Nov 27, 2010

Muzzle loader camp or bust

Sunday we will be hitting the road and heading down to New Jersey for our annual muzzle loader deer camp.  We will spend Monday and Tuesday running the mountains in the Delaware Water Gap chasing whitetails with friends and family.  The 16 of us will spend a couple nights in a rented cabin on top of the mountains where we will spend the evenings telling stories and lies and sleeping in comfort and if all goes well we will hang a few deer on the meat pole. 

Wish us luck!

Nov 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by far.  Friends and Family gathered around the table enjoying all those Thanksgiving favorites of Turkey, my grandmother's stuffing, taters, pumpkin pie.  Hold on while I wipe the drool from my chin....Okay, I'm back now where was I..  Oh yes, my favorite holiday, everything just seems so much better during the Thanksgiving holiday.  The turkey taste better than any other time of the year.  The football at the local high schools and on TV seems to be at a higher level with all the traditional games being played.  The story telling is at a all time high and of course Thanksgiving means that our deer season is in full swing and that our annual muzzle loader camp is just days away.

There is so much to be thankful for even when times seem tough and the Thanksgiving holiday just seems to remind me of that and I hope it does for you as well.  Wishing everyone a very safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Nov 22, 2010

2010 Connecticut Firearms Opener

This past Wednesday was the opener for the 2010 Connecticut firearms deer season.  In CT there are 2 types of deer permits you can purchase, Private land firearms and State Land Firearms.  The Private land permit runs the entire season from November 17th through December 7th and you can use Rifle or shotgun.  Rifle hunting requires the private land you are hunting to be at least 10 acres or more and there is a 2 deer bag limit one either sex and one antlerless tag.  State Land is broken down into two permit periods.  A season runs November 17th through November 26th. and B season runs November 27th through December 7th.  Shotguns with slugs only and 1 deer either sex bag limit.  We do have some deer management zones that offer up more liberal bag limits but in the zones I hunt the above limits hold true.

Heavy rains and winds where on tap for Wednesday so the game plan was to see what it was like in the AM and then make a decision on what to do.  I woke to pouring rain and more on the way according to the radar so I texted Busch Pilot and Bubba good luck and I crawled back into bed for another hour of sleep and then off to work. Wednesday seemed to drag on as I kept waiting for a text  from the boys but I never received one.  They hadn't seen a single deer all day and heard very little shooting.  On the way home from work I stopped at the check station to see how things were going and they had checked in only 46 deer which was less than half of a normal opening day.  The largest deer brought in that day was a 215lb 10 pointer with a high buck to doe ratio.

Thursday looked good but high winds so I decided to head to work instead which seemed like a good idea seeing once again that deer sightings were light.  Busch Pilot had seen a bunch of does but was holding out for a buck so he just watched the parade in the AM and Bubba bumped one when he was moving around and that was it.  Another stop at the local check station and  they had only processed 40 deer and once again about a 3 to 1 ratio of bucks to does. One out our friends got a 145lb spike buck that the biologist aged a 1 1/2 years old.

Friday was looking good so I decided to spend the day in the woods.  Bubba and I went to a piece of private land and Busch Pilot was on his own at another piece of private land.  Bubba and I didn't see anything in the AM and only heard about 10 shots all mornign and 3 came from the property across the street where one of the guys shot a deer.  Busch Pilot saw a few more does and a nice 8 pointer that he tried to work but ended up losing it in the laurels.  That afternoon I decided to hunt a piece of state land that I have never hunted before but had scouted a few times the last month.  The place I decided to hunt had been covered in deer sign.  Scraps and rubs everywhere, but most of the scrapes had not been touched recently.  Lots of tracks, signs of feeding, bedding and scat.  You would have to close your eyes to not see sign of deer so I have been waiting patiently to hunt out there.  I got all settled in on a knob overlooking some flat benches with some thicker brush to my back.  The wind was all over the place making hearing anything almost impossible and blowing my scent all over the place.  I didn't see anything until on my way out after legal shooting ended and ti was two does crossing the swamp and making a heck of a racket.   Another friend of ours got a small buck with half rack broke off.  As he was field dressing it the coyotes started making all kinds of racket and got a little too close for his comfort so he got the job done and got out of there.  Another stop at the check station revealed 43 deer for the day and 33 were bucks.

