Dec 31, 2010

Looking back on 2010

2010 was a challenging year for me both personally and professionally and of course the economic issues we've all been dealing with sure didn't make it any easier.  The two constants that make dealing with the day to day grind acceptable is my family and the great outdoors.   I am very fortunate to have a healthy, loving and understanding family that not only puts up with my passion for the outdoors, but also encourages it and participates in it and for that I am truly thankful.

I can't forget my partners in crime that also partake in our outdoor adventures because without them there would be no stories to tell, no memories and a whole lot less laughter.  Yes there would be more peace and quiet but what is the fun in that.

To all my new friends that I've met through my adventures in blogging, a huge thank you to all for sharing your outdoor adventures with me and allowing me to share my passion with you.

Wishing everyone a very safe, healthy and Happy New Year!  I can't wait to see what 2011 brings.

Dec 30, 2010

Fly and Fin: Wild On The Fly Premiere's January 1, 2011

Fly and Fin: Wild On The Fly Premiere's January 1, 2011

This is just what the doctor ordered when recovering from ringing in the new year. Just roll out of bed, grab some water, I'm sure you'll need it, and turn on the TV to catch the first episode of Wild on the Fly.

Wild On The Fly, presented by Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula, Montana is debuting on the Outdoor Channel on January 1, 2011 at 1:30PM. Wild On The Fly is a new 13-episode series of angling adventures from all around the world.

Targeting specifies from Perch and Trout to some toothy critters like Muskies and Sharks.  A little something for everyone.  For more information and to view the 13 episode schedule check out the press release here.

Looks like I'm going to need a bigger DVR.

Dec 29, 2010

Winter time is the best time to improve your Fly Fishing

Even if you are not lucky enough to have trout waters open to fly fishing through out the winter months there are many ways for you to keep your learning going and to stay fresh.  Weather you are looking to get started in Fly Fishing or looking to further your personal Fly Fishing education there is no better time then winter time.  Every winter I sit down and review my Fly Fishing season and think about what steps I want to take next.  I use the winter months not only to replenish my supplies of flies, some of which I tie myself and others I will purchase over the coming winter months, but to learn new techniques.    I will also take some time to give my fishing gear some TLC and perform some preventative maintenance.  What ever it is you are looking to do or learn here are some my favorites places and things that have helped me tremendously over the past year.

My Local Fly Shop
Nothing can ever replace the gang at your local fly shop and the winter time is the best time to make those visits and get some help and to stock up on materials.  The hustle and bustle of the fishing season has died down as winter takes hold and that usually finds Steve, Jim and the rest of the crew at JT's Fly Shop with much more time on their hands to answer my questions and help me improve.  I have attended many formal classes held at the shop as well as been informed of nearby presentations and opportunities through their weekly shop droppings emails. Steve, Jim, Brandon and Stan have invited me in and made me feel like one of the crew and all have had a hand in helping me improve my fly fishing and fly tying skills.  In return I try to help out wherever and however possible and I know they appreciate it.  Make sure you visit your local fly shop and check in to their classes and see if they have an enewsletter that you can sign up for.  The trip will be well worth it.

Trout Predator Online (TPO)
Besides the great staff at my local fly shop the TPO forum has been the best online fly fishing resource I could ask for.  Aaron Jasper, the founder of TPO, and many of the regulars are always willing to help out with any question or inquiry you may have about equipment, techniques, flies or even locations, just don't expect the GPS coordinates to their favorite trout hiding spots.  The site is filled with many instructional video clips, including the Fly of the Month tying video, as well as instructional threads on different fishing and tying techniques and even regular fishing field reports.   I've had the pleasure of meeting Aaron and asking him questions long before I booked a guided trip with him and I can tell you for a fact he is passionate about Fly Fishing and full of energy and if you can keep up with him a day on the water is well worth it.   However if you can't hook up with Aaron personally then I suggest you take advantage of his newest video European Nymphing - Techniques and Fly Tying as after a look at the trailer below I have no doubt this video will be informative and full of energy and great advice just like Aaron himself.  I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

CFFA - Connecticut Fly Fisherman's association.
The CFFA is just one of a few local Fly fishing organizations and it is local enough for me that I can make meetings regularly as well as take advantage of their tying and fishing classes.   They even have their own web forum so staying updated is easy and it helps with meeting other members as well.  There are many people in these organizations that are more then willing and happy to help other fisherman out so make it a point to look up a local Fly Fishing organization in your area and get to a few meetings.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Outdoor shows
Winter is the time for outdoors shows and in my area we will have plenty of them to keep us busy.  One that I am especially excited to attend is the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA.  They also have shows in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina.  Now if you have a fly fishing only show in your area make sure to take advantage of it.

