Monday, November 24, 2008

Dog Eat Dog World

I didn't think it was funny when I said it, but as these pictures can attest, the dogs (Tipsy and Mr. Higgins) were tickled. I think it is more due to the fact that these dogs are laughing on the inside.
They lie around all day, lick themselves as desired, eat whenever they want, crap whenever the want, get pet whenever they beg, and even sleep in our bed.
What's not to laugh about?


Friday, November 21, 2008

The GREAT Outdoors

I've been blogging a lot about hunting lately. I am completely hooked on it right now. Call it an obsession or an addiction, but either way - it describes me. When I'm not working or spending time with family and friends, I am outdoors (either literally or figuratively). I sometimes wonder if my background is the reason for my love of the outdoors - because it is so foreign. As a kid, I camped every month as a boy scout, but probably spent a minimum of time outdoors over the past 25 years. That ended about three years ago. I started camping, fishing, and shooting. When I did, I realized how much I enjoyed all of the activities. Shooting turned to hunting very quickly. A couple of dove hunts later, and I was hooked hard. Add a turkey hunt, and a couple of futile duck hunts and I wanted more. All I could think of was spending more time in the outdoors and finding ways to hunt more.

Then, I got a call from Angie's cousin. We were supposed to do a hog hunt in Goliad, TX (where he lived) during the summer, but never got it done. He and his family had moved back to Bonham, and he found a lease and wanted to know if I wanted in. I thought about it for about 0.003 seconds, got approval from Angie, and said yes. We would have access to 206 acres about 90 minutes away that we could hunt dove, duck, hog, and deer and it also had a pond stocked with fish. We were set.

Since opening day dove season (Sept 1), I have spent a part of all but one weekend on that property. I've gotten my hog, and will get a deer next weekend as it is antlerless weekend. Perhaps another hog or deer during the rest of our time on the lease and then it will be over...until we start looking for a place to get turkey in the spring.

Although the hunting is the highlight, and harvesting game the purpose, spending time in the outdoors is so much more than that. This week in Utah is a great example. Yes, we had an amazing time bagging duck, but some of the other experiences will not be forgotten, as well. In fact, when shooting becomes a hazy memory, I will continue to remember vividly the "Hawaii 5-O" theme on the duck call. Or, that Jeremy and I almost took a fall into the water when I took an overhead shot at a duck.

Or, perhaps the two bald eagles we saw when we were leaving the lake on day 1. I looked for eagles during the entire time I spent in Alaska, and never saw one. But I saw two perched along the shores of Utah Lake.

Or, perhaps the not one, but TWO, shooting stars I saw. Not little transient flickers, but large, bright and long burning shooting stars that made the hair on the back of my neck raise up as I watched them.

Or, maybe the sunrises that I saw come up from the mountains. Or the lake surface, so still it looked like glass and how it reflected the snow capped mountains in the background.

Or, one of the many other bird species we saw flying.

Or, the ducks that never came into shooting range. How they took a look at our spread, circled, maybe even answered our call, but then decided not to come join our party.

That's why I am out doors and why I love it so much. Yes, the harvest is awesome, as is the eating, but the whole experience is so much more. And, as a hunter and as a member of various conservation organizations, I am proud to know that my dollars help preserve the very same outdoors that I have come to love.

As a local commercial says, "if you want to preserve an environment, hunt in it!"

Spend some time outside, you'll see what I am talking about.

Our spread, from the boat, on Day 2. We are waiting for the sun to rise from the mountain the background. During the day, the water calmed and became completely still, turning into a mirror at the horizon. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Our spread, from the boat on day 2. My hosts added two mojos to the one they had from day 1. They made a huge difference, as we increased our harvest from 3 to 11 between the two days.

The view of our Day 2 location from out in the water. The sun is to my back, so we are looking back to from where I took the two first pictures. We are in the boat taking this picture, but imagine that the boat is within the reeds you are looking at. We were almost completely concealed. Jeremy is standing to the right of the reeds in this picture and he is just about invisible.

Our harvest from Day 1. A black duck, a drake Goldeneye and a hen Goldeneye. Here is the Hunter's boat. It is such a sweet deal. A jon boat with this flip up sides that function as the blind. When backed up to the reeds, or better yet, parked in the reeds, it is a stable platform for shooting that is virtually invisible. Add the 4 dozen or so decoys and the three mojo's, and they have the perfect set up for duck hunting.