Saturday found our crew all over the place.  Bubba was back out with Steve on some private land near home.  Busch Pilot was back out to where he saw the buck on Friday and I headed back out to state land.  as I was walking in I jumped a deer just off the logging road to my right and I could hear one up on the left as well.  I thought about sitting tight on the logging road and waiting for shooting light but I figured there would be more hunter traffic coming in seeing it was the first Saturday of the season so I headed strait for the same spot I sat Friday evening.  The sun stayed behind the clouds and the wind was once again blowing all over the place making hearing anything impossible.  About 7:30am I decided to check the phone to see if anyone got luck and I had 2 messages.  One from Bubba with a picture of his buck shot at 6:40am and one from Busch Pilot with his buck shot at 6:50am.  BP was reading Bubba's text message and had to put the phone down to shoot his buck.  Amazing.  Around 8am in between the wind I swore I heard something that sounded like deer but I couldn't be sure.  Then I swore I heard it again and turned to my right only to be looking face to face with a small spike buck just about 50 yards away.  He saw me turn my head and up the hill he went offering no shot.  I tried to trick him back off the hill with a few "doe int he can" and grunts but he wanted nothing to do with that orange blob he just saw.  Oh well.  about 10am I decided to go for a walk and check out where the spike had gone only to find plenty more sign but no deer.  After a stop to rest and eat a pop tart I decided to work across the benches back to where I came in and check around there and wouldn't you know it right where I had jumped that deer in the dark was a fresh scrape.  argggggggghhhhhhh.  I should have setup on the logging road in the AM like I wanted to do.  Oh well.  I got all setup for the last two hours on the edge of the marsh and once again the wind just wouldn't cooperated making it a miserable afternoon.  On the way out I jumped a doe standing on the logging road at the brook.  They are taunting me but this will just make be come back to play the game some more.

Busch Pilot's 2010 Buck

Bubba's 2010 Buck

Nov 15, 2010

Weekend Waterfowl report - 11/13/10

Well the second season opened up here in the North Zone of CT this past Thursday and seeing our firearms season opens the 17th I made sure to get out some before I get tied up chasing whitetails and the swamps start to freeze up in our area.

I did a walk-in hunt to a place we call The Woody Inn as the woodies just love this spot and we can usually find them in there.  I have to walk by one of our normal spots on my way in to  The Woody Inn as well as a couple of other water holes and there was not a single duck to be seen or heard and usually if they are in there you can hear them or see them in the moonlight but it was way to quiet.  I decided to only hunt for a few hours and then head out to work.  I can see out into the big swamp from TWI and I never seen a duck, never heard a duck.  Heard a couple of geese but that was it.  We were seeing some 40-50 ducks during the early season so I have no idea where they went.

My partner Busch Pilot went out to the same area Friday night to see what was going on and and had some ducks come in well after legal light so we had a decision to make, hit this spot in the AM or try a spot we haven't hunted all year but produced in the past.  Well he claims I made the choice but I don't remember so we went to a spot we haven't hunted yet this year, but there were Mallards and Blacks last week when I was out scouting for deer so what the heck right.  It was a chilly morning with temps hovering just below freezing so I was hoping we would see ducks early to keep us warm.  IT didn't take long for the first two woodies to show up.  I'm still amazed at the sound of their wings as they come flying it like a fighter jet.  You can always hear them before you see them.  It wasn't even legal shooting yet when I heard them coming so I didn't bother calling and they landed out in the middle of the swamp.  in the course of the next 30 minutes we got buzzed by another 10 woodies in different groups and the last group of two was coming in and heading for the two already on the water so we hit the calls and they spun and head our way only to fly right over our setup and out the swamp.  As they left the two came up off the water and coming right at us.  I decided they were leaving and got ready to shoot and I was on them and as they go closer I didn't even notice the tree branches in my way and I let that poor tree have a couple loads of 3" #3 black clouds.  Busch Pilot couldn't stop laughing as the tree branches fell down on me.   About 10 minutes after this here comes two women hiking the trails around the swamp with their dog Lucy.  Go ahead, ask me how I know the dog's name?  What to know what they were planning on doing later that day?  How about what they did the night before?  Well they never stopped talking the entire hike around the swamp and it was a showcase of their stamina for sure.  30 degrees and only about 15 minutes after sunrise.  Thanks ladies.  We were bummed but not deterred until about 20 minutes later when another hiker comes across the dry dam.  BP said enough is enough so we decided to pack it up and as we were doign so I noticed that ice was forming on the swamp and had a couple of our decoys locked in.  BP said that this was a sign from the waterfowl gods to end his season, but I think he was kidding.  We decided to check out another spot and then do some jump shooting.  We didn't see anything the rest of the morning.

