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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Two Days & a Wake-up: Archery Deer Season Starts

Sitting here at my home office desk with the intention of working on my business management coursework, yet I can’t help but think about Monday. Today is Friday, and in just 59 hours I will be out in my newest blind for opening day of archery – deer season. Just thinking about it gets my body tingly with anticipation.

My clothes have been washed in scent-free detergent and placed in an air tight bag for a couple of weeks already, and last weekend I separated out Monday’s clothes from my other camo “outfits” so I won’t have to poke around looking for what I want at 4:30 AM. Under normal circumstances I’m not a name brand kind of gal; buying whatever scent-free detergent (or whatever) has the best price. But I’m endeavoring to hashtag myself into recognition, so when I can, I want to give a shout-out to whatever brand of clothing/detergent/game cameras/hunting blinds, etc., that I use. In this case; my most recent hunting clothes were washed in Scent Killer Gold, by Wildlife Research Center. My body soap and scent-free spray, however, are made in the U. States by Dead Down Wind. I just received a combo pack of Dead Down Wind products that I purchased from Midland USA, which included a nifty DDW skull cap, which I will definitely wear hunting at some point.

In all honesty I’m kind of uncomfortable being a brand name dropper, but from what I’ve observed in the realm of social media, it’s how one gets noticed. That brings me to the very next thought I had tonight when I thought about how excited I am for Monday. Once Monday is over; I’m stuck with Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong; I am delighted to work, to have a good job serving soldiers as a civilian member of the Army; but I don’t feel passionate about it anymore (hence the online courses in business management) and I’d rather remain in the woods hunting. At 54 it may be a bit too late to ponder what I want to do when I grow up, but if I could choose to just magically change careers, I’d want to be a hunter, seeking out adventures and game throughout the country (and beyond) and then writing about it.

It is in that vein that I endeavor to film my hunts. My Midland video cameras have provided me an affordable opportunity to capture my harvesting moments, but with limited quality. Recently my son, an avid outdoorsman with canoes, fishing poles, and now his motorcycle, recommended I get a Contour video camera. He stated they do better in low light situations and have good quality for the price. So, this past weekend I purchased a Contour Roam3 online and currently have it connected to my laptop charging. I also purchased an accessory set that came with a shoulder harness, so when I go out hunting Monday I will have the Contour perched upon my left shoulder. Hopefully I will have a wonderful experience for the Contour to record….

I’m planning on tackling Monday’s hunt differently than I usually do, as well. Because I have a service dog, I generally go out first thing in the morning, return home by mid to late morning to let my canine partner out and then don’t go back out to the blind until late afternoon. My Moultrie game cameras often reveal that the critters I’m hunting wait until I’m gone to parade around my hunting spot, well out of sight by the time I return. With success in mind, I’m taking my labbie-girl to doggie daycare at Wildcat Pet Resort Sunday evening, where she will enjoy (hopefully) a respite from working until I pick her up after work Tuesday evening. That way I can remain devoted to my hunt for as long as it takes Monday. I will still use at least one of my Midland video cameras mounted to my Parker Challenger crossbow for a slightly different angle. The difficulty in attempting to capture the hunt with multiple cameras as a one-woman operation is knowing when to turn the cameras on, without making noise and movement, and without spooking the deer or missing the shot. Last autumn, when I harvested my first-ever turkey, I became so fixated on the bird and my arrow that I forgot to turn the camera on all together, even though it was mounted right at the front of my crossbow.

However it plays out; Monday will prove to be an adventure. This will be the first time I’ve hunted all day, if necessary, which will mean a potentially long day with minimal food and no water. Personal as it is to share; I’ve got a nervous bladder, so if I drink while hunting (or before) I will spend too much time having to accommodate it. And unlike my friend on whose property I hunt, I cannot remain seated and just tinkle into a bottle. It’s a major affair to have to set down my weapon, move about the blind or get out of the blind, drop my clothes, and take care of business before mosquitoes snack on my bum cheeks.

Monday will also lend itself to excitement should I succeed in harvesting my first deer of the season, as I’m usually hunting when my buddy, John, is home and can assist me in dragging the deer out of the woods. As it’s a regular workday, which I happened to have taken leave for, any deer I harvest will need to be dragged out and placed on the bed of my truck by me… and me alone. For just such a purpose, I have a drag harness, although I’ve never had to use it so don’t know how easy or difficult it is to harness pull a deer.