Our Day 2 harvest. 11 ducks in the boat with 15 shot. The widgeon I shot and that we chased but never found, was my biggest regret. The other widgeon is about halfway in the picture with the green stripe on its head. In order, two redheads, a pintail, a black duck, a widgeon, two shovelers, and four green wing teal.

One of my hosts (Jeremy - his brother Robert is taking the picture), their boat and our harvest. If you can't tell, we've shed our heavy coats by this point. The weather was perfect. About 40 degrees when we started and significantly warmer when we ended. We hunted from legal shooting hours (about 6:50am) to 10am the first day, and about 11am the second. We just didn't want to leave.

To see all of my pictures, click here.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duck You Two

Day two started much like day one. The only two differences were that we were going to go a little south from where we were the day previous and my hosts (the Hunter brothers) had purchased two additional Baby Duck Mojo's (motorized duck decoys that look like they are landing, and are supposed to get the attention of ducks flying over).

Ducks starting flying fast and furious. I was missing a lot, but my hosts weren't. We had a couple in the boat pretty quickly.

Evenutally, one came in right towards the mojo's. Robert told me to "take it!" I stood up and fired. The duck folded and fell to the water. It was a pintail hen. A very pretty duck.

During the day we had an amazing range of ducks. A couple of redheads, two shovelers, my pintail, two widgeons, and four green wing teal. In all, we shot 15 ducks and harvested 11. I never could retrieve a widgeon that I shot. It swam away and we went to find it in the boat. In fact, I shot it again, but it submerged and we never saw it again. Funny enough, the widgeon pair came in when we were goofing off. Robert was playing "Name That Tune" on his duck call, and I was trying to make mine quack. I guess I did, because they flew right over the blind.

The day was even better than our amazing day one, and with 11 ducks in the boat, you can imagine how good it was. I am a big believer in those mojo decoys.

In all, an amazing two days. I killed two duck on day one and three on day two. Considering the other two times I duck hunted I never even saw a duck, I am very pleased.

I will post more pictures when I get home.

Thank you, Jeremy and Robert. What an amazing hunt.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duckless No Mo

I am out in Salt Lake on business. I've been coming out here since 1998, and it is a winter wonderland. I've always loved it out here, but now that I hunt, I have a new reason.

A colleague of mine, whom I've been working with at my last two companies and his previous companies is a big hunter - he better be, his last name is Hunter.

We've been talking about shooting and hunting since I got into it. I remember, he even suggested some of the features of my shotgun. So, when he suggested a duck hunt in Utah, I new what I was going to do at some point this winter. This week is that trip.

Jeremy Hunter and his brother Robert met me at a park and ride at 5:00am. We were in the water with decoys placed by 6:45. They have a great little john boat with a blind rigged up. It really is a sweet deal. No long treks though the thigh high water and mud. This was so easy compared to the other two times I had been duck hunting.

The best part was that we saw tons of ducks. If we didn't pay attention, and often we weren't, ducks would land in the decoys without us even noticing. Had we been more attentive, we might have had 10 more ducks than the four we shot. Two of the four were mine, but only because the Hunter brothers were letting me get first try.

It was awesome. Good ducks, amazing scenery with the Wasatch mountains in the background), and excellent company.

I think I now understand the fun of duck hunting.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Hog Wild - Part II

Part II

He dropped instantly. I figured I had an instant kill, but I began to chamber another shell just in case.

The next shell did not chamber properly. I've been having trouble with the clip in my rifle, and it reared its ugly head at precisely the wrong moment. As I struggled with my gun, my hog stood up and started walking like a drunken sailor. These creatures are amazingly tough and it is not uncommon to have to hit them a couple of times. (Upon inspection of the hog, it appeared that my shot was a little off the mark and instead of putting its lights out, the force of the bullet only knocked it out). It probably would have bled out anyway, but when I solved my reload issue, I lined up and shot again. This time it dropped and flailed. One last shot finished it.

I called Steve and told him I had gotten a hog and asked him what to do. He asked me where it was and I told him about 20 feet in front of the feeder. He told me to stay put and he'd be over at sundown. He was hunting too and there was no reason to go anywhere. Since it was only 5 o'clock, I had a while to wait, calm myself down and to see if anything would return.