By mid day it was almost 60 degrees and we decided it was to nice to not hit the swamp so off we went to the south end of one of our normal haunts.  We decided seeing we don't need the canoe to get us to our blind that we would take the dog with us so I grabbed Hannah's hunting vest and she was in the truck faster than those woodies from this morning.  As we pulled off the road a young teen came tooling down the road on his dirt bike and we almost made the decision to pack up and go home right then but decide what the heck.  15 minutes later we see the kid coming up the road pushing his bike with a Conservation Officer walking right behind him and another following in the truck.  That will quiet the joint down for a bit.  While setting up I decide to give the dog some water work with a bumper and hoping settle her down a bit.  It somewhat worked.  About an hour into our sit BP whispers that a beaver is coming around the point and to grab the dog.  Hannah was lying at my feet so I just scratched the back of her neck waiting to grab her vest.  As this beaver comes around the point is only 5 feet off the bank and I thought for sure we would have an incident.  Hannah was locked in on him as he swam up to BP just feet away looking at him and then he swam over infront of Hannah and I looking at us just 3 feet from us.  She was quivering but never moved a muscle or made a sound.  I thought for sure that this would end with my Hannah and that beaver having a tussle and all I could think about was me in the middle of it and getting my nipple bitten off by a beaver.  That thought came from a story Jeff Foxworthy tells about someone telling him about their brother getting their nipple bitten of by a beaver.  I was trying not to laugh and concentrate on keeping the dog still and hoping the beaver would leave and he finally did.  As he was swimming away Hannah gave out a couple of quiet whines but she did good and stayed tight thank goodness.  That beaver was the high light of the evening hunt.  I'm not sure where all the birds went but they will be back I just hope it's before everything freezes.

If you have never seen or heard Jeff Foxworth tell the story about the beaver you can see it below.  Make sure you are NOT drinking anything while watching this.

Nov 11, 2010

Freedom isn't Free - Thank a vet.

Let us never forget that Freedom isn't free.  Freedom has come at the sacrifice of many brave men and women.  A friend of mine whom I served with in the US Army and whom is still on active duty shared this with me.

"A veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact."

Thank You to everyone that has served or still serving to protect our freedom.  If not for those brave men and women that stood up to protect our freedoms we would not be allowed to partake in the wonder of the great outdoors that so many of us enjoy.  Please say a prayer for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and for those at this moment that are still fighting to protect our freedom. 

A Thank You doesn't seem like it's enough but it comes deep from the heart and I will never forget their sacrifices.

From one vet to another..... Happy Veterans Day and THANK YOU!

Nov 9, 2010

I won the lottery!!

I actually won the lottery yesterday, not the big money lottery but the lottery for a New Jersey Black Bear permit for the upcoming 2010 bear hunting season.  One of my hunting partners also received the good news that he has received a black bear permit as well.   This will be the first Bear hunt in NJ since the 2005 season after which the Anti's were successful in getting Bear hunting shut down until NJ DEP came up with a comprehensive Bear management plan that uses hunting as a management tool and found a Governor willing to listen to the experts they have hired to manage New Jersey's wildlife.  Thanks to all of hard work from NJ DEP to hunters and everyday citizens the hunt is finally back on and truly in need if the NJ bear population is going to have any chance of being held in check.

I am looking forward to participating in the 2010 Black bear hunt from December 6 thru December 11 which coincides with the New Jersey six day firearm deer season.  I have only been bear hunting once in my life in New Brunswick and although I was unsuccessful and sometimes petrified it was an experience I have never forgotten and always wanted to do it one more time so this year I will give it a try again.  I have had many encounters with NJ black bears during my outings in the Delaware Water Gap and I look forward to one more  sometime during the week of December 6th.