Until Monday morning arrives, bringing along opening day of archery for deer season, I have a blessed weekend to enjoy. I will play a little, study a little, and do more fussing over my accoutrements for hunting. Then hopefully, maybe, wishing upon a star, and with the cooperation of my white-tailed friends, I will have something fabulous to share on September 12th….

deer-in-the-upper2-blind

Pre-Hunt Season: Gaining Knowledge & Gear

Forty-three days and a wake-up. That is how long I have to wait for opening day of archery deer season, which I have taken off of work, in order to spend some quality time in one of my three blinds; just G-d, nature, me, and hopefully some deer. I feel positive that this year is my year for finally harvesting a buck. After my epic fail with Threeper, the buckling last year, I won’t be so aesthetically choosy.

Yet, even with over a month of wait time, there are still tasks to accomplish in preparation. Today I am scent-free washing the camo slacks and top I wore during spring turkey season, along with some accoutrements such as face masks, my backpack, and gloves. Granted, turkey season ended a while ago; but I had hung my clothes up over the shower rod to make sure any and all ticks died away before I handled the clothes again. I loathe ticks. Unfortunately; here in Kansas, they seem to love me. Just yesterday I was out in the woods checking my Moultrie game cameras, wearing long sleeves, long pants, long socks, long gloves and having sprayed my clothes down with Deep Woods Off, with DEET, to minimize tick encounters. Despite all of that, I felt an uncomfortable tickle on my stomach just below my bra. Lifting my shirt up, for the world to see (had the world been on the dirt road with me), revealed a big tick seeking a bosom to nourish from…. I quickly dispatched his nastiness back into the woods, away from me!

This morning, while enjoying a breakfast of brown eggs and store-bought salmon, I watched an episode of North Woods Law (I love that show). It highlighted a threesome of siblings heading out on a turkey hunt and mentioned the safety fact that one should not wear red during hunting season. That reminded me that until I had recently taken the turkey hunting clinic, sponsored by the Flint Hills Gobblers chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, I did not know that important bit of information. Not that I can imagine myself choosing red as a good camouflage color for hunting, but it is valuable information to have for, say, checking game cameras during spring turkey season. My prior thought would have been that red, like orange, would identify me to any hunters in the area. Not having had any real knowledge about a male turkey’s anatomy, however, I would not have considered that red might identify me to a hunter as a turkey’s caruncle.

Upon further reflection this morning, I realized there are a lot of important facts about hunting that late-bloomer hunters like me may not know. I suppose if I read every page of every hunting magazine I have collected over the years I may have far more information than I do. But you just don’t know what you don’t know; and hands-on learning, for me anyway, provides a higher level of retention than simply reading magazines.

For instance; field dressing a deer, turkey, or even a squirrel cannot be sufficiently explained in written word. For me, even videos, which I find more helpful than articles on the subject, are not as thorough as the act of field dressing. I have certainly picked up pointers through visual and auditory learning (reading is actually considered auditory because we tend to hear the words in our head as we read them); but nothing has “learned me some skills” like standing at the tailgate of my truck (or kneeling on the ground for a deer), knife in hand, with a creature carcass before me.

The same holds true for calling in game. I have read many articles and followed the guidelines step by step for setting up mock scrapes, calling in animals, using rattles and box calls; and yet sometimes some things work and sometimes not. Trial and error have been the best educators in my hands-on hunt school. For instance, in the episode of North Woods Law that I watched this morning; the hunting siblings described how spring turkey hunting requires being up before dawn and in the blind prior to the turkeys having the potential to spy the hunter. Yet my only experience with successful turkey harvesting has been during the day. My autumn hen was harvested in the afternoon as she and her flock passed through my hunting area, and I wasn’t even hunting turkey, I was hunting deer. My Tom happened to be hanging out 30-40 yards from my blind one evening, and failed to leave the area when I walked in and sat down in my blind. Granted, it took an hour to call him in, but he was already there. And I had chosen to hunt on a whim after work. The sagest statement I heard at the turkey hunting clinic was, “Turkeys will do what turkeys do.” In other words, like any other animals I’ve hunted, turkeys aren’t reading the magazines and manuals; they are doing whatever they want, unpredictably.

Yesterday as I approached the opening to the woods where my deep-woods blind is located, I saw the local flock of hens passing in front of my game camera. They were on the move, having likely heard my truck door close, but I chose not to enter the area so I could watch them instead. Had I been hunting, my harvest would have been at about 9:00 a.m. Hunters whom I work with, who have been hunting far longer than I, have shared their belief that it’s too hot out currently for deer to be moving about during the day. Yet my game cameras show them in the mid-morning, noon, and early evening, as well as under cover of darkness. When I hunt on September 12th, I hope the deer continue to follow the trails past my blind, regardless of the temperature (although I will be seated in my blind before dawn, just in case).