Books, videos and the Internet
There are plenty of great books for beginners and seasoned veterans alike.  One of my favorites from when I was starting out was the Orvis Fly Fishing Guide.  This book covers everything from the basic equipment needed, flies, type of fishing and reading the water and a book that I read every winter for the first few years.  The Orvis website also has a great resources section at the bottom of their main page that offers up loads of information and their Animated Knot page is tops.  Another outstanding web site with loads of fly fishing information is Fly Anglers Online which claims to be your complete internet flyfishing resource and they may just be.  With everything from great articles, fly fishing basics and ofcourse fly tying information.  Fly Anglers Online is a must stop for anyone interested in fly fishing.  One of my favorite sections of their website is the Tying tip archives which contain many great suggestions or helpful tips related to fly tying.  Youtube is another great place to find tying and fly fishing videos both instructional and entertaining. The video shown below is an instructional tying video for tying the Wooly Bugger which is one of may favorite ties to fish with.  Take advantage of many of the fly fishing forums like TPO and Flyaddict to research books and videos before buying them, heck you might even find someone willing to loan it to you.

For many, winter time is something we all struggle to get through as we crave the days of warm weather and more light but regardless of where you are in your fly fishing endeavors the winter is a great time to move forward and to learn new things or to brush up on the old.

Stay Warm.

Dec 23, 2010

Holiday Wishes

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

I wish I could take credit for the above but I can't.  It's been floating around the internet for some time now and it still doesn't get old.

And for those of you that are okay with the old traditional greeting that I grew up with.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Hannah waiting for her Stocking to be filled.

Dec 19, 2010

Ice Fishing Safety

Around my neck of the woods the hard water has arrived and it's time to start thinking about hitting the ice but before doing so a review of ice safety is in order.

The biggest questions is how thick is thick enough?  I can tell you this, I won't be the first person ice fishing, instead I will usually be late to the game just to be safe.  Most charts on ice safety use 4 inches as safe for one angler and gear and 7 to 8 inches for group activities.  It is also important to remember that ice thickness is not the same across the entire body of water soa  good rule of thumb is to check the ice thickness every 150 feet.  It's important to note that moving water like a river or a stream will wear ice from below so the view from above may be misleading. To be safe you should always check the thickness of ice and be aware of the under structure as well as this could affect water movement and the thickness in that area. 

What do you do if you fall through the ice?
  • Don't Panic and stay calm.
  • Do NOT remove your clothes as the trapped air can provide some extra flotation.
  • Turn back the way you came as you know that ice was safe.
  • Place your hands and arms on the ice and kick your feet to help you get back on the ice.
  • Once back on the ice stay flat and roll away from the hole.
  • Get dry and warm immediately.

What if someone else falls through the ice?  Practice Reach, Throw and Go.
  • REACH - Use something like a pole or branch to reach out to the person.
  • THROW - Throw a rope or PFD to the person.
  • GO - Go for help.  If you are the only other person present DO NOT try to approach the person yourself.

It is very important to be prepared for a day on the ice and to have items to help you out in a bad situtaion and to make those cold days a little more comfortable.  Something like a boat cushion not only adds a little comfort to your sit, but can be used to help someone who falls through the ice.  Here are some other items that should be part of your ice fishing gear.
  • Ice Awls like the Picks of Life can be a life saver if you fall in and no one is around to help and at the cost of less than $20 there is no excuse for not having a pair or two but if you can't afford the cost you can make your own with just some rope, dowels and nails.
  • Ice cleats or creepers that you can slip on over your boats that will provide the necessary traction to keep you vertical and stop the potential of a bad fall where you smack your head on the ice which from personal experience is NOT a good feeling.  Even some sand in a bucket can be handy and helpful.
  • A rope with a buoy on the end can not only be used to help tow your sled full of gear but can be used to help rescue someone who falls through the ice.
  • Extra socks, gloves or other clothing.  During a day on the ice you are bound to get a little wet and getting dry and keeping warm is a must for a great day on the ice.
  • Disposable hand warmers are part of every one of my outdoor gear packs as they provide quick and easy warmth when needed and inexpensive.
  • First aid kit including matches.  If you in a remote area you need to be ready for anything.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has one of the best Ice Safety Websites that I have found so take some time to review their website prior to heading out on the ice.