Here is a link to a blog dedicated to NJ Bear hunting that has followed and blogged about the political, ecological and bizarre fight for a NJ black bear hunt.  It is an interesting read for sure and one I have been following for some time.

Wish me luck!

Nov 7, 2010

Youth Deer Hunt Shout out

I just have to send a shout out to Little Bubba for the 6 pointer he took during Saturday's Youth Hunter training day.  Also a shout out to his Dad for taking him out and teaching him the right way.

Here is the story written by his Dad:

I took my son James out for youth day yesterday and he was successful! The alarm went off at 5am so i go and wake him up and he is up and dressed in a flash. By 5:15 he is sitting at the kitchen table with his jacket, gloves and hat on just looking at me with the "are you ready yet look". I advise him that we are not leaving for about a half hour so he takes his coat and hat off. We arrive at our spot in at 6:15 and head to our rock ledge that we sit on and get settled in before daylight. James is sitting on my left side and we are both scanning the woods for movement. The morning was very quiet with only hearing one shot. About 8:30 I see a deer coming our way pretty quick, I whisper to James DEER coming from the right and it stopped to feed. Now James is to my left and the deer is to my right and he shoots right handed so I am in the wrong place (go figure). The deer's head was down so i told him to shift positions slowly and he did. When he pulled up the 30-30 the deer was right behind a big dead tree at 50 yards, he needed to take 3 steps so while we were waiting I rested my elbow on my knee and made a rest with my thumb and pointer finger to help him steady the gun. Then the deer took 1 step, it seemed like an eternity, then another eternity and finally the third step. before i could say shoot when your ready.... BOOM!!!  I guess he was ready. The deer reared up and off he went. I told him to eject and the deer stopped after 30 yards and did the sideways death quiver. He hit it in the lungs and liver so it expired pretty quick. James field dressed it and drug it to the truck. We got it home and James and his younger brother skinned it out.

Nov 4, 2010

Archery Camp Report - Part 2

Day 4 - The good news was no rain.  The bad news is temps reaching 70 again.   I decided to head back to the same area I sat Monday and Tuesday but this time move more up the mountain above where i was sitting previously.  I didn't see anything but one bear creeping through the fog and this was my first bear on stand this week.  About 11am i decided to go check out a patch of woods just down river from where my brother was sitting and as i was walking down the trail I saw something move int he woods to the left of me and here comes a black fur ball.  Great another bear.  He is coming on a crash course with me so at about 40 yards away I start to give him a piece of my mind and he just ignores me and keeps coming so I step down the road a bit and he walks right across the road gives me a look and into the woods on the other side.  Nice.  I got on the radio to let my brother know he was coming.  after about 15 minutes and no bear my brother decides to pack it in so he gets up and goes to pick up his scent cans and as he is doing so he looks over to his ground blind for some reason and the bear is walking within 10 feet of where he was sitting.  He gets on the radio to tell me what is going on and I talk him into getting his camera out and take some pictures so he sneaks over to his gear, pulls out his camera and starts following the bear and taking some video of it.  Before he knew it he was within 30 feet of the bear and figured he better back up some he got some great little video clips and it made for some good conversation.  That afternoon i thought about taking a dip in the river seeing it was 72 degrees but Bob and i headed out to hunt one of our old haunts instead.  As we were sneaking in I bumped a small spike out of the brush and up the hill he went.  He ran up by Bob but didn't offer a shot.  Bob did see two others heading up the hill as well.  About 20 minutes later bob sees a small 6 sneaking back down the hill but he doesn't come anywhere near me.  As i was packing up I got snorted by two that somehow snuck in behind me with out making a sound.