Next weekend I will be driving the two-hour trek to Cabela’s in Kansas City to get some gear and such. To be honest I already have what I need, more than what I need. But I love a sale, and my philosophy regarding hunting gear is to buy it after the season ends, or during pre-season sales, just in case I don’t like what I bought, or am trying something new. Today at Walmart, I found the sale section for spring turkey gear, calls and such, so bought a package of mouth calls from Mossy Oak; Turkey Thugs – The Teacher. It comes with two mouth pieces and a mini DVD to teach calling. I suck at using mouth calls, but I really want to learn to use them. I would not have paid full price for this training aid, but $5 was a great deal; especially if it works and I’m able to learn how to call.

Kansas deer tags are not yet for sale, but once they are I’ll be first in line to buy mine. I liken the pre-season as being like the month or two leading up to Christmas. The excitement builds as the preparation commences. Unlike Christmas, however, which culminates in one grand day, hunting season keeps on for weeks, sometimes months (like deer season), and you never know when the gift is arriving.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

Earth Day 2016: My Kansas Tribute

There was a time, many moons ago, when I used to genuinely celebrate Earth Day as a holiday (of sorts). Living in California, and being in graduate school studying holistic and transpersonal psychology, it was almost mandatory to buy-in. Each year I would take my young son, toddler through kindergarten, to the Concord Pavilion where the Earth Day celebration would be held and we’d peruse the displays about evil chicken farmers, admire furniture made of reclaimed wood, and engage in face painting. That was our Northern California urban tradition.

These days (these years) I barely even remember that April 22 is Earth Day; because as a hunter and fisher, I daily pay homage to the Earth and the myriad blessings G-d has bestowed upon us. My fishing and hunting licenses, annoying though they may be at times, and my deer & turkey tags, and trout stamp, do more for conservation on a regular basis than a decade of Earth Day celebrations will ever do.

I tend not to be a religious person, albeit quite spiritual, and therefore am not well versed in the Bible; however I turn to the Old and New Testaments when I seek guidance, or a verse that punctuates my point. One such verse that I take to heart is: Genesis 9:3 – “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” And with that in mind, I joyously fish and hunt to provide sustenance for myself, my family and my friends.

Today, Earth Day 2016, was no exception. Having already filled my first spring turkey tag last weekend (with my gorgeous first-ever Tom) I decided to spend at least part of this weekend fishing, before trout season ends when the Kansas weather turns sizzling and the trout cannot survive. So with today off from work, I headed out to my favorite trout pond on post, Cameron Springs, to engage in some trout fishing. As it was midday, and not a particularly good time for trout fishing, however, I also used a second fishing pole with a soft bait treble hook filled with stink bait to try my hand at catfish.

It didn’t take long before I had my first channel cat on the line; a decent sized 10-12 inch fish. I gave it the obligatory kiss on the lips for luck, placed it on my stringer, and cast out again, meanwhile continuing to tend to my trout line. My second channel cat was a fair bit larger, at about 18 inches, and I felt quite pleased at this second catfish. I continued to have minimal action with my trout line, not because they didn’t like my bait (this year, salmon eggs are all the rage with pond trout!) but because it was early afternoon and the weather had begun to warm up. So out went my catfish bait again. I genuinely enjoy channel cat, finding it an awesome accompaniment to farm fresh eggs in the morning. Another hit on my catfish line… and I reeled in the largest channel cat I have ever caught; two feet long and easily five pounds!

I moved from pleased to ecstatic when I saw the size of this fish! His head was so big that he didn’t fit on my metal stringer and I had to tether him to my rope stringer all by himself. By this time, about two hours had passed since my labbie-girl and I got to Cameron Springs and set up, so I tried one more time for a trout. I tend to be like a Retriever when I’m fishing; the slightest nibble will get me fixated and I can’t turn away. Finally, as we approached 3:30 PM, I managed to hook a trout, almost three hours after I started fishing. The trout was small, enough for one meal, but ultimately I was thankful to have gotten one at all. My yellow lab and I headed home with quite a generous bounty.

This essay will spare you the pain, primarily physical, of gutting and cleaning the catch of the day – specifically the largest catfish, whom I decided would be best without his skin. Normally I leave the skin on when I prepare my catfish, mainly because I have never learned the proper way to gut them. But this fishy was quite dirty, and being so large (all things considered) I determined his skin would hinder, rather than help, the palatability of this catch. Needless to say; it took over an hour to clean the catfish, and half of that was spent just on my “big guy.”