Steve came as the sun was setting. I descended the tripod and we walked over to the hog. Instantly, Steve saw that it was a boar and a pretty big one at that (about 200 pounds). It didn't look nearly as big from the stand as it did when we were standing over it. Instantly, we noticed that it DIDN'T have a smell. Usually, as the pigs get older and bigger they also develop a pretty good stink. This one was apparently pretty young, despite its size. This meant that it would likely been good eating.

Steve pulled his truck in and the two of us were needed to put in on the gate. We drove out of the hunting area to the pasture. He told me to get ready cause we were about to field dress the pig. I had seen videos of this part on YouTube, but I had never seen it done in person. Steve sharpened his knife as I put gloves on. Steve, fortunately, did the work while I helped and learned. His knife wasn't working real well, so I gave him mine. It was new, unused and very sharp and had a gut hook, which helped a great deal. At the appropriate time, Steve had readied everything to come out, he told me to do the honors. I stuck my hands in there and pulled. It is amazing how everything just comes out together. We had this thing gutted in less than five minutes. We left the guts in the pasture knowing full well that coyotes or buzzards would clean them up. I just wish we didn't leave them so close to the camper, as I was staying the night at the lease all alone. Needless to say, I slept with my rifle not far away with a shell chambered, just in case.

We loaded the now gutted pig into his truck again and left for his parents house (Angie's aunt and uncle's) for dinner. You would think that this Yankee wouldn't have been interested in dinner by now, but the whole process wasn't nearly as bad as you would think. Because the kill was done with head shots, there wasn't a ton of blood or other nastiness in cleaning the animal. Steve was careful not to open it up (intestines, bladder, etc.) while we dressed it, so there was nothing like that to worry about. In fact, I was amazed that there was no smell. All I ever heard of was how bad the animals smelled when you dressed them. It wasn't like that. However, I do know a gut shot will likely be a different story.

As we got close to the house, I could tell that Steve started driving funny - like he was looking for something (I was behind him in my car at this point). He turned at a sign that said "Hog Wild Processing". He decided that the best way for me to eat my first hog was to have it professionally prepared. I was real pleased with this choice, as I did not relish skinning the hog. We dropped off the pig at the processor and made our order...ham steaks, pork chops, ground pork, pork shoulder, breakfast sausage and whatever else you get from a processed pig.

I can't wait to pick up the meat. The processor tenderizes and seasons much of it and it is going to be delicious. We sampled one of his "hog sticks" - think of a hot dog sized Slim Jim. It was outstanding. I'm gonna smoke a shoulder for 12 hours until the meat falls off the bone. If we get a deer, we'll process that too and make a venison and wild hog chili. Wow, that sounds so good.

I still don't know what part I like better, hunting them or eating them.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hog Wild

We've been hunting the lease for about three weeks. We've seen deer, but no hogs. We believed that they were on the site, as we've seen hog sign, particularly their tracks and where they've rooted for food, but no actual animals. They changed this weekend.

I arrived at the lease at about 3:45 on Friday. Steve was there waiting for me. It was just us adults this weekend, as the kids had other priorities. Steve asked me where I wanted to hunt and I told him in the back. He indicated that this wasn't the best place to hunt in the evening, so I suggested I go to the tripod. He agreed. This had been his son's spot and he had seen deer every evening.

I cautiously climbed up into the seat and got situated. It was about 4pm it was a beautiful evening. There was a slight breeze and very comfortable. I practiced getting my rifle into position for a shot so I knew how to lean on the stand for stability and to be able to do it quietly.

About 45 minutes later, it began. I could hear them long before I ever saw them. I describe it as Deliverance meets King Kong. Not quiet the "Suuuuuuuueeeeeeeeeey' of Deliverance, but very clearly pigs. I heard them grunting and oinking very clearly. While they approached in the woods, it sounded like they were knocking over trees as they crashed through the brush. That wounded very much like when Kong approaches the girl in the jungle. Apparently, these hogs weren't too concerned about how much noise they made.

They finally came into view from the right. The stand is situated about 50 yards from the feeder and there is clearing in between. The first hog was a monster. Clearly the alpha. He was enormous and was first to the feeder. Behind him, another 7 or 8 hogs of various sizes. Steve had thrown corn all over, so they were all just eating and walking around. Hogs have poor eyesight, so they couldn't see me, and I was down wind from the feeder, so they couldn't smell me. The only concern I had was that I needed to be silent. Pigs have excellent senses of smell and hearing.

