighbors, I’m sure, I practiced with my box call and crow call at night while watching the hunting video.

As I’ve never called turkey before, I wanted to experience a dry run, to build confidence. I was on the road to my friend’s property by 0545, bringing my Nikon CoolPix L110 camera to shoot turkey in a non-lethal way. This was also my first use of the Ameristep blind I purchased. My goal was to situate myself in the blind, learn what my mobility and visibility would be, and make sure that I could duplicate the results I watched on the Primos hunting video.

Sunrise isn’t official until almost 0800, but I noted that the Primos hunting team were calling turkey as early as 0700. I also had hopes of spying some deer coming out to feed first thing, as they seem to cross my Moultrie trail cam between 0600 and 0630. It was still quite dark in the woods this morning as I walked to the blind. I had my flashlight on so I wouldn’t trip over any fallen branches, and I’d never been to this part of the woods in the dark. Ironically, even though I took the path I always take, I still got momentarily lost. The woods can be disorienting, and I kept looking ahead for the blind, using that as my focal point. Alas, the blind had collapsed in recent Kansas winds, so I had difficulty locating it. Once I did, I set my gear down to reposition the blind until standing, at which time my camo phone case fell off my BDU pants and onto the blind. That was frustrating in the dark, as the camo cover got “lost” on the camo collapsed blind, laying on the leaves and twigs.

Once inside the blind I set up my tripod and camera, and retrieved my box call and crow call from my bag. Apparently I made just enough noise, or shone just enough light, that the deer vetoed breakfast. I could hear short bleats from both sides of the woods, and foot fall in the brush, but the deer never showed.

At about 0650 I started calling for turkey. At 0720 a heard a response and saw a hen walking toward my decoys. I was thrilled to capture her curiosity for five minutes as a MP4 movie on my camera. If that would have been the end of the pre-hunting trip, I would have been happy. But I had the opportunity to play with the wild turkey for another two hours almost!

Once the hen left, I continued calling for about 30 minutes, to no avail, so I grabbed my Mossberg Plinkster and decided to set my sights on squirrel. I had seen some in the trees while I’d been in the blind working my box call, but once I had rifle in hand there wasn’t a squirrel to be seen. Then I heard hens… so I popped back into the blind and picked up calling again. At one point, there was a flock of hens with a couple of jakes in the woods and brush to my right. I’d call, they’d respond. I was on the edge of my seat – literally – just waiting for them to emerge from the woods into the clearing. My camera was poised for action. Instead they taunted me for at least five minutes, giving me only a glance of brownish body feathers passing by in the bushes. Without so much as a goodbye, they were gone.

After a bit more calling, and waiting, I decided I’d exit the blind and tie one side off to a tree as an anchor; to decrease any chance of another collapse. Just as I stepped one foot outside the blind, I heard turkeys in the woods near my location. Back in the blind I went, bringing my camera and tripod to the back of the blind, where the turkeys were, and naturally facing that way. I waited, with my camera ready to capture the moment, but they didn’t show up. Instead, the two jakes walked to the side of the blind entering at the front, near my decoys. I twisted my body to see them, causing me to fall partially off my camo seat, while at the same time grabbing my mobile phone and turning the video function on. I repositioned myself to the front of the blind, holding my mobile phone as a camera with one hand and holding up my actual camera with the other, trying not to surrender to the severe lean of my cloth stool. By the time I managed to get my Nikon and tripod to the front of the blind, and operational, the jakes had walked off. Thankfully I captured them with my phone!

It’s a wonder they stayed by the decoys at all, what with my leaning, and falling, and twisting (and I’m sure there had to be a grunt or two). It was at that point I decided it truly was time to call it a day and pack up my toys. My mission was accomplished, albeit with some damaged grace; I called turkeys and they came! I saw a hen and two jakes, videographed them, and learned some turkey communication skills.