Day 5 - Well we could actually see the stars last night but by morning it was clouded over and the radar was showing some showers on their way and it was a hot one again.  I decided to head back to the spot I was working on Wednesday but up the mountain more to an old blind we have setup and hopefully I'd get a look at something.  About 8:30am I hear a noise and look to my left to see a nice little buck coming my way.  He steps down into the creek and up the bank and is standing behind some trees just 30 yards away.  Now the spot I am sitting in is pretty open to the front of me, but plenty of small trees to each side so as the buck start out across the flat he angles away a little bit and I don't dare move because of ho open it is.  The buck walks by me and starts up the hill to my right amongst those small trees to about 60 yards from me so now I can move so I pick up the "doe in a can" and give him a couple of bleats and he stops.  I hit him with a couple more and now he is running right down to me and about 30 yards out and comes to a dead stop.  Crap.  He hit my wind for sure.  He spins around and takes back off up the hill.  I get him stopped again and he just stand there looking down at me for about 10 minutes before finally moving off up the mountain.  Ray had a bear by him and Jimmy had 4 does and spike first thing in the mornign until a big bear scared them off.  Jimmy saw 3 mores bears that morning.  Bobby let a spike walk and later as he was checking out some brush bumped a nice buck with a doe.  This buck is one we are all too familiar with from last year so we where happy to hear he was alive.  We had him beat us on a couple of drivers on the last day of Muzzle loader last year so we've been waiting for him to show up.  That afternoon the wind was really blowing and I almost called it quits but it was my last night to hunt so I hit the thick brush along where Bob ran into Whitey in the AM.  about 5:30 i had two does walking in on me and I thought for sure i was closing the deal on my last night only for the wind to swirl again and the lead doe stopped dead let out one snort, spun around and was gone.  Well i can't say I didn't have my opportunities.

Day 6  - Today was the first day of extended season and seeing i decided not to spend the $56 to hunt just one day my plan was to just head out and take some pictures instead. It was also finally a day that felt right to hunt waking up to 33 degrees and clear skies.  I did sleep in because I needed it seeing I was fighting a cold.  About 9:30 I headed up the road and ran into Ray who was already out of his stand and talking with Jimmy on the radio.  Turns out Bobby had another encounter with Whitey and finally got a shot after calling it in with his "doe in the can" and unfortunately he hit a branch for a clean miss.  oops, I can't say miss because according to Bob he didn't miss it was the branches fault.  Whitey headed down river and about 30 minutes later he is walking right into Jimmy's ground blind.  Jimmy also gets a shot off but doesn't connect and ends up giving whitey a little something to think about.  This makes 5 times whitey has gotten away from us and I'm hoping his luck runs out soon.  Preferably opening day of Muzzle loader as he is walking by my stand.  Everyone was a little wiped out and disgusted and decided with the wind it was time to call it a camp, but young Jame who had just come into camp the night before headed out and up the mountain above camp.  He was gone long when we got a text message from him telling us to turn on a radio.  He spent the evening giving us play by play of all the bucks he was seeing chasing does and there the 5 of us sat in camp just complaining about not being in the woods.  What a way to end a week of hunting.  It was off to dinner and then up to my dads to watch the Penn State vs Michigan football game.  Go LIONS!

The End

Sunday we broke camp and I made the 3 and 1/2 hour ride home thinking about all the close calls and the good news of Whitey still being around.  I won't get back down until after Thanksgiving when Muzzle Loader season opens so I will be reliving last week until then.  Overall our group saw 12 bucks and only 2 were with does.  We had some success using the "Doe in the Can" calls as well.  We didn't see many does which was a little concerning.  We did see a total 11 bears and one bobcat.  Camp may have ended in unfilled tags but it was still a successful camp in my book.

Some additional pictures and Bear videos.

Depue Family Cemetery

Scratching post for a bear

Jimmy and Bobby after their encounter with Whitey.

Nov 2, 2010

Archery Deer Camp Report - Part 1

Our Camp

Well after an early morning visit to the local hardware store to purchase some new safety chains for my currently misplaced ones I was on the road and head to the Delaware water Gap in NJ for our annual week long Archery camp.  I was the only one from CT heading to camp as Busch Pilot and Cletus had other commitments and had to back out of the trip, but my NJ friends Ray and Jimmy where already in camp and waiting for me.  Our camp consists of 2 pop-up campers at Worthington State Forest campground which sits along the delaware River and on Old Mine Rod just 4 miles from Rt 80.  I pulled in about 1pm and Ray and Jimmy where chatting with Turkey John whom just happens to be a regular at the camp ground as he spends the week chasing turkeys.  On my way down through the gap I ran into a flock crossing the road so I made sure to give Turkey John their coordinates.

