Saturday, December 31, 2011

Take Your Chances When You Get Them

This week has been pretty slow at work. We've been released early every day and Thursday was no exception. I headed home about 1:45 and given that it was 65 degrees, I knew I had to take the chance at one more deer hunt. When the temperature drops below freezing, I find it unbearable to be in a deer stand for very long. It's not that I'm a fair weather hunter, but I'm pretty lanky and find it hard to stay warm in cold temps.

I had a few things to wrap up around the house before I could go hunting, and didn't get to leave the house until about 3pm. The sun set time was 5:25, so I was in a rush. I parked the truck to realize that I left the camera tree arm mount for the camera at home. I had the camera and I had the camera tree arm, just no way to connect them. It's a mile walk to the stand, and during that time, I decide to just enjoy the sit and not worry about filming, getting there late, etc. I choose a stand that transitions between bedding and an acorn flat. I get setup in the tree and check the time, 4pm. Wow, better just enjoy being outdoors. I get a little bit of film to show the stand and settle in.

Around 4:30, I see movement 150 yards to the south. It's a doe walking a treeline. I spot movement behind her, but can't tell if it's a buck or not. I watch the doe as I know the second deer is tailing her. I spot her white tail walking into the tree line, directly away from me. Time to get creative. I grab my grunt call which was set to a fawn bleat and try to sound lost. The doe turns back toward me and starts heading my way. She gets to about 100 yards and turns toward the west. I bleat a few more times and she turns back toward me. There is a small creek 50 yards from me and the doe stops short of it to check out the area. I now notice she's probably a 1 1/2 year old. I can tell the second deer is also a doe, and most likely the mother. The younger doe crashes through the creek and starts feeding at 45 yards. The older doe is still on the other side of the creek and is nervous as heck. She keeps running to the south, then wanders to the creek, then spooks to the east, then comes back, then spooks again to the south. The doe on my side of the creek is also getting nervous. I look around to see if any other deer, namely a buck, are around. I don't see anything. The doe starts walking directly toward me. At 20 yards, she looks up. The sun is in my face and I dip my head slightly to allow my hat to shield the sun. The second doe again spooks and the first doe runs 5 yards to the west and looks to the south. I take my chance to draw as she's looking away. My elbow rubs against my safety harness and she again spooks another 5 yards to the west, but I continue my draw figuring I have nothing to lose at this point should she spot me. She is at 17 yards. I'm at full draw. There's a low hanging branch covering her vitals. A few seconds later, she takes 3 steps to the north west and is perfectly broadside. I settle my 20 yard pin on her lungs and release. Being that the second doe was spooky, I should have held a bit lower knowing she would duck on my release. Since it was only 20 yards, the arrow connects, but is a bit higher that I would like. The arrow passes completely through and I see blood start coming out of the entry wound as she takes off. She leaps away from me, then takes off in a dead run to the north west and circles to the north east in her 60 yard attempt to exit the area. I hear her pile up and thrash. As my emotions start to hit, I look back for the second doe which is staring in my direction from 70 yards. She turns and runs south. I watch her white flag disappear into the treeline. It's 4:55pm. I debate on continuing my sit, but the mile drag back to the truck and the duty of cleaning the doe cause me to go ahead and get down as I know it will be a long night.

My wife doesn't like gamey tasting meat, and that factored into my taking the shot on the young doe. The mile drag was also considered and a smaller deer would be easier to get to the truck. Being that we hunt only on public land, there is zero amount of quality deer management that can be done. Since we can't control what other hunters shoot or the hunting pressure on the area, you take the shots that present themselves.

I text my wife and Matt to let them know of my success then grab the camera to record the recovery. I walk to the spot where the doe was standing when I took my shot. I see where her hoofs dug into the ground when she took off. The arrow is about 3 yards away and covered in pink-ish blood. Even though I know where she went down, I take the chance to track her to gain the invaluable experience of tracking. With knowing where she was at, I could put all the pieces together as I track and note the blood trail, location of the blood, amount of blood, and other sign produced by the death run. The trail of blood was consistent, but not as heavy as if it had been a heart shot. I pay attention to where the blood sprayed on weeds and trees that were along her path due to it being a lung shot. The knowledge I gained while tracking a deer that I knew the final location of will assist later on in my hunting career. I find her where I expected. She was around 60 pounds.

After it was all said and done, I trekked 4 miles that night, making two trips to the truck. One to take my stand and gear, the second to get the doe. Below is a video of the recovery.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gear Review - The Silent Retriever

We were able to get in contact with Kevin VanCamp, the creator of The Silent Retriever and acquire 2 of them for review. We have had limited time to hunt, so getting in the woods to test this guy out was done at the end of a quick duck hunt.