I also had the opportunity to feel the temperature change subtly in the woods as the morning drew longer, to hear the myriad bird songs that greeted this new day, and to watch as the woods change in appearance and hue with the shifting light. As I sat in my little blind, in my little (borrowed) corner of the Flint Hills, I sat relaxed and at ease; without the noise of politics, civilians, or home-grown terrorists (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/04/10/kansas-man-accused-plotting-to-detonate-bomb-at-fort-riley-military-base/). It was just me, a gazillion singing birds, a few flying insects, wild turkey, and G-d.

Only five more days before I do it again; but with my Mossberg shotgun instead of my camera. My senses tingle in anticipation… or that could be my body’s way of telling me to take a nap….????????????????????????????????

Just One More Day….

This is the last weekend in my unit for extended deer hunting. As incredible as bagging my first deer was during bow season, I had anticipated rifle season for the opportunity to use my Browning Medallion 270 bolt action rifle. My step-father sold it to me for a buck (pun intended), but it was really a gift. The rifle had been hunting when he gave it to me; I had not. I’ve been jonesing for the feel and sound of the crisp, single shot aimed squarely at the deer who would complete my organic protein source for the year, and give me the opportunity to have some meat packed up and shipped to my son.

Almost the end of extended hunting season; 20 degrees with a wind-chill that makes it feel like 5 degrees. You're never too old; and you're never too cold!

Almost the end of extended hunting season; 20 degrees with a wind-chill that makes it feel like 5 degrees. You’re never too old; and you’re never too cold!

So I’ve been going out to the blind each day I’m off work in hopes that it would be the successful hunt-day I’ve been waiting for. And with the exception of three beautiful deer I saw last Friday, that I was unable to target because of crappy placement (I guessed incorrectly when I chose the tree to the right as cover), I haven’t seen any deer. My supervisor at work kindly approved my request to take this afternoon off so I could return to the blind (the tree to the left); and I even bought extra under-garments to stave off the cold from the arctic weather we’ve been experiencing here in the Flint Hills. The temperature at 1500 was 20 degrees, with winds at 10-15 MPH creating a wind-chill that made it feel like 5 degrees. But I went anyway; wearing two pair of “thermals” under my SHE hunting pants, four shirts under my winter hunting jacket, and two pair of wool socks in my boots. I had my balaclava on my face, two pair of gloves on each hand, Hot Hands stuffed in each glove and in my pants pockets.

While the sun was up, I was reasonably comfortable. Once the sun set, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, and I found myself shaking like the Cowardly Lion when he faced the Wizard for the first time. Except I was cold, not scared. By the time I got home I could barely move my feet. It felt like the blood in my toes had frozen solid, and when I undressed my extremities, my feet were red, with a little purpling at the tips.

All the people I know who hunt quit when the weather chilled. Not me. This is my first year hunting and I want to experience it with gusto! Had I bagged a deer today, folks would be calling me hardcore, a diehard hunter, a rock star…. As I didn’t even see a deer, most folks who know I went out hunting probably just call me crazy. I’d like to attribute it to something apropos like Buck Fever; but Buck Fever is nervous excitement felt by the novice hunter at the first sign of game. I don’t have that. I have an obsession; a compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea… the idea that I’m going to bag a second deer my first year hunting, using my rifle to complete the task.

Tomorrow is my last hope; my last opportunity to triumph. Technically Sunday is the last hunt day until bow season starts again in September, but I have to have a down day. Sun or not, I need that last weekend day to get my “sun daze” on, or do laundry. And as I have never seen a deer while hunting in the morning, I will only hunt tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately we’re expecting a heat wave and it will be a high of 36 degrees, with a low of 20.

Whatever happens, it will be nice to have the obsession squashed, albeit by state hunting regulations. I think I remember doing things on the weekends, before I started hunting; and I do want to go see American Sniper at the movie theatre. On the other hand; I truly love my time in the blind, especially in the meadow where I started hunting last weekend. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, and the tall grass smells so sweet. Come Spring, however, I’ll be taking some field trips out to the meadow and woods looking for antlers, taking photographs, and possibly getting a feel for where the deer hang out – for next season.

To bastardize an online quote; “God has added one more day in your life, not because you need it… but because it’s still hunting season.”