As far as Earth Days go, it was a fabulous day. It started out in the woods this morning, setting up a new Ameristep ground blind in a new location on my friend, John’s, property, as well as putting up a Moultrie game camera to catch the whitetailed foot traffic in the area. I spent three hours fishing; which was both productive and relaxing. And it ended with a dinner of wild turkey breast (from my Tom).

I have always known that being out in nature is a spiritual experience for me, one that calms and empowers my well-being. It was only recently, however, that I learned of a new friend’s philosophy, which makes a great hashtag; outside for a better inside. On this Earth Day, unlike those of years’ past, I didn’t just observe the commercial definition of being a good steward of the Earth; I practiced it, I lived it, I embraced it… and I ate it.

As a hunter and a fisher; I recognize that Earth Day is every day. I care for the environment in which I live, because it cares for me. And I can think of no place I’ve ever lived that more exemplifies the principles of Earth Day than Kansas; a state whose very existence is a tribute to the blessings of this Earth.

Preparing for the hunt; the mock scrape

As a Leo (zodiac, not law enforcement), I’m not known for my patience; though I work on it daily and hunting has certainly tested and grown by ability to enhance my calm. Having said that; it has taken every ounce of self-control I have to wait until this morning to create mock scrapes in my hunting area. It seems that I sometimes forget the object of the mock scrape is to entice bucks to present themselves to me while I’m actually hunting, not just to get them to show up on my Moultrie game cameras looking handsome.

Previously I shared that I’ve never created a mock scrape before. This is only my second-ever deer season. But I am excited to take more ownership of the hunting experience and try tools, new to me, for improving my odds of really getting what I want this year. My new tools of choice this year; my game cameras (both Moultrie), my ground blinds (by Ameristep), feeder tubes (by DevourBaits), and mock scrape paraphernalia.

My mock scrape journey started with the Hunting Scent Book, a handbook by Wildlife Research Center, and a video produced on the mock scrape. That led me to purchasing the Magnum Scrape Dripper (three) and four bottles of Active Scrape (from Wildlife Research Center), two bottles of Golden Scrape and multiple bottles of Golden Estrus (also from Wildlife Research Center), as well as two drippers and two bottles of Power Scrape (from Tink’s). To say I have spent quite a tidy sum of money on Odocoileus virginianus urine would be an understatement. One could argue that I’ve actually pissed my money away.

Whether or not the mock scrapes will bring forth well-endowed bucks during my hunt has yet to be seen; as opening day here in Kansas is September 14th (and you-betcha I took that day off work). It was kind of fun to create them though, more adventuresome really. If the scrapes work, it will be interesting to compare which worked better to my satisfaction; the Wildlife Research Center products or the Tink’s.

I placed the Magnum Drippers in the upper area I hunt, where I also hunted turkeys in spring. That was where my first game camera was set up and where I set up my first feeder back in April 2015. My Tink’s system was hung up in the lower hunting area, where I hunted deer last year (and bagged my first deer, a beautiful doe I still pray thanks for). There is a game camera and a feeder in the lower area as well, and both areas have my ground blinds set up.

When I check the game cameras next weekend I will have an idea if the bucks have shifted from their nocturnal habits to more diurnal activity. Whatever the outcome, however, I have enjoyed the opportunities to get out into the woods and field to tend to the process. That includes adding food to the feeders weekly and following the progress of some of the deer, specifically the doe with her fawn. It has been incredible watching the doe through her pregnancy in May and June, and her trips with her fawn since July. Yesterday I was quite blessed to see the doe and her fawn quenching their thirst from the pond in the lower area as I was headed down to replenish the feeder. As soon as I saw the doe I stopped, and stood very still. She didn’t see me, and neither did the fawn, but when the wind shifted she caught a whiff of possible danger and went back up into the lower woods.

I was also surprisingly blessed to see a group of gobbler bachelors yesterday. They ran away when they saw me approach, but I could see they were all large, plump, and ripe for the bagging when autumn turkey season starts. And since they’ve been hanging out in my lower hunting area, I have a better shot (pun intended) of bagging a bird for Thanksgiving this year (although Thanksgiving will be far more somber with my son deployed instead of making his yearly pilgrimage to my home for love, laughter, and food).

In nine days I will be out in the blind for the first day of deer season, with my crossbow sighted and my hunting clothes scent-free and matching. I can hardly wait; only 207 hours left to go!

Top two photos are my upper area mock scrapes (WRC); two lower photos are my lower area mock scrapes (Tink's).

Top two photos are my upper area mock scrapes (WRC); two lower photos are my lower area mock scrapes (Tink’s).

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….????????????????????????????????