Some additional links with some great ice fishing safety information.

Make sure to review your Ice Safety and preparedness before your venture out for your first trip of the season so you can concentrate on landing the big one.

Happy Fishing and be safe and stay warm.

Dec 9, 2010

Sarcocystis - "Rice Breast Disease"

I was catching up on many of the blogs I follow and I cam across an interesting blog from The Downeast Duck Hunter where he was describing what he found when dressing out a black duck that he recently harvested and I was totally amazed as I have never seen such a thing and just had to share it.

What DDH noticed was  "Both breasts were impregnated with small white objects that resembled rice".  So he decided to search the internet and it turns out this is this rice looking stuff was Sarcocystis which was latter confirmed by some email correspondence that DDH had with Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

If you are a waterfowl hunter take a minute to read the blog post and the information in the above link.

Dec 8, 2010

I know it's wrong, but it's still made me laugh

One of the things I look forward to on Wednesdays is the Wednesday Nibbles post on the Troutrageous! blog.  I'm not sure where he digs some of this stuff up but he always has something of interest and this week was no different.

I know it is probably wrong to find this funny in anyway and I should be concerned about the well being of these ducklings but it is too funny.  Be warned, you will laugh, so make sure you are not drinking anything when you watch this or you will have to clean up a mess like I did.

Check out the video below and please stop by Troutrageous! blog and check out the rest of his blog.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Dec 7, 2010

Weekend Woes

I wish the weekend woes were realted to something that happened in the field but it's not.  It was somewhat related to the field though as it had to do with a series of breakdowns during the processing of the deer we harvested last week on our New Jersey Muzzle loader hunt.

With a truck load of deer to take care of there was plenty of skinning, cutting, grinding, stuffing and sealing going on so it's no surprise that we run into a problem but we didn't expect 3 of them.

The first casualty was my Tila professional II food saver.  At first glance it just wasn't creating an air tight seal and the bags were leaking.   A Little investigation led to something wrong with the sealing strip on the unit.  Seeing it's probably 7 years old and has seen probably 100 deer package through it, not to mention home use and fish, it's probably time to replace the sealing strip and the heating element.  Anyone every have to do it?  If so I could use some links and pointers and if not I will make sure to document my experience for those that need it in the future.

The second casualty of the weekend was the meat mixer.  Either someone has been working out extra hard or one of our hot dog kits got to sticky causing one of the paddles to snap off and without that paddle it just wasn't working correctly and it needed some helping hands to mix things up.  This just slows the process down.  Good thing one of our guys is a fix it specialist so he took it to work and welded it back together and we were up and running again on Monday evening.

Our new Stuffer

The third casualty was the stuffer and it couldn't have gone at a worse time.  We were just into the first batch of snack sticks and the gear was stripped smooth and the stuffer was down and out and we had 75 pounds of product to stuff sitting there. What happened next took on the characteristics of the controlled chaos in an emergency room with Bubba, Hooks and Chuck running around looking for tools, all three of them trying to stick their faces into the stuffer to see and then ripping the thing apart.  The only difference was the stuffer stayed apart.   Once apart it was time for a sit down and brain storming session.  After a thorough but quick discussion which included a check of the internet to see what part we needed, the three of them loaded up and were off to Cabelas which is only about 35 minutes from us.  Now what is the chance that Cabelas would have the part for our stuffer?  Yup, you guessed it  - zero chance, so instead of a replacement part, they walked out with a new 11lb stuffer.  I know you are thinking, well that solved that issue, well you would think right, but what does any man do with something new.  Yup, take it out of the box and throw away the instructions.  It was a little comical and Busch Pilot and I just went about our business of mixing up meat and smiling.  Once the boys got rolling with the new stuffer we were back on track and running like a well oiled machine.