Part of the camp ritual is a trip into PA to visit a local Walmart and shop for our camp supplies from anything from cleaning supplies to dinner items.  We almost always walk out of there with way more than we need but all the leftover items that can be saved for Muzzle Loader camp in late November will get used up for certain.  On the way out to do our shopping we had the pleasure of watching a bobcat cross the road which now makes 7 sightings for me in this area.  What a wonderful site to see but I sure wish I had my camera with me but it was in my truck.  After unpacking and finishing setting up camp we were off to dinner at the Blairstown Inn which has also become somewhat of a tradition.  Nothing fancy, just a good old burger and a Yuengling. On the way back from dinner we watched a nice 8 pointer cross the road and stop log enough to give us a good look and it sure looked like he was saying "This is the last time you will see me" has he was headed way up the mountain.  We also saw the first black bear of camp.  Were were the only 3 in camp Sunday night with Bobby, My brother Steve, my dad and Bill schedule to be in for the mornign hunt.  Sleep on the first night is hard to come by but we did our best to get some rest because it is a long week.

This sign says it all

Day 1 - It was already 48 degrees at wake-up with a clear sky and full moon and temps scheduled to reach 70, which they did.  I met my brother and dad at the upper glen parking lot and we headed off to some ground blinds that we use often.  My brother setup in the same spot he has been sitting for the past couple Saturdays hoping for a shot a familiar 4 pointer while I headed over to a spot where my son shot is 8 pointer a few years back and dad headed up river to were they shot some deer last year.  I had fresh Turkey scratchings all over but no deer.  My dad had deer by him as he was walking in and then nothing the rest of the morning.  My brother did get to see his 4 pointer again but no shots.  Jimmy had a couple dear early on but no shots.  Ray didn't see anything but his son Raymond saw 10 down along the corn fields.  We left the woods around 1pm just soaked from sweat.  Raymond and Bobby went to jump shoot wood ducks in the creek while the rest of us hit the showers and got dinner going early.

My brother with his small pack.  :)

Day 2 - We had some serious rain and wind during the night and I thought we were losing the canopies for a minute but everything survived.  It was hot and muggy today and the bugs were out in full force and I was down to a long sleeve T Shirt by 7:30am.  Steve, Dad and I decided to hit the same stands as Monday.  I decided to move out a little farther in my deadfall to see down into that brush a little better so as I was setting up my new perch I saw a nice buck spook start working down into the brush.  I got all settled in and figured he would be hunkered down in the brush but he worked his way over to my dad but not shot.  About 8:30am I heard some noise behind me and saw a dear coming and wouldn't you know it he walked within 10 yards of where I was sitting yesterday.  He stopped and feed at the end of the deadfall I was sitting in and all I need was about 4 steps for a shot and all of a sudden a chipmunk gets all spunky and jumps up on the deadfall between the 6 point and I and the buck looked up and we were eye to eye.  Crap, this isn't going to end good.  He starred at me for bit, then gave me a little head wave, stomped and hoped away.  Dang chipmunk.  Close call for sure.  I didn't see anything the rest of the day.  My brother and Bill had that 4 pointer again and a doe but just couldn't get any shooting in.  Steve and I had to go take our mandatory bear hunter education class at 3pm so we headed out by noon and Bob was talking about chasing some ducks and working on his tan.  The weather we were having was NOT helping our hunting.

Bob and I with a couple of Wood Ducks.

Day 3 - We woke up to some heavy rain and after a quick check of the radar on the Motorola Droid it looked like it was going to lighten up so we got a late start but we hit the woods by 7am.  I decided to still hunt an area and use the wet ground to scout some areas and I bumped a doe walking in and could see another doe being followed by a small buck farther up in the woods.  I decided to work the first doe and set out at sneaking along and catching up to her which I did.  I was working parallel to her trying to get in front of her by using the little dips and hills in the hemlocks and just couldn't make up the distance I needed and eventually she turned and head straight away and then was no catching up to her so I decided to go check out where I saw the other two.  There was no sign at all around there.  I hunted untl about noon and then I had to go dry out.  Bob and I decided to jump shoot the creek for wood ducks that afternoon and I went 1 for 2 which isn't bad.  I did have to play retriever for one of Bob's ducks and wouldn't you know it landed in the thickest set of prickers you could find.  Even my dog would have said, no way am I going in there but I did anyway.

To be continued.