Ease of use: I climbed up in a tree and pulled The Silent Retriever out of the package for the first time. I dropped my knit full-face mask on the ground then attached the included pull rope to The Silent Retriever. The rope smoothly slipped through my hands as The Silent Retriever lowered itself toward the ground. The Silent Retriever is weighted nicely and doesn't require you to pull slack out to drop it. I was able to pickup my face mask and my hat without any trouble. The face mask was grabbed immediately as it is knit and the hat only took two tries to grab it successfully. You do have to be careful when using The Silent Retriever as the hooks can grab twigs, tree branches, vines, etc. when trying to snag your dropped gear. This should be a given however when using an item that is built to grab dropped items.

Durability: The 25 foot pull rope is a solid quality and has been burned on both ends to prevent fraying. Good call there. The rope is also a "camo" pattern with green, black, and khaki colors interwoven. The hooks are fairly thick, and they do not appear as though they would bend easily. Even if they do bend, they should either bend back into place or assist even further with grabbing items.

Where to purchase: Kevin has a website dedicated to The Silent Retriever and is available via email The Silent Retriever is well priced at $14.99 for the full system, or $9.99 for just The Silent Retriever.

Video of the review:

I would like to thank Kevin for the opportunity to review this great system! It will always be included in my backpack when hunting.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ducks, More Ducks, and a Goose

I admit, we've been slacking on writing blogs lately. Again, life, work, and everything else has prevented the time from being available. Plus, I don't see myself giving up time to hunt on my days off to write a blog. Here's a video/photo-blog of last weekend's duck season opener. We have a split season here and we finally got some cold weather and ice on the water. I, Michael, finally got my first pintail on an uncontested shot and Matt and I tag teamed a goose, which was a first for me as well.

December 10th: Flying Steel

December 10th: Matt's Wack n' Stack

December 11th: Duck, Duck, Goose.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Luck of the Draw and Plenty of Missed Shots

Thanksgiving week is usually pretty hectic with family and so many places to be. I didn't bother with adding to my wife's worries with even mentioning the word "hunting" Thursday. Friday and Saturday were another story, however.

In Oklahoma, we have a split waterfowl season. I'm not sure why, but we can hunt almost the entire month of November, then there is a 2 week break, then it opens again on December 10th and continues through January 29th. The first part of the season is usually too warm for hunts to be very successful. The first couple of weeks were pretty slow, but cold fronts and north winds started pushing in the last 2 weeks and really had the birds coming in.

Friday morning, we decided to meet at 5am to try and get the blind location that we wanted. It was a south wind at around 20 mph and due to availability of the public waterfowl hunting areas, we were going to be facing west and playing the wind left to right. Matt and I setup and saw 2 other hunter walk in several hundred yards to the north and locate themselves in a spot with the wind hitting them in the face. Matt's dad showed up with his decoys and we set out 2 dozen with 2 baby mallard Mojos and a teal Mojo.

Shooting light came and went without a bird showing itself. Finally, around 7:30 birds started moving. A group of birds work there way in and we knock down 2 teal. It's obvious that we're all a little rust. To prove my point, we had 9 teal come in and land directly in the decoys. All 3 of us stand up and unload our guns. All 9 birds get the hell out of our spread without losing a feather. We all had a good laugh over how awful that performance was. One thing I did find pretty interesting was that I had my teal mojo mixed in with widgeon decoys on the right side of the spread. We had two teal come screaming in and land directly behind the teal mojo. I stand up and draw down on the one directly behind the mojo and wait for him to jump off the water. Matt quickly says "don't shoot the mojo!" No kidding? It's mine. About that time the bird jumped and I took him while Matt tapped the one on the right and his dad came across and laid the second teal out.

We had a few group of 15+ mallards come toward the spread, but they wouldn't commit. We ended the day with 5 teal, 2 gadwall, and 2 pintail.

Saturday we again met at 5am. There were already a few other hunters in the parking area milling around, so Matt and I hurried to the spot we chose as the wind was out of the north and forecasted to be 25 mph. I built the blind while Matt and Mark set out the decoys.

The wind didn't pick up like it was forecasted to do, so we were battling to get birds to come in. We had a couple of groups work in, but only 3-4 birds max. Most of them were grey ducks. There were 2 birds that worked in and landed outside the decoys on the left. We stood up and jumped them, immediately dropping both right back to the water. All of 1 mallard was seen all morning and the birds just quit flying by 10am. We walked out with 2 widgeon and 7 gadwall.

That concluded my weekend of hunting but Matt and Mark made it back out the next day for a continued north wind. They limited by 10am and their first bird of the morning was a male wood duck. I managed to miss or not have a chance at 2 of my most wanted birds for mounts in 3 days, a pintail and a male wood duck. That's hunting though, all luck of the draw and plenty of missed shots.

FYI, there will be a video or two coming, but there are a few hold ups in editing currently.