My Daughter on the cutting table
Everyone is excited to help out when you have a deer or two hanging but when you have seven of them the help starts dropping quickly and we had to recruit new help and with the kids around and not smart enough to run when we need help, we gathered them up and put them to work.  It was a great help and a needed break and of course we had plenty of laughs.

All these break downs and long nights should make the fruits of our harvest taste that much better and I know for a fact it did as I enjoyed some fresh made Polish Sausage patties for lunch today.

Dec 5, 2010

2010 New Jersey Muzzle Loader report - Day 2

Catfish pond at dusk on Monday evening

After a hard first day of hunting in the cold and a good night sleep we were up and at it once again on Tuesday morning.  This time the coffee maker was setup perfectly and thank goodness because for many of us it took a few extra cups to get us started this morning.  The only one that was wide awake and full of energy was the youngster Kyle because he got 10 hours of sleep after hitting the sack early because he was worn out from DOE fever, which according to Kyle is not as severe as BUCK fever.

The only change from day one was Jimmy went off the mountain to hunt with his nephew James down at Red Dog which is located down along an old farm and the corn fields not far down river from where a bunch of our crew was hunting.  Everyone up top, including myself ended back at our same stands from Monday morning but the big difference was the weather.  It was cloudy and overcast with storms moving in and temps in the mid to high 30s and expected to hit the mid 50s.  There was a little more wind and the forest floor was a little quieter this morning so the eyes had to work a little harder today.  It didn't take long to hear the first shots and this time you could tell it was muzzle loaders and coming from the direction of Bubba, Busch Pilot and Chuck.  Sure enough the radio lit up and Bubba had a clean miss.  Not once but twice, uh oh this isn't normal  and I was starting to worry that this was a bad sign on how the day was going to go, but it was just a freak phenomenon and we were back on track quickly..  Bubba and Busch Pilot where working the brush after that and had a jag of deer come bursting up the mountain and across the top and never fired a single shot.  Good think Chuck was up there because he took a bead on a 4 pointer and his shot was true.  Now this wasn't the largest buck chuck ever shot but it was certainly special as this buck was the third buck chuck shot this year, covering three states (Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey) in just three weeks of hunting.  Now if you're a hunter you know that this is something special and a pretty darn good accomplishment.  Not only do you have to have some luck and be in the right spot three times, but you have to shoot straight all three times and Chuck certainly did.

Chuck's Buck

Chuck with his coveted traveling sportsman award.

It was long after Chuck shot that we heard James shot a large doe down at Red Dog.  Just because you are hunting the low lands that doesn't mean you have an easy drag.  James had to drag that doe almost a mile out to the truck and his Uncle Jim enjoyed watching every minute of it.  Now James got his first muzzle loader deer last year and his first buck with a bow this fall so he is certainly on a streak of his own but I have a feeling he will think twice about shooting a deer down that way again because there was a little complaining about the drag and I must admit, it's not as easy as people think.  One thing for sure, young James is turning into a fine hunter and sportsman and it was great to see him tag a deer.

The one that didn't get away from Busch Pilot

As for the rest of us, no more shooting that morning but we got into some later that day.  Busch Pilot had another chance to redeem himself after taking out a tree on Monday and as he lined up a really large doe, that Chuck actually thought was a rock at first, he was confident and steady and when is CVA Wolf muzzle loader barked the deer jumped up and started walking off.  He had an audience on this shot as Bubba, Chuck, James and Jimmy all watched this fine display of marksmanship and more than one them thought he made a good hit but while they watched the deer move out of site the deer's body language was telling a different story.  They followed up the shot and could not find any hint of a hit, no blood and no hair and no digs marks, nothing.  So they went back to where Busch Pilot was and were looking things over when James noticed some bark missing off a branch just feet from where Busch Pilot was standing when he shot.  He never saw the branch in the scope but it was in the line of fire and took a hit which explains why the deer was acting perfectly normal.