As I lifted my rifle, the large boar apparently heard me. He seemed to get spooked and he ran off in an instant. I thought I had blown it. However, none of the other hogs ran. They just continued to eat and romp around. In hind site, the big boar would have been a great trophy, but not an eater. I'm glad I didn't get a chance to shoot him.

I followed several others in my scope as I tried to control my breathing. As this was the first animal I have ever had in my sights that I could actually shoot, the adrenalin was pumping hard. I couldn't control my breathing or my hands. I was breathing extremely hard and I was shaking - not good to be able to try and shoot accurately. Add to the fact that the pigs would stop moving, and I really didn't have a good shot. The only things I had working for me were the fact that I had plenty of targets and I was only 40-50 yards away.

I started very deep breathing to get myself under control and it was working. I was calming down. At the same time, one of the smaller hogs in the front was not moving as much. I lined up my cross hairs right behind his ear. He lifted his head, stopped moving and I instantly squeezed the trigger.

...To Be Continued

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Not a Right...'s an obligation.

Not an obligation where you have to do it, but one in which you ought to do it.

Do what? On election day the only proper answer is, "VOTE".

Angie and I just returned from dropping the kids off at school where we made a detour and stopped at our local polling location. Together, we've been exercising our obligation to participate in our Democracy for the past several elections. We've come to believe that this awesome right transcends it's "rightness" to actually be an "obligation" to participate in the election process.

When we vote, we honor the men and women throughout the world that are defending this nation, the idea of liberty, and the process of participating in electing government officials. I believe that it is an obligation to do so as much as it is an obligation for me to defend the rights of some yahoo whom is communicating something in which I don't agree. I have this argument with my nephew all the time. He criticises incessantly our government and the people within it. I don't agree with what he says, but I agree that our government gives him the right to say it. If he really understood the implications of this, I think his criticism would be lessened. I told him to go to another, less open, country and see if he likes the government better.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defined Democratic elections as such: "Democratic elections are not merely symbolic....They are competitive, periodic, inclusive, definitive elections in which the chief decision-makers in a government are selected by citizens who enjoy broad freedom to criticize government, to publish their criticism and to present alternatives."
In line with honoring those serving our country, Angie had a great idea to have our Girl Scout troop donate a portion of their candy and to send it oversees to soldiers in the Middle East. She found an organization that helps hook you up with soldiers, and we were connected with Jeffrey in Afghanistan. I don't have too many of the details yet, but when I do, I will post about it.

Here is the picture we are sending alone with the candy - thanking Jeffrey and Stephen and the entire 715th MP Company for their service. Apparently, not only do the soldiers love the candy themselves, but they use it to spread goodwill and to reduce the fear of the children that with which they come into contact.

So do your part...go vote and visit Aunt Nancy's blog for more information on supporting our troops.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Shoot the Little Ones

Trent was under strict orders not to shoot the little ones.

He was leaving them for me.

I'm not surprised by this sacrifice. He is the same boy that gave Dylan and I the shot at the turkeys a couple of years ago.

You see, Trent has hunted for most of his thirteen years and has harvested many deer. Because of this, he'll only shoot at the bigger ones and he'll leave the marginal (but legal) deer for Dylan and me, for between the two of us, we not have 2.5 days deer hunting experience.

What this equates to is that Dylan and I will be happy with any legal shooter because we've never harvested a deer before.

I think that is pretty exceptional for a young man - especially because he spotted two shooters on Saturday evening. I was in one tree stand, his dad was in another, and Trent was in his tripod. We were all within proximity of the three deer feeders we have placed. The morning was pretty boring. I hunted the field in which Dylan and I saw the large buck the week before. I didn't see anything, although was started pretty good when a bird landed on the pop-up blind from which I was hunting.

After breakfast, some messing around on the lease, and a nap, I went back into the tree stand. Again, I saw nothing for the rest of the evening. I picked up Steve from his blind and we called Trent. He was watching the bucks he wasn't gonna shoot chase a doe.

We're gonna get one before too much longer. Until then, I will blog about our failure.

The crazy fact is that even after spending six or seven hours in a stand, and having to drive four hours round trip, and not seeing anything but mosquitoes and small birds, I am still loving every minute out there. Whether lost in my own thoughts or prayer, or watching small birds dart from tree to tree, or sitting motionless because of some sound behind me, I'd rather be out there than doing most other things.

If I could get Angie, Marissa and Cassie interested, I'd be in paradise