The Meat Tree after the final Drive

We got Chuck's and James' deer hung up, had some lunch and decided what to do next.  It was raining pretty good by this time and Bob and the kids were heading home and Dad, Steven and Bill  had called it quits as well.  The rest of us decided that we just had to make at least one drive and it had to be one of our usual, so we gathered up our gear, dressed for the rain and the walking and headed off the mountain to push a little spot we refer to as Long Pond.  It's not a pond at all but thick brush and tall grass that just happens to have some puddles of water that runs along the river just off the road and at the bottom of the mountain.  It is a very narrow stretch that narrows down to a tight pinch point as in gets closed off by two very small hill tops.  So we set out our standers, 4 of which are at the north end at the pinch point by the hill tops and two across the road up on the mountain side so if they get by the first three standers they are in position for a shot or to push them back down into the brush.  Now because the deer like to sneak back through the drivers we have another stander positioned at the back end where it starts out narrow but offers a more open shooting lane and much more visibility.  While the drivers are all lined up pushing the brush we have a another blocker up on the side of the mountain with a perfect view of the drivers and he is moving along with the drivers to keep an eye on things and keep the deer from moving up the mountain.  Everyone has very specific shooting lanes that are in a safe direction and never towards another stander or a driver.  If the deer are in there we will usually get one.  As is usual with this push it doesn't matter if I have a deer or not I'm a driver and take the thick brush along the river. The Driver along the road side deals more with tall grass while the driver in between us has to deal with both thick brush and tall grass.  This cover makes for a great hiding place and many times we've almost stepped on deer before they get up and head out.    Just about a 100 yards into the push we have deer up and heading up river to the standers,  now we don't push them hard, just enough to get them moving and then we wait a bit and let them do their thing.  Well it isn't long before the deer are moving up a creek bed trying to cross and go up the mountain right where we have a stander there waiting for them and down goes number one.  They try to go up the hill but our guy is there and number two goes down and the rest are back down into the brush we have to work the real thick stuff to shag them along and give them a little extra push..  We get them moving again and they try once again to get across and up the mountain only to run into another blocker who is standing on the hill waving his arms to keep them down in the brush.  They stay down in the brush and break back down river where our backdoor stander is and down goes number 3, but number 4 slips out the back.  Well, we know there is at least one more in there and think it is still out in front of the drivers so we continue to push forward and and sure enough the last one is hiding just at the pinch point in the really thick stuff and it scoots out the back door and lives another day and is a whole lot smarter now.  Now this is probably the most deer we've gotten on this drive, but surely not the biggest as we've taken a couple of nice bucks out of here but the three we got were all Does.

No it's not a scene out of Deliverance it's just Cletus

Cletus got the chance to field dress his first deer without any help and he did a great job but somehow he ended up covered in blood as if he was a little puppy that rolled in something he shouldn't have.  It was a little frightening and at one point I swore I heard the music from the movie Deliverance playing.  We gave him some grief but you couldn't wipe the smile off his face with all the towels in the world.  He knew he was taking his next step as a hunter and he couldn't have been prouder.  One problem though, his deer was the smallest of all and he swears he could eat it all in one sitting and the way he eats we believe him. Looks like I will have to share some of mine with him as well.  We got them all loaded up and the boys head off to the check station while the rest of us called it a day and head back to camp to get dried out.

The Connecticut crew stays an extra night in camp and we drive home in the morning on Wednesday and the rest of the local boys head home on Tuesday night so our dinner Tuesday was leftovers and nice and quiet.  We were up around 6:30 Wednesday and had both trucks loaded and headed back to Connecticut.  The nice thing about out crew is the local boys always make sure us CT boys get the shooting opportunities because with the weird way the muzzle loader season runs in our zone it's hard for us to get back up except for maybe a day or two out of the remaining 13 hunting days while our NJ crews just drives the 30 minutes to hunt it up.  I sure wish I lived closer.   Regardless of the deer count we always have a great trip and the goodbyes usually start with only 362 days until the next camp.

It was a great 2 days with 8 deer taken, 3 bucks, 1 button and 4 does.  Everyone saw deer and many had shot opportunities, but it was the time with friends and family that make camp great.

Dec 4, 2010

2010 New Jersey Muzzle Loader report - Day 1

Blueberry Hill Cabin
 Well we made it to camp on Sunday without any issues after a stop at Stokes Forest Sport Shop to buy our Muzzle Loader tags tags and a stop at the Layton Country Store for a Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwich, well 7 of them actually.  There were seven of us making the trip from Connecticut for our annual Muzzle Loader hunt down in the Delaware Water Gap.  Myself, Bubba, Busch Pilot, Chuck, Steve, Hooks and Cletus are all veterans of this trip and something we look forward to each year.  We arrived at the cabin which would be our home for a few days around noon and Ray, Jimmy, James and Bill were already unpacked and settled in and Ray was cooking up the Mexican venison dip that has become a tradition of these trips.  After some hellos and handshakes, we set about unloading the two trucks and getting all situated into our rooms.  The cabin we stay at is called Blueberry Hill and one of many that the Mohican Outdoor Center has available.  Blueberry sleeps 16 and we would fill it to capacity for this trip.  Bobby and his two young boys (Kyle and Brandon) were next to arrive with this being Kyles first Muzzle Loader camp and Brandon's second.  My brother Steve wasn't going to be in until later that night and my dad would arrive on Monday morning.

Story Time with Hooks

Sunday at camp is kind of a relaxing day for the most part as many of us have been hunting for weeks either during the Archery seasons or the Connecticut firearms season so our gear is pretty much ready and there is not much to do except sit around and talk about hunting plans.  A couple of us headed out to check a some spots close by just to make sure out initial plans for the mornign were still a go and they were.  The rest of the day is spent telling stories and lies and getting dinner ready while trying to control the anticipation of opening morning.  Dinner consisted of 2 baked hams, sweet potatoe casserole, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and rolls with some great tasting deserts made by Ray's wife Shirley which are always a hit at camp.  We always have a computer with us to watch a movie or check out many of the pictures we've taken but this time with both of Bobby's boys in camp and them bringing one of my favorite movies, Escanaba in Da Moonlight I just had to bring a portable projector for this one.  We watched a little slide show from Bubba's September Maine moose hunt before the feature showing.  If you have never seen Escanaba in Da Moonlight check it out but be warned it has some really weird parts to it but plenty to laugh about as well.  The characters in the show resemble a few of the characters in our camp so it makes it a little more special.  After a little night cap of Drambuie, by thew way this stuff is nasty,  it was off to try and get some sleep which is impossible to do the night before opening day.

The only quiet time at Camp!

It's always easier to get everyone moving on opening day and Monday was no exception as many of us jumped up and hit the floor at the first sound of the alarm craving that first cup of Java but instead we encountered an empty coffee pot.  I won't name any names but someone forgot to turn the coffee pot on after getting it all setup the night before.  It was a little ugly and unruly this morning but we recovered quickly and lets just say that we will have everyone certified on this prior to next year so we don't have to ever endure this tragedy again.  Bobby, the boys, Bill, Steven, James and Steve were the first ones out as they had to drive off the mountain to meet up with my dad as they were going to hunt the low country while the rest of us would stay up on the mountain for the morning.  The next to leave was Bubba, Busch Pilot and Chuck as they headed north up the ridge to a little spot named the Hour Glass, which is just a fancy name for a saddle between the two hill tops on the top of the mountain that just seems to produce every year as many of the deer get moved up the mountain from the hunters below and seek the sanctuary of the thick laurel that surrounds this spot.  Cletus was next as he headed directly above the camp to hunt the back side of a swamp which has also been productive for some of our crew in the past.  The last to leave was Hooks, Ray, Jimmy and myself as we headed south to hunt some old haunts just above the old copper mines.

It was almost the perfect morning for an opener.  Nice clear skies with temps in the low 20s and only predicted to rise to the low 40s and little to no wind and the only thing missing was some fresh snow.  Surely these temps would help the deer movement and make hearing them a whole lot easier in the crunchy frosty leaves so everyone was excited.  As daylight breaks and you are sitting there with anticipation of seeing the first deer and hearing the first shot you can't help but catch yourself day dreaming about that big buck that was sure to materialize right before your eyes anytime now making it difficult to stay on task of scanning the woods and listening for those tell tale sounds of deer coming your way and then the first shot rings out and you are bounced back into reality.  I'm really not sure where the first shot came from but it wasn't close to me and hard to tell if it was a Muzzle Loader from NJ or a rifle from Pennsylvania as today was their deer season opener as well and the only thing separating us was the Delaware River.  No matter where it came from it was the official sign that the season was under way.

One of Many trails just off the mountain top

All of us carry radios to stay in contact with each other and it was long before the first words of deer sightings and shots being fired were heard.  My brother Steven had just finished putting all his warm clothes on and settling in to his ground blind as he looked up and saw a buck coming his way.  He was thinking how great this was going to be seeing he wouldn't have time to get cold, but little did he know.  He took aim and squeezed the trigger firing the first round from our crew's 2010 Muzzle Loader season.  He said the deer flipped, hit the ground laid there for a few minutes and then got up and off he went.  He went to check on his shot and had some hair but no blood.  So he followed up the trail and found the first sign of blood, so he went back to his ground blind and waited a bit before he and my dad took up the trail.  I wish I could say this ended with meat in the freezer but they tracked very little blood spots until 2:30 before the blood just disappeared with no sign of his buck in sight.   Definitely not the way he wanted to start the season but he tried to stay positive about it and would be back in the same spot in the am for another look.

Busch Pilot was next to shoot at a nice buck only to be rewarded with a dead tree.  Yup, dead smack into a small tree that he just didn't see in his scope.  I keep telling him to wear his glasses but he doesn't listen.  Both Bubba and Chuck hunt close by and were also seeing deer but nothing offering up any shots.  The next to shoot was yours truly.  I could hear the deer in the leaves long before I could see them but my first look at them was as they walked across a little knoll on the other side of a small Hemlock and Laurel swamp that I was overlooking from my ground blind  on a rocky ledge.  Behind me was another patch of laurel and thick brush and I hunt this sport specifically because the deer like to head into this stuff and hunker down in the sun filed benches under the security of the thick brush.  I had my binoculars up and could see a doe, then another doe and then a buck.  Once I saw bone, the binos came down and the gun was at the ready even though they were still to far for a shot but seeing he the buck was bumping the does along I knew it could get crazy fast and wanted to be ready.  In all I saw ten deer and two were bucks,  one buck pursued a doe back across the knoll so I had my work cut out for me trying to keep track of both of them and not get busted by one of the does.  As the deer came off the knoll and into the laurel I couldn't see them but I could hear them in the crunchy leaves and it was so loud that with every crunch it sounded like they would pop out of the laurel any second but it took almost 5 minutes for the first doe to come exploding out of the laurel.  It was a small skipper and she came busting out and across the opening and stopped just 20 yards from my hiding spot and I thought for sure that she would pick me out and ruin everything so I willed her to not look my way and she obliged has she slowly turned away from me and put her head down to feed which was a good sign.  Now all I had to do was to try and keep track of her while watching for the other 9 deer to show themselves.  I saw two doe come out of the laurel about 90 yards away and I wasn't happy about that as the shot opportunities over there were limited, especially with a deer still feeding 20 yards from me and I got a little discouraged but that quickly went away as the sound of more crunching leaves in the laurel followed by some soft grunts just out in front of me picked me back up completely.  Then two more does emerged from where I had just heard the grunting and stepped out in the open just 60 yards from me and they slowly moved up the trail which would take them directly parallel to me at under 50 yards and then the buck stepped out took about 10 steps and stopped to survey his does.  While he was standing there deciding his next step I was locked on and had the cross hairs for my scope sitting on his chest but I had just a little bit of small brush in there as well.  I was willing him to take a couple of steps but he just stood there for what seemed like 5 minutes but in reality was probably less then one minute before I decided to take the shot.  At the pull of the trigger the air was filled with that wonder white smoke making it impossible to see if I had hit him or not and as the smoke was clearing I could clearly see all the deer heading up and over the ledge I was sitting on except for two.  One was that little skipper, which I had forgotten about, whom had been feeding just 20 yards from me and was now just standing feet below my position and the other was a deer running directly away from me along the laurel which I had a hard time getting a good look at because of the smoke from the muzzle loader and I quickly lost him.

My 8 pointer is down

There were still deer around me as I slowly and deliberately reloaded as to not spook the skipper or anything looking my way that I couldn't see.  I got reloaded and was looking to where the buck stood and started scanning the forest around for any sign of that buck but nothing stood out.  The skipper was still close when I heard a doe bleat and could hear steps coming out of the brush behind me as doe emerged and headed over the the skipper to gather her up and then they finally moved off following the rest of the deer.  I got on the radio to give Ray and Hooks a heads up as they were close by and told them I was going to sit tight as I could still hear the deer in the brush behind me as they were slowly heading away and didn't want to spook them anymore than they had been.  As I was sitting there replaying the entire scenario I couldn't help but think about both the good and the bad and I was so caught up in this fight of being excited and nervous because I didn't see the bucks reaction I never heard the crunching of leaves before I saw another buck coming over the same knoll as the other deer just had.  As he emerged I noticed he was a large spike and was heading right down the same trail the bulk of the deer just did and headed off into the brush behind me.  I waited until I couldn't hear him any more and got back on the radio to let the guys know I was going to move and followup my shot.  As I stepped off my perch and on to the flat along the laurel I heard another shot and I knew it came from Ray.  He was watching that big spike that had just cruised by me and deciding if it was worth using his buck tag or not when he caught movement and noticed the other tall tacked buck that was with the one I had shot at and took the shot only to find a clean miss.

Success and happy that I can see the road.

I made it down to where the buck was standing when I shot and could see the fresh tracks in the frozen muck and quickly found hair but no blood.  I could easily see the bucks tracks running in the direction that the single deer I had seen run away so I knew that was him I saw run opposite of the rest of the deer and I got a little excited.  at the next set of tracks I found some small drops of blood and then a little more blood at the next set and even more at the next.  I got on the radio to let them know I had blood and was following up the shot.  A few more steps and even more blood and then I looked up and could see the white belly and rack laying motionless on the ground.  I tried not to run over there just in case he was still alive but he wasn't.  He was laying right where I lost sight of him and less then 75 yards from where he stood when I shot him with a 250grain Thompson Center Shockwave bullet from my son's Thompson Center .50cal Encore rifle. This was now the second New Jersey 8 pointer that this gun has taken and the best NJ buck for me.  I like the trend for sure. As my hands grasped his antlers I said a quick thank you to this magnificent animal and to the big man above and then took a couple of pics with my cell to send to the crew.   I got my buck tag all filled out and attached and then field dressed and tied him off to my deer sled and started heading for the trail.  Ray met up with me as did hooks and help get the deer and my stuff out of the woods and back to camp.

My 2010 New Jersey Buck

During all that commotion I had also learned that Cleatus, which by the way is not his real name but a nickname Ray gave him because ray said he would never remember his real name, had missed a doe.  I had also gotten a call on my cell from Ray's son Raymond who wasn't staying in camp with us but was hunting about 5 miles south of us on the same mountain and he reported that he had shot a buck as well and would meet us at camp.  It wasn't long after that when I learned Bubba had shot what he thought was a doe but turned out to be a button buck.  So that made it 3 deer heading back to camp for a trip in to town to check them in at Alpine.  From the chatter on the radio everyone had at least seen deer during the morning hunt which was going to make for some great dinner conversation.

Me, Bubba and Raymond  - opening morning

After we got the deer checked in and had some lunch only those of us that stayed on the mountain where back in camp so we made a game plan to get some guys setup while a few of us pushed the brush along the mountain top and just off the top to see if we could move anything to the sitters.  We moved a couple of deer but they didn't cooperate.  When everyone got back for the night we got a recap of the day and I think young Kyle had a great day for sure, especially when he was telling us about his Doe fever...Don't worry it's not as bad as buck fever according to Kyle.  That young boy saw 7 deer and some of them bedded down above him but to far for a shot for him.  He had a spike sneak in on him but he couldn't get turned around for a shot before a doe came bounding by and took the skipper away.  Little did he know that that little skipper being dragged away by a female will be him some day.

We ended the day with a nice meal of baked ziti and moose meatballs, salad and garlic bread. The movie tonight was Jeremiah Johnson and it's amazing that no matter how many times you've seen it you still sit there and watch the whole thing.

Day 2 to come.